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Why You Should Wait 12 Hours Before Giving Your Newborn a Bath

By Lafayette General Medical Center
July 17, 2019

When having a baby at Lafayette General Medical Center, our nurses typically suggest to new moms not to bathe their newborn until 12 hours. Want to know why? Continue reading below!


Babies are born with a natural skin protectant called Vernix

Vernix is a greasy deposit covering the skin. This protects newborns from infections after birth because the coating contains antioxidants, anti-infection and anti-inflammatory properties.  Babies tend to lose the Vernix the longer the mother is pregnant, so those babies born at 42 weeks might not have a lot of it visible anymore, though usually there is still some hidden in the folds of their skin and under their arms. Babies born earlier often have a larger amount.


Babies want to be near Momma

Delaying the first bath provides more initial skin-to-skin time between mother and baby, and preserves smell -- an important factor that encourages babies to latch during breastfeeding. Your newborn baby wants to be as close to you and your breasts as they can get. Snuggling on the chest, close to the food source, where they can hear, smell, and feel against their skin is a source of comfort for your new little one. Being close to the breasts can help encourage breastfeeding and support the baby making a smooth transition to life on the outside.


Lower body temperature and stress response hormone

Newborns who have delayed baths are more likely to have stable/normalized body temperatures. New babies are still figuring out how to maintain their own body temperature. Taking a baby away from mother for a bath may result in the baby working harder to keep their body temperature in the normal range. A mother's chest has the ability to heat up or cool down to help the baby stay at just the right temperature.

Being away from mom too soon can add an additional layer of stress to a new baby just figuring out life on the outside. When baby is bathed, they may cry, feel uncomfortable or upset. This causes their body to release stress hormones in response to this new situation. Their heart rate and blood pressure may go up, they may breathe a bit faster and become agitated. Working hard to respond to this stressful situation may also lower blood sugar temporarily.


There are several benefits to delaying baby’s first bath. Learn more and discuss your wishes with hospital staff so they can respectfully be honored.

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