Research continues to suggest that delaying baby’s first bath is beneficial, with a new study suggesting that delayed bathing may be correlated with increased in-hospital breastfeeding rates.
The study, which was published in the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing looked at nearly 1000 mamas and their babies. Approximately half of the babies were given baths within two hours of their birth, and according to the Cleveland Clinic Hillcrest Hospital in Mayfield Heights, Ohio. The other half were given baths no earlier than 12 hours after their birth. Heather Condo DiCioccio is the study’s lead author and said they found a link between delayed bathing and a mother exclusively breastfeeding.
Related: Why You Should Delay the Bath After Baby is Born
DiCioccio is a nursing professional development specialist for the Mother/Baby Unit at the hospital and said that she was interested in the effects of delayed baths as patients have been asking for delayed bathing more and more in recent years. DiCioccio believes that this may be partially due to the World Health Organization’s recommendation that babies are not bathed for 24 hours after their birth. That said, they don’t give reasoning.
DiCioccio believes that it may be because there is something with the baby’s sense of smell. Saying that they’ve been swimming around in amniotic fluid for anywhere between 38-42 weeks, they may be attracted to the similar smell of amniotic fluid a mother’s breast gives off. She believes that the smell of the amniotic fluid and the similar smell from their mother’s breast aids the latching process and allows the baby to be comfortable with something they like.
Additionally, DiCioccio notes that the vernix staying on the baby for longer periods helps the baby’s immune system and can help with lung development, so from a nursing perspective, delayed bathing makes differences in both mama and baby for the better.
For DiCioccio, anything that can help mamas with breastfeeding is a welcome intervention, but the nursing link is not the only benefit to delayed bathing. She notes that keeping the vernix (that white stuff) on the baby for longer allows the baby to benefit from its antimicrobial properties and can help with lung development.
She realizes that not every parent will want a delayed bath, but now that the hospital policy is no longer within 2 hours, she believes mothers having pertinent information may lead them to make different decisions for them and their babies.