Research Suggests Parents May Want to Wait to Bathe Their Newborns

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Most babies born in the hospital are bathed within a few hours of their birth, but new research by a Chicago-area nurse may change that. After studying the effects of vernix, the thick, lotion-like substance that covers babies at birth, she’s convinced that parents should now wait to bathe their babies at least eight to 24 hours to fully enjoy the host of benefits vernix provides.

Courtney Buss, a nurse at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, IL, started researching how early bathing affected hypothermia, hypoglycemia, and breastfeeding in newborns. After just one month, the results were startling: the percentage of babies with hypothermia decreased from 29 percent to 14 percent for those who waited, and hypoglycemia dropped from 21 percent to 7 percent. Nine months later, Buss’s findings were jaw-dropping: hypothermia rates dropped to 7 percent and hypoglycemia rates dropped to 4 percent while breastfeeding rates increased to 78 percent.

The director of the hospital’s birthing center, Fran Tefi-Teal, told the Chicago Tribune that vernix “helps a newborn pick up its mother’s scent, which makes it more likely the baby will latch.” Buss said that the vernix also functions as a layer of warmth for the baby, which helps control low blood sugar and conserves a baby’s energy so it can breastfeed. AND, vernix also fights infection and allows a baby’s skin to continue to develop after birth.

Damn, the body is amazing!

Six of the hospitals in the Advocate health system are adopting the wait to bathe policy, and Buss hopes that other hospitals will, too. “Doctors have had to adjust to the idea, along with nurses and parents, but have been open to the idea based on the results. You can’t argue with these results,” Tefi-Teal said.

Even if your local hospital doesn’t have a wait to bathe policy, parents can ask to delay a baby’s first bath wherever they end up. “It’s always the patient’s right to request care,” Buss said. So don’t be afraid to tell your obstetrician and labor and delivery nurses what you want!

(Image: iStock / SergioZacchi)