Delaying Your Baby's First Bath

Why Delaying Your Baby’s First Bath Can Increase Breastfeeding

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A new study from Cleveland Clinic suggests that delaying your baby’s first bath by 12 or more hours after birth can help with breastfeeding.

But why? Bathing your newborn within two hours after birth was the standard procedure. Well, at least in most maturnity wings and hospitals.

Why do doctors, nurses and pediatricians now suggest you should wait for at least 12 hours before bathing your baby?

What Led To The Study

Heather DiCioccio, a baby nursing professional development specialist of Cleveland Clinic led the study.  “More mothers were asking us not to bathe their baby right away, so we wanted to conduct research on this topic“, says Mrs. DiCioccio.

Nearly 1,000 healthy mother-newborn pairs took part in the study, including 448 babies bathed shortly after birth and 548 who delayed the bath by 12 hours.

The study was conducted between January and August 2016.

Why Does Delaying Your Baby’s First Bath Increase Breastfeeding

Delaying Your Baby's First Bath

Skin-to-skin time. Studies like this have already shown the benefits of skin-to-skin contact for babies after birth. Human touch is vital to the parent and the baby and delaying the bathing of the baby encourages more skin-to-skin contact.

Smell. The similarity of smell between the amniotic fluid and the breast may encourage babies to latch.

Body temperature. Babies who didn’t have their first bathe right after birth weren’t as cold. Being cold can mean that the baby is too tired to nurse.


Results showed that the breastfeeding rates increased by roughly 10% (59.8% to 68.2%) for babies who had their first bath delayed.

Delaying the bath from the previous standard (two hours) to at least 12 hours increased how many moms breastfed their babies and went home planning to do so exclusively.

Another result of the study: The baby’s body temperature remained more stable delaying the bath. The effect for increased breastfeeding was stronger for mothers with vaginal birth as opposed to C-section babies.

It’s now policy in most hospitals to delay the bath at least 12 hours, unless the mom refuses to wait.

You can read the entire study in the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing.

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