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Study: Delaying newborn bath leads to higher breastfeeding rates

For years, newborn babies have received their very first bath within the first few hours of life. But a new study from Cleveland Clinic is showing that holding off on that first bath for at least 12 hours can be beneficial for baby.

“We did see an increase in breastfeeding exclusivity; we did see an increase in moms going home planning to give human milk to their baby, and we also saw an improvement in the baby’s temperature stability by not bathing them two hours after birth,” said Heather Dicioccio, DNP, RNC-MNN, of Cleveland Clinic, who led the study.

For the study, the team looked at 996 pairs of healthy moms and babies.

They compared the number of moms and babies who exclusively breast-fed prior to the implementation of the bath delay with how many moms and babies exclusively breast-fed after the bath delay practice went into effect.

The results showed the rates of exclusive breastfeeding rose from 59.8 percent to 68.2 percent after implementing the delayed bath practice. Newborns who had their baths delayed were also more likely to go home with a plan for continued exclusive breastfeeding.

Dicioccio said during the research, they also found that babies weren’t as cold when they didn’t bathe right away.

She said their findings support what they’ve already known about the importance of skin-to-skin contact for babies and caregivers right after birth.

“That human touch is vital to the parent and the baby,” said Dicioccio. “You need to have that human touch; and I think by not washing the baby, and encouraging that skin-to-skin contact, and encouraging the breastfeeding, you’re improving that human touch, so now you’re looking at a long-term health benefit.”

Dicioccio said exclusive breastfeeding provides a benefit for the baby that extends beyond the first hours or days of life -- as research has shown that exclusive breastfeeding can benefit the health of both mother and child for years to come.

She hopes that this research will encourage additional nursing research and contribute to guidelines being changed in the future for other hospitals.

Complete results of the study can be found in the Journal for Obstetrics, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing.