When your baby first enters this world, her cries filled the room as your mind is overwhelmed with joy. When the doctors place her on your skin for the very first time, you knew you would always be in love with your little human. You vowed right then and there that you would always protect her.
Your nurse then comes in, saying it is time for her first bath. Stop right there! You shouldn’t give your baby his/her first bath until at least 8 hours after s/he is born. In fact, the WHO (World Health Organization) recommends waiting a full 24 hours before bathing your newborn.
Confused? Read on to find out why you should wait!
Good Ol’ Vernix
When your baby is born, the doctor will first wipe away the blood and amniotic fluid. You will find that your baby is covered in a white cheese-like substance, called vernix. It is not dirt. Vernix is composed of your baby’s skin cells that were shed off in the early stages of development. At birth, your baby is exposed to bacteria such as Group B Strep and E.coli which can cause a serious infection. Vernix contains protein that can make it act as a natural antibacterial moisturizer. You could even rub this natural moisturizer into your baby’s skin.
Bathing a baby too early can cause a dip in their blood sugar levels. This is because, when a baby is born, their body is trying to adapt to their new surroundings. Inside your womb, your little one’s blood sugar was regulated through the placenta. While bathing, your baby releases stress hormones which cause a baby’s blood sugar level to drop. This can make your baby really tired and thus, they would be too sleepy to breastfeed. Without that dose of healthy milk and colostrum, your baby’s blood sugar levels can drop even further, leading to a possible neurological injury.
Adjusting to the Temperature
When your little one was inside you, it got used to your internal body temperature - 98.4 degrees. In the outside world, the temperature is just 70 degrees making it quite uncomfortable for your baby. This is why it is better for the baby to lay in the comfort of their mother’s bare skin. By bathing a baby too soon, the baby could be under the risk of developing hypothermia. Also, if the baby is too cold, their blood sugar levels may drop
Babies who have a skin-to-skin bond with their mothers during the first few minutes after birth have better blood sugar levels and temperature control. This skin-to-skin bonding between mom and baby can also help make breastfeeding come naturally to them. You may have already heard about how it is important to ensure that you breastfeed your baby within their first hour. This is so that they learn how to latch on easier. While in the womb, they had to keep sucking, inhaling and swallowing the amniotic fluid which acts as a source of oxygen and vital nutrients. When they come out, they would quickly start learning how to breathe the air and may forget the sucking and swallowing technique. This is the main reason why you should breastfeed within an hour before they forget.