Can someone explain the necessity of a bath for a newborn? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 23 Old 04-25-2011, 05:33 AM - Thread Starter
 
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As I understand it, newborns have a challenging time maintaining a consistent body temperature for the first 24-48 hours.  So, we take all their clothes off and get them sopping wet a few hours after they're born, which makes them cold, and them put them under an electric heat lamp like an order of Chicken McNuggets, away from their mothers, until their body temperature has come back up.  WHY??????

 

Maybe I'm being dense here, but I just don't get this at all.  Why is it necessary (or even desirable) for a newborn to be bathed a few hours after birth?  Why do they do this at the most vulnerable time for maintaining temperature stability, and then often "necessitating" a long separation from the mother (so they say)?  (I'm talking about in the hospital, obviously). Why not just wait until the baby is a few days old to bathe him or her?  I mean, if a baby is covered in a lot of blood and meconium, I could see doing an extra-thorough wipedown just to get the ew off, but I still don't understand the need for a full bath.  I have not done the bath with either of mine until they were probably a week old and I really don't feel like they missed out on anything.  And I'm currently trying to decide whether to have this argument at the hospital this time around ...

 

My hypothesis at this point is that this newborn bath thing is all part of the obsession Americans have with excessive hygiene (showering every day, etc.), but if anyone knows of a compelling medical reason to do it, please enlighten me!

 

P.S.  My immigrant ancestors probably date back to the 1700s or even earlier, so I have no other heritage besides American to claim, but I still think some people go a bit overboard when it comes to cleanliness. :)


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#2 of 23 Old 04-25-2011, 06:28 AM
 
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My hypothesis at this point is that this newborn bath thing is all part of the obsession Americans have with excessive hygiene (showering every day, etc.), but if anyone knows of a compelling medical reason to do it, please enlighten me!

 

 

I think you got it here. Also, it goes into the idea the vagina is dirty. At work (Birthing Center nurse), the policy says we cannot handle newborns without gloves until after the bath. I think its one of the old ideas that just never died!

I think most babies do not need baths. I do not think they are 'dirty' until the first bath.

As far as the hospital goes, just say 'no'! My kids weren't bathed either!
 

 


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#3 of 23 Old 04-25-2011, 06:31 AM
 
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Well, mine was covered in meconium stained vernix (and it was in her hair and fingernails) so it had to come off.

 

She never went under a heat lamp. They washed her off, dressed her and put her back in her cot. The length is also just procedure. They had to take her away to do it because I was stuck in a post-surgical bay, but it didn't take very long.

 

I don't know about routine, but some babies are really pretty messy and it's not so simple as just wiping it off. They did give DD a quick wipedown right away but it didn't take it all off.


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#4 of 23 Old 04-25-2011, 06:41 AM
 
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My dd was covered in all sort of goop. Blood, meconnium, vernix, etc. I also remember all of her hair coming off when they wiped her head. She was very quiet and calm and DH was right with her. I think it took 2 minutes.

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#5 of 23 Old 04-25-2011, 06:41 AM
 
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We did dd's bath the day after she was born, but I got in the tub with her and we both had a bath together, and then we went back to skin-to-skin in bed. I wasn't planning to give her a bath that early, but she really was a bit smelly. 

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#6 of 23 Old 04-25-2011, 06:59 AM
 
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Originally Posted by msmiranda View Post

My hypothesis at this point is that this newborn bath thing is all part of the obsession Americans have with excessive hygiene (showering every day, etc.), but if anyone knows of a compelling medical reason to do it, please enlighten me!

 




Showering everyday is considered excessive hygiene? Please do explain. Or are you talking about people who shower multiple times a day? This is interesting, please do chime in.

 

 

 

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#7 of 23 Old 04-25-2011, 08:29 AM
 
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I'm glad the last hospital I delivered at didn't have an immediate bath rule. They just said whenever I was ready, and the nurse even talked about how good the vernix is for their skin. My twins didn't get a bath until late the next day, and only cuz they did still have some blood and gunk in their hair and creases, then they did immediate skin-to-skin to warm them up instead of a warmer.


