Here’s Why Experts Say You Shouldn’t Wash Your Baby After Birth

Mothers of teenagers, think back to the happy day when your son or daughter was born: Shortly after birth your infant was likely taken away from you. It was to be expected—after all, the baby needed to be cleaned up and washed off. But now, experts are saying there’s evidence that parents should wait a bit longer—at least 24 hours, or more—before bathing your little one.

“It’s important to remember that babies aren’t born dirty,” explains Dr. Ira Jaffe, a board certified maternal fetal medicine OBGYN doctor in NYC. “The way they’re designed to come out is how they should come out.”

Babies are born with a white, waxy coating, which convention has held should be washed off sooner rather than later. But this substance, called vernix caseosa, can be beneficial if left on for awhile longer. While it may seem like bathing a baby right after birth has been the thing to do for as long as any of us can remember, there has been a recent and evolving interest in understanding that babies are covered in vernix for a reason—and we’re just now gaining a better understanding of its benefits. A 2004 study by ACOG’s Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology points out that vernix adds a protective layer to the skin, which makes it softer and protects the immune system. Additionally, vernix and amniotic fluid contain antimicrobial peptides which can guard against bacteria and fungi. A follow up article byScience & Sensibility points out that pneumonia and meningitis are among the diseases that these agents protect against.

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