Delayed bathing is a standard practice in many hospitals, including the one where we delivered. The World Health Organization recommends delaying a newborn’s first bath for at least 24 hours after birth, unless medically or culturally necessary (source.) A few of the beneficial reasons include immediate skin-to-skin contact, keeping mom and baby together, higher potential for successful breastfeeding, lower risk for hypothermia, and giving baby time to absorb vernix caseosa.
Vernix is the white stuff covering newborns, and it serves many purposes in the womb, during labor in the birth canal, and after birth. Prior common practice had been to wipe or wash the baby completely clean. Nowadays, only meconium and blood may be removed. Delayed bathing after birth preserves vernix on baby’s skin and is desirable for many reasons, including preservation of the calming scent of mama on baby’s hands. Babies use their hands to root for the breast, so the scent may also help their mouths find the nipple. Rubbing vernix into the skin immediately after birth helps moisturize baby’s skin, boost immune function, and is antibacterial and antimicrobial in nature (source.) Mother Nature is pretty rad, if you ask me!
Click here to read my post about giving a newborn baby her first bath.