Delaying Newborn Bath. Teaching Tuesday

Baby with Vernix and Skin2Skin with Mom

Do you have a Birth Plan?  A guide line for your team of how you would like you and your baby’s birth to go (I say YOU and your baby because you will both be born that day)?  What about a plan for once the baby arrives?  It is a really good idea to have a plan for both Before and After.  And if Breastfeeding your baby is your goal then you should consider Delaying the newborn bath for at least 12 hours or more.  I delayed it for five days with my son.

During your baby’s third trimester, the baby’s own body produces Vernix Caseosa (commonly just called Vernix), a creamy (cheese like), protective coating on the skin, that will cover the body in utero and at birth.  The production of vernix is unique to humans. Vernix has multiple functions in utero and many at birth for both the mom and baby!  I will focus today on the benefits after birth.

The vernix on the baby should be rubbed in to the skin and bath should be delayed for at least 12 hours. And then baby and mom should practice Skin2Skin in the first hour of birth for at least 24hours.  If this is done the benefits are amazing.

  • Protecting the Babies Skin and Immune System – The vernix will protect the baby’s skin from the air outside.  The Vernix has natural proteins that prevent common bacterial infections.  It also acts as a natural moisturizer so no lotion will be needed.
  • Maintain Blood Sugar Level – The vernix will help regulate the infant’s blood sugar.  After the birth and the umbilical chord is clamped (Ask for delayed clamping or “milking” technique. Another step to add to the plan.  More to come on this in future post), the baby loses its main source of food and source of blood sugar.  If immediate Skin2Skin does not happen after birth and the baby is bathed instead, most likely the baby will cry and become stressed, causing a release in Cortisol (the stress hormone).  Raised Cortisol levels can cause for a decrease in blood sugar, which can cause the newborn to become sleepy and hard to wake up to breastfeed.  This can result in a further drop in blood sugar.
  • Natural Warmth for the Baby – The vernix will provide a layer of warmth and comfort for the baby.  Your baby is used to a consistent temperature in utero, 98.6 degrees, and most birth rooms are at 70 degrees.  The new world will be different and the Vernix will act as a shield to warm the baby.  This will save the baby a huge amount of energy and save the risk of low blood sugar and other issues.
  • Bonding for Mother and Baby – Delaying the bath encourages immediate bonding with mom. Skin2Skin is so important for breastfeeding, especially in the first 24hours.  If bathing is delayed Skin2Skin can beginning right away and natural bonding will happen with baby and the parents (Both parents should get in the on the Skin2Skin to aid in bonding). This will raise Oxytocin (the love hormone) for Mom, helping her to heal and produce milk, and baby, for temperature control and better blood sugar.  This should happen even with moms who have had a c-section and adoptive parents.
  • And of course Successful Breastfeeding –  I have touched on this in the other reasons.  There are successful studies to show improved breastfeeding with babies who have Skin2Skin in the first 24hours and especially in the first hour.  One of the biggest breastfeeding issues I encounter with new moms is the baby struggling to Latch.  But breastfeeding in the first hour, especially first 30 minutes, improves the babies ability to latch and continue latching the days that follow.  Further resulting in less stress for Mom.  When the baby was in utero, they have been successfully sucking and swallowing amniotic fluid while listening to all of mom’s sounds.  Breastfeeding right away can encourage the baby to remember the how to suck and swallow which will improve latching.  Being Skin2Skin with Mom will warm and comfort the baby with the sounds and smell.  Vernix smells like Mom’s amniotic fluid since it has been swimming in that for the third trimester.  As well as the glands surrounding the nipple (Montgomery Glands) and the breastmilk, also smell like the amniotic fluid.  All of this is comfort to the baby and the baby will find the nipple on its own and start to latch and feed in that first hour.  The mom will feel joy and Oxytocin will rise.

Another great benefit is the parents will be ones to do the first bath.  I remember when my husband and I bathed my son for the first time.  We were filled with excitement, nerves, and joy.  We both remember it vividly.

So if the baby is not in need of immediate medical attention after the birth, delay the bath, rub in the vernix, and do Skin2Skin in the first hour for up to 24hours.

Do you need help with a birth plan?  Do you have questions about breastfeeding?  Contact me and I will be happy to help and answer them.

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