Delaying your newborn's first bath increases breastfeeding rates, study finds

Delaying your newborn's first bath increases breastfeeding rates, study finds

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Many hospitals whisk away newborns for a bath just a few hours after birth to wash away the blood and amniotic fluid that naturally covers their bodies. But after an increasing number of moms began to request more time with their newborns before having them bathed, a nursing specialist at the Cleveland Clinic, Heather DiCioccio, wondered if there were scientific data to support delaying baths.

Many of the moms asking for postponed baths had read on the Internet that doing so was healthier for newborns, DiCioccio said. Yet there was little research to back this up.

So Cleveland Clinic Hillcrest Hospital, where DiCioccio works, recruited nearly 1,000 moms and newborns to take part in a study. About half of the newborns were bathed shortly after birth, as usual. The other half didn't get a bath until at least 12 hours after birth. With the delayed-bathing group, nurses simply wiped blood off the newborn and let mom hold the baby skin to skin, DiCioccio told Cleveland newspaper The Plain Dealer.

As it turned out, exclusive breastfeeding rates increased almost 10 percent among newborns whose baths were delayed, the researchers reported in the Journal for Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing. Results also showed that babies in the delayed-bathing group were more likely to have human milk included, often exclusively, in their discharge feeding plans.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding (which means no food or supplemental formula) for the first six months of a child's life because it provides numerous health benefits.

Moms in the study were mostly white and middle-class, so more research is needed to find out whether the benefits of delayed bathing apply to women of other races and socioeconomic backgrounds. Also, the researchers didn't follow the women after they left the hospital to see whether they continued to exclusively breastfeed.

How does delaying your baby's first bath affect breastfeeding?

According to DiCioccio, there are several reasons why delaying newborn baths may help with breastfeeding:

  • It increases skin-to-skin contact between mom and baby: That's known to reduce a newborn's stress, which can make it easier to start breastfeeding.
  • Smell: Amniotic fluid has a similar smell to the breast. This familiar smell may encourage a baby to latch.
  • Warmth: The coating around newborns helps keep them warm and comfortable, decreasing stress and encouraging breastfeeding. In fact, the World Health Organization recommends delaying newborn bathing by 24 hours as a way to help keep babies warm.
  • Better milk supply: The sooner babies latch, the better moms' milk supply, DiCioccio told The Plain Dealer.

In light of the study findings, the Cleveland Clinic plans to implement delayed bathing, as long as the moms are willing, at all of its hospitals. DiCioccio said she hopes more hospitals will do the same.

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Watch the video: Your Healthy Family: Study shows delayed first bath benifits (May 2022).

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