You'll be surprised at the remarkable health benefits this gives your little one.
For most mums, memories of their baby soon after birth involve blood, vernix and baby being whisked away to be returned pink, clean and swaddled.
A newborn’s first bath is routinely carried in most hospitals around the world soon after birth. But now this trend is slowly changing.
Here’s why delaying your baby’s first bath might be the healthier option for both him and you:
1. Vernix is good. Really good.
You know that white, cheesy substance that covers your baby’s body at birth? That is vernix and it’s not dirty and meant to be washed off immediately.
Vernix, which is composed of your baby’s skin cells shed early in his development, contains proteins that literally turn it into an antibacterial cream.
During birth, your baby is exposed to bacteria such as Group B Strep and E.coli which can cause serious infections in a newborn if they enter his body. Vernix helps to protect your baby from such potentially lethal infections.
2. Baby’s blood sugar is stabilised
According to paediatric experts such as Dr. Jack Newman, bathing a baby too soon after birth can cause hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar). This is why: soon after birth, a baby has to adjust to life outside the womb. This includes being separated from what was his main source of blood sugar in the uterus – the placenta.
Bathing often causes stress in newborns, releasing stress hormones, which cause a baby’s blood sugar to drop. This drop can make baby too sleepy to breastfeed, causing a further drop in blood sugar.
3. Breastfeeding is improved
Breastfeeding a newborn can be quite difficult for some mums, especially when it comes to getting baby to latch. When baby is whisked away for medical procedures or a bath soon after birth, breastfeeding for the first time becomes even harder.
But experts point out that babies who get skin-to-skin contact with mummy immediately after birth and are allowed to breastfeed at that point are much more successful at latching on properly.
This is because their memory of sucking and swallowing amniotic fluid while in mummy’s womb is still fresh and they remember how to do it. Any longer than an hour, and the tendency is for them to forget.
4. Better temperature control
There’s nothing like mummy’s warm, bare skin to give comfort to a newborn baby and importantly, help regulate the little one’s temperature soon after birth. However, giving baby a bath too soon can cause hypothermia, and if baby gets too cold, this may result in his blood sugar dropping and other issues.
5. Better bonding
Dr Kathleen Berchelmann points out that in their first few minutes of life, babies are not meant to spend this time with a nurse, midwife or doctor. This time should be spent with mummy and daddy, where precious bonding takes place. Dr Berchelmann says, “as long as the baby does not need help breathing or immediate resuscitation, babies need to be held by their mother.”
She also points out that little ones who have this immediate one-on-one time with their mummy show better blood sugar levels, temperature control and find it easier to get that first precious mouthful of mummy’s colostrum.
6. Natural moisturisation
If vernix is allowed to remain on baby’s skin, not only does it contribute to his better temperature regulation, but it also acts like a natural moisturiser. You could gently rub the excess into your little one’s skin, like nature’s finest body butter!
So when should you bathe baby?
Read this article for step-by step instructions on how to bathe your newborn after his umbilical stump falls off.
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