It’s tempting to get your baby straight into the suds post-labour; firstly, because it makes for a great photo-op, and secondly, because, although your little one is objectively gorgeous, the icky residue of birth is…not so much.
But according to pregnancy.about.com, there are several benefits to delaying baby’s first bath – and the crusty stuff, believe it or not, tops the list:
1. Babies are born with a natural skin protectant.
In utero, babies are protected by a special substance called vernix. This is the white, waxy cream cheese coating that you may notice on your just-born baby.
Newer research indicates that vernix has immune-boosting properties; leaving it on your baby’s skin provides a layer of protection while your new baby’s immune system is getting stronger. This is particularly beneficial for babies who are born in the hospital, where there’s greater potential for exposure to hospital-acquired infections.
Vernix is also nature’s best moisturiser, helping to keep your baby’s skin super-soft.
Amniotic fluid, which bathed the baby before birth, has the ability to provide some extra resistance to infection as well; so the longer it remains on the skin, the better for baby.
2. Baby wants to be near mum!
After birth, your newbie baby wants to be as close to you as physically possible (since his first choice of creeping back into your belly is unlikely at this point). Snuggling where he can hear you, smell you and feel you against his skin is a source of comfort for your little one.
Taking your baby away from you soon after birth for the purpose of a bath can disrupt the bonding process, so wait a couple days – he’ll still smell delicious. Promise.
3. Baths can unnecessarily lower body temperature.
Newborns aren’t born with a built-in thermostat; their tiny bodies have to work to maintain their own body temperature. Taking a baby away from his mother for a bath may result in the baby working harder to keep their body temperature within the normal range.
Mum’s chest, on the other hand, is the perfect place to maintain baby’s temperature – with the ability to heat up or cool down in order to level baby’s body temp.
4. Keep stress hormones low.
Being separated from mummy can add an additional layer of stress to a baby who’s just landed on an alien planet. When your new baby is taken from you to be bathed, she may cry, feel uncomfortable and get upset – causing her body to release stress hormones in response to this scary situation. Her heart rate and blood pressure may then go up, and she may breathe a bit faster and become agitated.
In the grand scheme of things, this kind of discomfort is totally not worth it for the sake of cleaning a baby who probably wasn’t dirty to begin with.
5. A soak with mom or dad does sound nice, though…
Since your baby feels most secure when she is close you (or Daddy – maybe), you might consider taking the first bath with your baby. She’ll feel secure and loved, when she does not have to be separated from you in those first days, and will no doubt enjoy the soothing water – a similar experience to her time in the womb.
Just remember: little babies are very slippery – and wriggly! – when wet, so enlist an extra pair of hands to hold babs while you get in and out of the tub.
And for when your lil’ bathing beauty is big enough to play in the water, check out these gorgeous baby-safe bath toys.