 


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#8 of 23 Old 04-25-2011, 10:26 AM
 
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Also, FWIW, I did not give birth in the US. So, maybe a Western preoccupation, but I've heard of baths in Western countries besides the US.


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#9 of 23 Old 04-25-2011, 11:07 AM
 
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I liked my kids to have a bath after birth. Blood, gunk etc. No thank you smile.gif

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#10 of 23 Old 04-25-2011, 11:08 AM
 
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I think it can be excessive. Some people, in their daily lives, are going to get dirtier than other people and for them a daily shower might be a great idea! Like being outdoors a lot, heavy work out, getting sweaty, doing yard work, etc. But if you have a desk job, or haven't spent time outside or done anything to really "get dirty" then yeah, showering every day is excessive. It is for my dh. he works at a computer all day, is NOT dirty, *has* to shower every single morning. Night before is NOT okay with him. He's completely unreasonable about it and often makes us late for things because he has to take a full on shower. Part of his reasoning is he puts gel in his hair and that gets gross after he sleeps on it.. yet he still will not shower the night before, or like I've also suggested, just stick his head under the sink and rinse any dried gel out of his hair. Nope.. he has to wash every square inch of his body. I do think it is absolutely obsessive and excessive. I really wish he could develop the judgement to, once in a while, recognize that we are *in a hurry* and just throw on some jeans and a t-shirt, stick a hat on, and GO! When I can get myself and 2 kids ready and we're sitting around going, "ARE YOU READY YET?!" there's an obsessive hygiene problem. 

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Showering everyday is considered excessive hygiene? Please do explain. Or are you talking about people who shower multiple times a day? This is interesting, please do chime in.

 

 

 


 

 


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#11 of 23 Old 04-25-2011, 12:30 PM
 
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with DD (my hospital birth), she had a bath a couple hours after she was born. they did it in my room, and no warming lamps required. I chose to have her bathed because she was head to toe blood and mec, and very vernixy, so they couldn't get it all off with a rubdown. 

 

with DS (my home-birth), we didn't bathe him until he was two weeks old and his bellybutton had healed. 


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#12 of 23 Old 04-25-2011, 06:54 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Yeah, this is what I mean about excessive.  If you are doing something to get dirty, that's one thing, but especially during the winter I don't think most people with desk jobs *need* to shower every day.  It actually dries out your skin.  Same thing with people who are obsessed with their babies and small children being bathed and hair washed every single day -- they don't need it that often and it is drying to the skin.  I know that on a more mainstream board I would totally be flamed for saying so, but I figured I might be able to get away with it here, lol.

 

I think if people want to participate in the newborn bath thing at the hospital then more power to them.  I just don't appreciate being looked at like I have two heads because I don't want my baby separated from me to have it done.  And I was wondering if there was a reason other than cultural ideas about appropriate hygiene why baths are typically given so early. 
 

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I think it can be excessive. Some people, in their daily lives, are going to get dirtier than other people and for them a daily shower might be a great idea! Like being outdoors a lot, heavy work out, getting sweaty, doing yard work, etc. But if you have a desk job, or haven't spent time outside or done anything to really "get dirty" then yeah, showering every day is excessive. It is for my dh. he works at a computer all day, is NOT dirty, *has* to shower every single morning. Night before is NOT okay with him. He's completely unreasonable about it and often makes us late for things because he has to take a full on shower. Part of his reasoning is he puts gel in his hair and that gets gross after he sleeps on it.. yet he still will not shower the night before, or like I've also suggested, just stick his head under the sink and rinse any dried gel out of his hair. Nope.. he has to wash every square inch of his body. I do think it is absolutely obsessive and excessive. I really wish he could develop the judgement to, once in a while, recognize that we are *in a hurry* and just throw on some jeans and a t-shirt, stick a hat on, and GO! When I can get myself and 2 kids ready and we're sitting around going, "ARE YOU READY YET?!" there's an obsessive hygiene problem. 


