Babies do not need a bath immediately after birth!

We have all heard about the wonderful benefits of skin to skin contact for mothers and babies after birth. It is common for baby to be bathed in the first few hours after birth, however research is showing that it is best to wait at least 6 hours prior to bathing the baby. The World Health Organization stresses that babies should not be bathed earlier than 6 hours after birth, as it can be difficult for babies to maintain their body temperature (World Health Organization, 2006). Infants are born with a coating of a white cheesy subtance called vernix. Although it is common practice to wash this off, research shows that vernix actually protects babies against microbes such as E-Coli. (Tollin, et al 2005). Infants are also born with instincts that tell them to crawl to the mother's breast. Most infants when placed on the mother's abdomen after birth will begin to move towards the breast. Giving an infant an early bath can inhibit this reflex (Righard & Alade, 1990). Talk with your midwife about timing of the first bath for the baby.

Righard L, Alade, M. Effect of delivery room routines on success of the first breastfeed. Lancet 1990:336:1105-7

Tollin, M Bergsson, G, Kai-Larsen, Y, Lengqvist, J, Sjovall J, Griffiths, W. et al. Vernix caseosa as a multicomponent defence system based on polypeptides, lipids, and their interactions. Call Mol Life Sci 2005; 62:2390-9

World Health Organization (2006) Pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum and newborn care. A guide for essential practice. Retrieved online from:

Written by Laura Kattan, CNM