Delaying a Baby’s First Bath Could Make Breastfeeding Easier, New Study Says

Could this really boost your chances for breastfeeding success?

By: Amanda Mushro

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Cute asian newborn baby girl take a bath. Mom cleaning her baby hair with sponge.


Cute asian newborn baby girl take a bath. Mom cleaning her baby hair with sponge.

Photo by: Sasiistock


Moments after a baby is born, nurses usually whisk your little one away for their first bath. After all, those sweet newborn pictures look a lot better when they aren’t covered in goo, right? However, new moms may want to delay their little one’s first scrub in the tub because doctors now believe this could help a newborn be more successful when breastfeeding.

According to the new study, delaying a newborn’s first bath for at least 12 hours after their birth increases chances that the mother will exclusively breastfeed her baby – meaning without formula – during their hospital stay. For the study, nearly 1,000 moms and newborns were observed for their breastfeeding rates. Of those pairs, 448 newborns received baths immediately after birth and 548 babies had their baths delayed for 12 hours.

What they found was the exclusive breastfeeding rate rose from 59.8 percent to 68.2 percent when the first bath was delayed for 12 hours. Researchers believe several factors led to this increase, including: skin-to-skin time between mother and baby, the smell of amniotic fluid in relation to the breast and the baby’s body temperature because babies in the delayed bath group were more likely to have normalized temperatures post first bath.

"They weren't as cold as the babies who were bathed sooner after birth, so they may not have been as tired trying to nurse," said Heather Dicioccio, lead author of the study and a nursing professional development specialist for the Mother/Baby Unit at Cleveland Clinic Hillcrest Hospital.

So what inspired this research? Turns out it was mom blogs!

"[New moms] were reading on mom blogs that it was better to wait to bathe their baby the first time, since amniotic fluid has a similar smell to the breast – which may make it easier for the baby to latch" said Dicioccio. Once she looked into the practice herself, Dicioccio found little to no research or studies on this topic beforehand.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends mothers exclusively breastfeed for six months, and then continue breastfeeding while introducing solid foods until the child is 12 months old. Something as simple as delaying a bath while in the hospital could help new moms ease their babies into breastfeeding. While some hospitals are already changing their policies about bath time after birth, if you are a mom-to-be this may be something you want to talk to your doctors about before delivery.

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