 

 



 


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#13 of 23 Old 04-25-2011, 08:38 PM
 
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What if the mother has some sort of infection like a yeast infection or worse some sort of blood problem. And then the nurse will be handling that all over them. Many babies poop as they are coming out, and this should be cleaned off of them.  Would you want to be covered in blood? It does not hurt the baby to be cleaned, it only helps them. Plus, if you are trying to prevent a baby from getting a disease that a mother does have, that hasn't passed through the placenta you wouldn't want to leave blood from the moms vagina on a baby, to be rub in its mouth and eyes. There are so many reason's that its a good idea to quickly wash the baby off.  My son tore through my colon, so who knows what types of bacteria he had on him.  It by far is the best idea to bathe the babies, not just because we want them to look cute!

 

 

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#14 of 23 Old 04-25-2011, 09:10 PM
 
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I work in a small hospital birthing unit.  We have a nursery area which is very well heated so that babies who are bathed do not get cold to start with.  If a baby was cold it would definately not be bathed until it could keep its temperature high enough.  We don't have a rule about bathing or not bathing after birth.  Because I do prenatal classes I mention the fact that you can decide what you want and that is acceptable to us, I do mention that if there is meconium involved then you may want to wipe the baby down if not bathe it entirely.  Some mothers do not want to have the baby bathed after birth, some don't wish to hold the baby until it is.  It is their choice although I always point out to them that they may change their mind about 'not holding' once they are in the situation.  However, if you are looking for a reason not to bathe the baby then look into the breastfeeding recent studies.  One of our managers is hoping that we will bring in that baby's and their mothers won't be bathing after the birth and for a couple of days as they are connected by smell to each other and washing off their own 'smell' and replacing with chemicals interferes with the natural bonding.  I haven't yet put it to the mothers that they too can refrain from washing...

Before anyone gets too upset at the thought - I'm pretty sure that the issue is full body bathing, not that you cannot have any sort of wash post birth.  But it is something that people should be aware of. 

A lot of our mothers like the idea of the baby 'living in its own skin' as I put it, for the first day or so at least.  We don't recommend that people bath their babies daily anyway unless its stinking hot summer weather, and then it is more for comfort due to the heat, than for cleanliness.

I think that if Group B Strep swab was positive and the mother did not have antibiotics during the birth then the hospital might be more inclined to push for early bathing.  But can't think of another reason.  And heating?  Skin to skin is the best with a warm blanket over mum and baby - what we do while we wait for the placenta to be born.  Look at studies on breastfeeding, bonding, and skin to skin warming or 'kangaroo care' should give you plenty of research and what you say is 'evidence based practise is....' 

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#15 of 23 Old 04-25-2011, 09:14 PM
 
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Sorry I just have to come back in and say that there is friendly bacteria from mum's skin that is picked up from the mother at birth that a baby needs. A baby needs some friendly skin bacteria from mum to cope with its new world.   As for yeast infections, they would need to be treated same as for the mother, bathing won't stop them.  Ali

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#16 of 23 Old 04-26-2011, 04:00 AM
 
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One of our managers is hoping that we will bring in that baby's and their mothers won't be bathing after the birth and for a couple of days as they are connected by smell to each other and washing off their own 'smell' and replacing with chemicals interferes with the natural bonding

Is there research to support this? I really can't believe that me and my kids washing blood, mucous off our skin interferes with our bonding. But I'd be very interested in any research you can point me to! Thanks!


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#17 of 23 Old 04-26-2011, 05:44 AM
 
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Is there research to support this? I really can't believe that me and my kids washing blood, mucous off our skin interferes with our bonding. But I'd be very interested in any research you can point me to! Thanks!
 

I do not have the exact study, but it is suggested the scent of the amniotic fluid is beneficial to the bonding and breastfeeding. Our unit is moving towards a Baby Friendly facility, and bathing is discouraged until at lest the first breastfeeding because of this. One thing I wish to pint out is its a misconception babies are covered in mucus. I have been doing labor and delivery for 10 years. I have yet to see a mucus covered baby. They are often covered in vernix, occasionally blood and occasionally meconium. They are damp with amniotic fluid.

