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You hear that long-awaited cry and they place your sweet, buttery soft newborn baby into your arms. Nothing else feels this good, and well, slippery. Your baby is probably covered in a few slippery substances, but go ahead and snuggle that precious baby close. Here are 5 reasons to delay bathing newborns.
1. Temperature Stability
Your baby just made their grand entrance into the world. It is bright, loud, and COLD! Until now, you had kept your little bambino nice and warm in your womb. After delivery, babies typically stay close to their mom, either skin-to-skin or bundled up nicely with a hat. Babies maintain their temperature better when they are snuggled skin-to-skin with mom. A mother’s body temperature will help keep her baby warm, decreasing the amount of work the baby’s body has to do to maintain their temperature.
While on the Labor and Delivery Unit, your baby will probably be enjoying their first nursing session or bottle. Shortly thereafter, the couplet (mom and baby) are transported to the postpartum (mother/baby) unit. There are tons of tasks taking place here. Assessments, meals, and test after test. One of which is the option to bathe your baby.
Here is the truth: Babies don’t need to be “clean”, they just need to be warm. When a baby gets cold (as they often do when bathing newborns) they become physiologically stressed. Their body starts to go into survival mode and sets off a chain of events that can cause other physiological issues. To avoid creating this cascade, keep your baby close and warm.
Read More: Newborns And Postpartum Care Guide
2. Decreases Work Of Breathing
Bathing newborns makes them angry. Like straight up, pissed off. You would be too if someone exposed your private parts, made you wet in a cold room, and rubbed you with a prickly washrag after you spent 9 months snug as a bug in a warm, cushy place. Screaming bloody murder, like they are entitled to do, takes a lot of work. Additionally, babies use oxygen and energy to generate heat to stay warm according to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Point being: Cold babies can end up having trouble breathing and more difficulty transitioning to the outside world and all of its exhausting demands. By delaying bathing newborns, infants can remain calm and decrease their oxygen demand.
3. Helps Sustain Blood Sugar
Bathing newborns often results in screaming, wet babies. Mainly because bathing newborns does not mean submerging them in a warm comforting bath with rubber duckies and bubbles galore while in the hospital. A hospital sink or basin is no day at the spa. Instead, it is being wiped with a rough washcloth that is impossible to keep warm.
Screaming babies work hard, burn calories, and use up their glucose they had saved up. This is especially true for cold, screaming babies. Therefore, screaming newborn babies can result in exhausted, hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) babies. By creating an exhausted baby they do not have the energy to eat, which potentiates hypoglycemia, along with other complications like difficulty breastfeeding.
4. Helps With Better Latch And Breastfeeding
Just imagine cute little diapered babies at the gym pumping iron and running on a treadmill. That’s what is happening when they eat. Eating, whether at the breast or bottle, is hard work for newborn babies. They are blowing through their energy stores and using glucose they stockpiled while living on the inside (kind of the way teenagers blow through their savings while living at mom and dad’s house). This means that if they do not have the glucose stores, and if what they do have is spent on trying to maintain their temperature after being bathed, babies will not nurse or bottle-feed well.
If breastfeeding is your goal, warm, well rested babies latch and nurse better. Having a baby that is able to nurse efficiently at the breast stimulates maternal hormones that can assist in the mother’s recovery and breastmilk production. Additionally, a baby that feeds well at the breast will help empty the breast completely and stimulate the breast to make milk, resulting in an increase in breastfeeding success.
Read More: 8 Benefits Of Breastfeeding You Need To Know
5. Bonding With Parents
By delaying bathing newborns, parents are able to spend more time with their baby bonding. You are probably exhausted from delivering your baby and may not have the energy and/or pain control to bathe your baby. Rather than hand your baby to the nurse or take them to the nursery to be bathed, take time together to bond.
Bathing newborns soon after delivery increases the risk of lowering their body temperature, their blood sugar, and increasing their work of breathing. These complications can result in having to send your baby to the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) for intervention and/or observation. This means that you could possibly be separated from your baby. There are situations where newborn babies need to go to the NICU but when they can be avoided, such as delaying bathing newborns, all efforts should be focused on keeping mother and baby together.
Delaying bathing newborns can help facilitate bonding with parents, increase breastfeeding success, and decrease the risk of low blood sugar, difficulty breathing, and low body temperature for your newborn. There are exceptions to delaying bathing newborns. You should discuss the benefits and risks of bathing newborns with your provider and decide what is best for your situation. Either way, a happy, healthy baby and family are all that matters.
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Sources: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia