Delay the First Bath

Delaying the newborn’s first bath is recommended by The Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). 

The AWHONN 2018 Skin Care Guideline states that infants should ideally be bathed with immersion or swaddled immersion bathing between 6 and 24 hours of age when thermal and cardiorespiratory stability has been achieved.

The WHO recommends delaying the first bath for 6 or more hours to prevent hypothermia and support maternal-infant bonding and early breast feeding.  NICE advises to delay bathing and other newborn interventions for at least an hour to support maternal-infant contact.    

Delayed bathing supports the recommendations by AWHONN and WHO to leave the vernix caseosa intact after birth.  The vernix provides a mechanical and chemical barrier to the skin, protects the infant from infection, and improves skin barrier function. 

With delayed bathing, the family can give their baby the first bath. 

Can an infant be bathed with the umbilical cord still intact?

Research shows that no difference exists in cord healing, bacterial colonization of the cord, cord infection or frequency of diaper dermatitis among infants who were immersion bathed versus those who were sponge bathed.

Download Umbilical Cord References Pdf

Umbilical Cord References:

1.      Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses. Neonatal Skin Care 4th Edition – Evidence Based Clinical Practice Guideline. 2018; 41-53.

2.      Blume-Peytavi, et al. Skin Care Practices for Newborns and Infants: Review of the Clinical Evidence for Best Practices.  Pediatric Dermatology 2012; 29(1): 1-14.

3.      Bryanton J, et al. Tub bathing versus traditional sponge bathing for the newborn.  J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. 2004; 33:704-712.

4.      Garcia Bartels et al.  Effect of standardized skin care regimens on neonatall skin barrier function in different body areas. Pediatric Dermatology 2010; 27: 1-8.

5.      Henningsson A, et al.  Bathing or Washing Babies after birth? Lancet 1981; 19/26:  1401-1403.