 

The OP's post asks for the necessity of a newborn bath. Seems to come right down to individual circumstance, opinions, and personal preference. There is no evidence that supports the necessity based on 'the vagina is filthy and the baby or others will get sick'. I believe this is what the OP was wondering.
 

 


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#18 of 23 Old 04-26-2011, 07:57 AM
 
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I think that if Group B Strep swab was positive and the mother did not have antibiotics during the birth then the hospital might be more inclined to push for early bathing.  But can't think of another reason. 


I was GBS+ and no time for antibiotics and they still had no problem waiting on bathing the babies.

 


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#19 of 23 Old 04-26-2011, 08:09 AM
 
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Well I am Hep B+, so a couple of the hospitals I delivered at had a special person come and bath the baby in our room soon after birth.  Pretty sure it wouldn't have been optional in my case, but the baby enjoyed it so it didn't bother me any.  Every hospital I have delivered at (3 different ones), used skin to skin contact to warm up my babies instead of lamps.  Really it seems like every hospital everywhere has completely different rules and things that are considered standard.  Plus I learn more and more every time that you can pretty much say "no" to anything.  It's easier than you think once you get the nerve.


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#20 of 23 Old 04-26-2011, 10:43 AM
 
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The hospital where I delivered DS does not routinely bathe babies after routine vaginal deliveries. Instead, mom/dad are encouraged to bathe baby once they are in their post-partum room. Babies who are not bathed cannot go to the nursery--because they are biohazards.  Hee!  I thought it was a great way to keep my baby OUT of the nursery. The nurses quit bugging me as soon as I said, "Oh, he's not had a bath yet." 

 

I delivered DD2 at the same hospital via c/s, though, and didn't think to decline the bath. We dealt with a lot of the "too cold" nonsense until I got a nurse who held off with the temp taking and gave us some time for skin-to-skin. I used our experience with her to justify no bath for DS to anyone who asked.


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#21 of 23 Old 04-26-2011, 01:42 PM
 
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My DD was born in a hospital and had to go to there level 2 nursery for a few hours after she was born (had a medical issue we had not known about ahead of time... long story).  Anyway, they did a bath there.  I don't know if it was policy but I remember being a bit annoyed in the morning when I went down there to nurse her and they told me they had given her a bath.  No one had asked or notified us or whatever.  She was born at 2am and this was during around 4am - 6am when we were sleeping so they maybe just didn't want to wake us up... I never thought about it being policy for the nursery though.

 

This time DS was bathed about 10 hours after he was born in the hospital but they asked us first and seemed fine either way.  The nurse had actually said that he looked pretty clean and we could just do it at home when we felt like it and I was ok with that but DH is more of the easily grossed out type and really wanted him bathed so I was ok with it.  They actually did the bath while under the warmer so that the body temp would not go down too much.


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#22 of 23 Old 04-27-2011, 02:20 AM
 
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I had DD at a hospital in NZ, and went to a birthing centre for two days afterwards. I think she was washed at the birthing centre on the last day, but not before then. She wasn't taken away - I believe DH did it, with a nurse showing him how, and then she was dressed on the bed and popped right back to me (and just as well, as she did NOT like that bath!).

 

Vernix is good for a baby's skin, so unless there's a compelling reason (like PPs have mentioned - meconium and so on), I don't think babies should be immediately washed. Vernix does tend to "stick", though, so it should be perfectly possible to gently wipe a bit of blood off the baby without scrubbing all the vernix off, you know? I think DD did have a few bits of dried blood in her hair and ears for the first day or two, but it didn't seem to bug anyone...

 

Also... mucus? Why would a baby be covered in mucus? Where would it come from? You mean, like, cervical fluid? Or what?


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#23 of 23 Old 04-27-2011, 03:14 AM
 
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Like smokering, my kids were born in a birthing unit in NZ. I was in there for 3 days with my son due to difficulties in feeding, and he was only offered a bath on the 3rd day - washed and dressed by me. Very warm room, gentle bath and he was happy. With DD, we took her home a few hours after the birth and I didn't bath her until about day 3 either.


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