Baby's First Bath. When? Why then? With What?
Updated: May 10, 2019
So many questions!
If you are a first time mom, answering these questions can be completely overwhelming. Or perhaps this isn't your first rodeo, but this time round you want to ensure that your baby's first bath is done in a more informed way that respects the natural functions of baby's skin and in a way that is best for your brand new human.
Most midwives would agree on delaying the first bath. Baby's are born covered in vernix caseosa, a waxy coating which protects infant skin from the amniotic fluid in the womb. It is a natural moisturiser and cleanser and protects against infection. The vernix contains antimicrobial proteins that are active against group B Strep, E.coli and other common perinatal pathogens. The vernix will slowly be absorbed into the skin during the first few days, so holding off on the first bath will be beneficial for your infants skin. It is recommended that you do not wash your baby every day while they are under a month old. Instead 'top and tail' newborns using a clean cloth and warm water. Another reason not to rush to give the first bath is that babies are not good at regulating their body temperature and being bathed doesn't help.
There should be no urgency to get baby bathed. Studies show that delaying the first bath is associated with a significant increase in exclusive breastfeeding rates, which may be due to limiting stress following delivery when infants are trying to stabilize their body temperature.
Most hospitals respect parents wishes to delay first bath. The first bath in hospital is now much more a teaching and learning experience for new parents. Its not done for hygiene. You may want to check with the hospital where you intend having your baby, what their policies are. Moms that have 'been there and done it', suggest being informed and arriving with a letter detailing your 'plan A and plan B (if things don't go quite to plan). Include points like, delayed cord clamping, immediate skin to skin, breast only and no bath. You may even want to get your Doctor to sign it.
Infant skin is very delicate at this stage because the pH and barrier has not yet been established, babies have a lower tolerance to chemicals and toxins. For this reason it is important that no soaps or bath products are used. Bath your baby using water only. Once your baby reaches the 1 month milestone you can slowly start introducing non-toxic baby products. Ingredients to avoid: Parabens, mineral oil, synthetic colours, synthetic fragrances, sodium laureth sulfate, coal tar dyes, petroleum-derived synthetics, silicones, propylene glycol.
When my first baby was born, some 8 years ago. After 12 hours of active labour which ended into an emergency cesarean. I was in a lot of pain, emotionally and physically exhausted. I was more than happy when one of the nursing sisters offered to show us how to bath her. So on day 3 while I was getting ready to go home, my husband was taught how to bath our very tiny daughter. Which he carried on doing at home and that become their special bonding time.
With my son, 5 years ago, the whole process went much smoother and was a lot less daunting. So we chose not to bath him at the hospital. He had his first bath about a week later.