Newborn Bath: Why the delay?

Cara Wolf Patient Education



In recent years we have seen a change in the protocol surrounding the timing of a newborn’s first bath. This is an evidence based change—[meaning it has been supported through medical research], to promote a newborns transition to extrauterine life (life outside the womb). At Regional Midwifery, we support the uninterrupted skin to skin time immediately after birth. We’ve seen how delaying the bath improves breastfeeding and other important aspects of a babies first day in this world!

Current Recommendations

Most agree delaying the bath atleast 6 hours is optimal, while others like the World Health Organization recommend waiting a full 24 hours prior to a newborn’s first bath. In rare cases, these recommendations may change to decrease potential exposure to infectious diseases like HIV or Hepatitis.

  • Breastfeeding—higher breastfeeding success!
  • Undisturbed skin to skin contact immediately after birth—promotes breastfeeding, temperature stability, and maternal-infant bonding
  • Temperature stability—by waiting, infants are able to stabilize their own temperatures and vital signs and there is less risk for hypothermia (low body temperature) following the bath.
  • Vernix is a white coating on babies at birth. This substance provides protection from disease and acts as a natural moisturizer that is slowly absorbed into the skin. Delaying the bath, allows the vernix to function in its protective nature.
  • There are less rates of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in infants when the bath is delayed.


What to expect for your newborn

Delayed newborn bathing is common practice; it is protocol at Duke Regional Hospital to wait 8 hours after birth before giving the first bath. As parents you can decide when the first bath is right for your baby. Current recommendations suggest waiting a minimum of 6 hours, but you may prefer to wait a full 24 hours or even longer [this is something you may want to include in your birthplan]. If you have questions, we are happy to discuss at your next prenatal appointment or with your newborn’s pediatrician.