Why We Delayed Baby Sister’s First Bath

When Baby Sister was born we decided not to bathe her. We waited to bath Baby Sister until she was 12 days old. I wanted to wait until she was 14 days old but My Love said she was starting to stink. Mainly from spitting up. I didn’t think she smelled, but maybe I am biased. 🙂

When babies are born they are normally covered in a white, waxy, cream cheese looking stuff called vernixVernix is theorized to serve several purposes, including moisturizing the infant’s skin, and facilitating passage through the birth canal. It serves to conserve heat and protect the delicate newborn skin from environmental stress. Babies seem to lose their vernix the longer they gestate. When Bunny was born at 37 weeks, she had a lot of vernix on her. Unfortunately the hospital bathed her when she was separated from me. When Baby Sister was born at 39 weeks 5 days, she still had vernix on her, but not as much as Bunny did.

Vernix acts as a natural lotion for babies. It helps protect baby’s skin from the harsh new environment baby has been born into. Vernix helps baby to adapt to his/her new environment and also acts as a barrier to water loss, helps regulate temperature and helps with immunity. Instead of rubbing or washing off the vernix, we should rub it IN. Vernix will rub in like lotion and help keep baby’s skin moisturized as well as help protect baby’s skin.

Delaying a bath, even for the first day of baby’s life, will help baby and mom bond. When baby still smells like mom, mom is more likely to bond with baby. When baby smells mom, baby is more likely to seek the breast. It is best to delay a baby’s first bath until as close to two weeks old as possible. Vernix takes up to three days to absorb into baby’s skin, and it takes baby’s skin two weeks to mature.

Another reason why we delayed Baby Sister’s bath is, both she and I worked so hard to get her here, why would we want to immediately be separated? When a baby stays close to mom, preferably skin to skin, both mom and baby’s temperature stabilizes. Being on mom’s bare chest helps baby’s temperature to be just right. A mothers bare chest heats or cools baby as needed to help baby stay at the right temperature. Being skin to skin immediately after birth also helps baby and mom establish a good breastfeeding relationship. Both my babies were on me immediately after they were born. Both babies nursed within the first hour. Bunny nursed right there in the operating room!

The World Health Organization states, “Ensure warmth by delaying the baby’s first bath to after the first 24 hours.”

Also, when baby is separated from mom it can cause unnecessary stress, both for baby and for mom. When a baby is stressed their breathing may become fast and labored, heart rate and blood pressure may go up, baby might become agitated, blood sugar may drop from the stress, and baby has to work herder to maintain his/her body temperature. When baby is close to mom, baby is able to regulate his/her body systems easier and maintain their blood sugar levels. A bath immediately after birth increases the risk of baby being cold and needing to be under a heat lamp. This happened with Bunny. We were separated for over an hour after surgery so Bunny could be under a heat lamp to get her temperature back up. This was after she was bathed.

Baby Sister’s first bath was on day 12. Her first bath was with me, in the bathtub. I sat in the bathtub and held Baby Sister. We did not use soap, just water. Baby Sister LOVED it! It was a nice, relaxing bath.

big smiles after her first bath
big smiles after her first bath

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