Washington: While bathing newborns immediately after birth is a common practice around the world, a recent study suggests that delaying the bath enhances the bond between mother and child. It also increases rates of breastfeeding.
Waiting to bathe a healthy newborn 12 or more hours after birth increased the rate of breastfeeding exclusivity during the newborn’s hospital stay.
“It was better to wait to bathe their baby the first time since the amniotic fluid has a similar smell to the breast – which may make it easier for the baby to latch,” said Heather DiCioccio, lead author of the study published in the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic and Neonatal Nursing.
The study saw nearly 1,000 healthy mother-newborn pairs taking part in the study, in which 448 babies were bathed shortly after birth and 548 whose bath were delayed. Results showed exclusive breastfeeding rates increased from 59.8 per cent before the intervention to 68.2 per cent after the intervention. Newborns in the delayed bath group were also more likely to have a discharge feeding plan that was exclusive to or at least included human milk.
The researchers found that babies in the delayed bath group were more likely to have stable/normalised temperatures post the 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,” DiCioccio said.
The team of researchers recommended exclusive breastfeeding for about 6 months, and then continued breastfeeding while introducing food until the child is 12 months old. Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for most babies, and it can also help protect the mother and her baby against illnesses and diseases.