birth support · Doula observations

Baby’s 1st Bath– You Have Options!

I want to thank Honest Company for getting me thinking about this blog. I was asked to share my bath time experience and I’m so glad I was! If you’re interested in learning more about their products, visit their Instagram

I didn’t do as much research as I thought I had before my first baby was born. While I had read every book that I could get my hands on about pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding, I didn’t read too much about the immediate newborn period.

My niece is only 2 months older than my oldest daughter and I attended my sister’s labor with her. We were giving birth at the same hospital with the same midwife and I kind of wanted an idea of how it might go.

In that hospital, it was common for mom and baby to have some bonding time after the birth, but after about an hour or two the baby was taken to the nursery with Dad to be bathed while Mom changed rooms. It didn’t seem so unreasonable to me although I was really sad about missing the first bath.

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Fast forward to my birth. It was a whirlwind and there was a lot going on but finally things settled down and I was able to snuggle my baby. Time came to move to recovery and I sent her with her dad to get a bath. I didn’t see my baby for almost four hours after that.

You see, it’s common with a brand new baby to have their body temperature drop significantly when they’re giving their first bath that soon. It makes total sense in retrospect, of course their body temperature is going to drop. They have just been separated from the womb for the first time and biologically they’re expecting skin to skin. They aren’t expecting to be bathed in warm water that cools almost immediately upon contact. They aren’t expecting to be laid down out of arms and bathed. Their bodies just aren’t ready for it. It’s common for babies that are bathed that early to need to go under the warmer.

I hated being separated from my baby for that long. I have a video of most of what went down and she screamed almost the entire time. I’m so glad that my husband got to have that bonding moment but so sad that I missed out on it, especially when she was taken to the NICU a few hours later. I had already missed 4 hours because of bathing her and the subsequent warming, and then they came to tell me that they were taking her to the NICU and I would only be allowed to handle her every 3 hours.

Devastation doesn’t even begin to cover the emotion that you feel when your baby has to be in the NICU. I don’t care if it’s for one day or for four months, it is hard. Obviously I had different struggles than the parent of a preemie or of a very sick baby. My baby was in NICU as a precaution, to keep her from getting sick, rather than because she was sick. Even so, bonding was difficult period it contributed to the postpartum depression I didn’t admit I had with her.

I was determined to do it differently with my second child.

I did far more research about the newborn stage. I learned that I didn’t have to consent to giving her a bath at the hospital. There’s actually a lot of research supporting later bathing. And so it got written into my birth plan. My plan was to not have her go to the nursery at all without me. My plan was to not have any separation from her.

Plans don’t always go as expected. I did end up needing to be separated from her for an urgent surgery after I gave birth. She did end up going to the nursery with her dad for a couple of hours while I was in surgery. But she didn’t go there to be bathed. I was insistent that she not be bathed without me. I told my husband that I wanted him to hold her skin on skin, and barring that to at least hold her since I couldn’t.

My physical recovery between my oldest and youngest was a night and day difference. I could barely walk after my oldest was born, and I couldn’t sit without pain.

Once AM was born, even though I had to go to surgery and they wouldn’t let me move for hours, once I was finally out of bed I felt great. I showered and paced the room. My little one stayed latched on for most of her hospital stay. Despite my initial insistence to refuse artificial nipples, I chose to attempt to give her a pacifier. She was less than amused!

Once I came out of surgery I was able to hold my still unbathed baby. I was able to rub some amazing vernix into her skin.

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I was able to take her hat off and smell her head. There’s a lot to be said about not messing with hormonal balance especially in the early days, especially when you’re trying to establish breastfeeding. By me having not had the chance to shower yet and her having not been bathed yet, are hormones were able to talk to one another. Our mamillion instincts took over.

I had intended to delay her first bath until we got home. I had read a lot to support that decision and knew that it was something I wanted to do, but I underestimated my boredom. In the end we took her to the nursery to get bathed just to get out of our room. It gave me an excuse to walk around and have a change of view. I had never bathed a newborn before. Because my husband knew what he was doing the first time around, and because I was breastfeeding, I let him take bath time when NJ was little.

It was a completely different experience to be able to do it myself.

She didn’t love it, but I did. I loved being able to be there, to comfort her. I loved that my voice soothed her and that she already seemed to follow me with her eyes.

As she’s gotten bigger, bath time has gotten easier. As a big two-and-a-half-year-old she even likes it. Although likes is a bit of an understatement. She asks every day to take a bath and climbs in the tub often while I’m going to the bathroom. She is still afraid of bubble bath but she loves the water!

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We all make decisions sometimes that we wish we hadn’t made. Sometimes, it’s a decision you didn’t even realize that you had a voice in. My goal as a doula and as a mother is to let people know that they have options. We make thousands of decisions a day as parents. My choices won’t always be your choices.

I think that’s pretty incredible.

At the end of the day, we all just do the best we can for the children with the knowledge that we have. We all second-guess ourselves and we all wish we could go back when we learn more than we knew.

If I was to have another baby, I might delay the bath further. Or, I might just be bored enough to bathe the baby at 8 hours old again. Who knows?

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