Search icon

Expert advice

19th Apr 2024

‘How long should I wait to bathe my newborn?’ Experts explain

Sophie Collins


Many newborns are given their first bath shortly after they’re born, but research suggests this might not be best for baby.

Parents might want to wait to wash their new arrival as he or she could benefit from vernix, the substance that’s on a baby’s skin when it’s born.

The white, waxy film on the baby’s skin develops in the third trimester and helps to regulate its temperature in the womb.

But leaving it for between eight and 24 hours was shown to have a positive effect in terms of breastfeeding, hypothermia, and hypoglycemia at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Illinois.

Credit: iStock

A ‘wait to bathe’ policy was adopted at the hospital and saw nurses wait 14 hours to sponge-bathe newborn babies, though blood was wiped off, reports the Chicago Tribune.

The effects were startling.

After nine months, the nurses noted that the percentage of babies with hypothermia dropped from 29 percent to 7 percent, while those with hypoglycemia rates dropped from 21 percent to just 4 percent.

In the same period, breastfeeding rates rose – they went to 78 percent, up from 51 percent 9 months previously.

This was down to the fact that vernix helps newborns pick up their mother’s scent, making them more likely to latch, the nurses said.