Delaying Your Baby's First Bath May Help With Breastfeeding, New Study Finds

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Breastfeeding can be a tough experience for parents, especially if their child has trouble with latching. But the good news is that there are a lot of useful tips out there to help, including this new study that recommends delaying your baby's first bath as it may help them with breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding can be a challenge for lots of moms, celebrities included. For example, actress Jana Kramer revealed earlier this month in a candid interview that she had difficulty breastfeeding her newborn son, Jace. Things eventually got so bleak that she invited her friends over for moral support, a hang out session that ended in one of her pal's "pressing on her boob" in an effort to "get milk out," as Us Weekly reported.

Although these stories might seem few and far in between when you're struggling yourself, breastfeeding woes are common. Sometimes the baby isn't latching properly, while in other instances, breastfeeding might be too painful (sore or cracked nipples, breast engorgement, etc.).

Of course, there are plenty of other reasons why breastfeeding is troublesome for some people. And a new study conducted by the Cleveland Clinic, published on Monday, Jan. 21 in the Journal for Obstetrics, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing, aimed to find out whether bathing an infant right after delivery plays a role in this dilemma.

Led by Heather DiCioccio, DNP, RNC-MNN, nursing professional development specialist for the Mother/Baby Unit at Cleveland Clinic Hillcrest Hospital, the study found that "waiting to bathe a healthy newborn 12 or more hours after birth increased the rate of breastfeeding exclusivity during the newborn hospital stay," according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Translation: You might want to hold off on that post-delivery bath if you plan to breastfeed.

As for why this method seems to help? For starters, as the study found, a baby's temperature is more ideal before they take a bath. Think about it: If a baby is cold after a bath, they might have less strength to latch.

"They weren't as cold as the babies who were bathed sooner after birth, so they may not have been as tired trying to nurse," DiCioccio added, according to Science Daily.

Then there's the topic of smell. Considering the smell between the amniotic fluid and the breast is similar, babies might be more inclined to latch if you delay the bath. It's all about a sense of familiarity, in this case.

Lastly, there's skin-to-skin contact to consider. Enjoying uninterrupted skin-to-skin bonding with your baby pre-bath could make the breastfeeding process more seamless, the study found.

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What's especially interesting about the study? The success rates. Nearly "1,000 healthy mother-newborn pairs took part in the study, including 448 babies bathed shortly after birth (January-February 2016) and 548 who delayed the bath (July-August 2016)," according to Cleveland Clinic.

The Cleveland Clinic Hillcrest Hospital then decided to change its policy of bathing a baby within two hours after birth to waiting 12 hours to evaluate the effect it would have on breastfeeding.

When researchers later compared the two groups, they "found exclusive breastfeeding rates — meaning no formula use during the family’s hospital stay — rose from 59.8 percent in the first group to 68.2 percent after the policy change," according to TODAY.

Outside of this study, there are other reasons to consider delaying the first bath, including, according to Children's MD: "reduced risk of infection, stabilized infant blood sugar, improved temperature control, and improved maternal-infant bonding."

It's important to note, however, that the first bath can be a personal topic for parents. Each situation is different, so it's probably a good idea to consult with your doctor before you make the final call.