For me, baths were always the scariest part of having a newborn in the house. Have you ever actually held a wet baby? They are like the slipperiest thing known to mankind. Although bathing newborns doesn't have to happen as often as you think, the first one can always be a little wary, even if it happens in the hospital or by a midwife when you give birth. But how soon after baby is born should you bathe them?
Birth is full of lots of fluids and not exactly a clean activity, but a bath immediately following birth isn't what's best for baby. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended that bathing be delayed for 24 hours after birth. If, however, cultural reasons permit this, the WHO recommended waiting at least six hours.
Sound strange? There's actually a pretty good reason. According to Today's Parent, skin to skin contact with the mother is more necessary than a bath, and a lot of hospitals are delaying the practice (mothers can request a longer delay, too) to ensure that moms and babies are bonding as much as they can.
And although you may be grossed out by some of the stuff on your baby, some of it is good for them and shouldn't be washed off immediately. A study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that vernix, the coating on your baby's skin when they are born, as well as amniotic fluid, is full of antimicrobial peptides that can fight against common bacterial and fungal pathogens.
Baby Center also suggested that your baby's temperature is a big issue, so in order to keep them warm, many midwives and nurses will delay that first bath. A towel can take care of a lot of stuff that you need wiped off of your baby, but the vernix can also help develop your little one's skin barrier, so it will be left on.
While most hospitals give baths before 24 hours have passed, Today's Parent noted that every hospital contacted agreed to honor a parent's wishes on when their baby should be bathed.