Effects of Delayed Newborn Bathing on Breastfeeding, Hypothermia, and Hypoglycemia

J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. 2020 Mar;49(2):181-189. doi: 10.1016/j.jogn.2019.12.004. Epub 2020 Feb 12.


Objective: To determine whether delaying the newborn bath by 24 hours increases the prevalence of breastfeeding initiation and exclusive breastfeeding at discharge in healthy full-term and late preterm newborns (34 0/7-36 6/7 weeks gestation) and to examine the effect of delayed newborn bathing on the incidences of hypothermia and hypoglycemia.

Design: Pre-post implementation, retrospective, cohort study.

Setting: Provincial children's hospital with an average of 2,500 births per year.

Participants: Healthy newborns (N = 1,225) born at 34 0/7 weeks or more gestation who were admitted to the mother-baby unit.

Methods: We compared newborns who were bathed before 24 hours (n = 680, preimplementation group) to newborns who were bathed after 24 hours (n = 545, postimplementation group).

Results: After adjustment for confounders, the odds of exclusive breastfeeding at discharge were 33% greater in the postimplementation group than in the preimplementation group (adjusted odds ratio = 1.334; 95% confidence interval [1.049,1.698]; p = .019). Delayed bathing was associated with decreased incidence of hypothermia and hypoglycemia (p = .007 and p = .003, respectively). We observed no difference in breastfeeding initiation between groups.

Conclusion: Delaying the newborn bath for 24 hours was associated with an increased likelihood of exclusive breastfeeding at discharge and a decreased incidence of hypothermia and hypoglycemia in healthy newborns. The implementation of a delayed bathing policy has the potential to improve breastfeeding rates and reduce the incidence of hypothermia and hypoglycemia.

Keywords: bathing; breastfeeding; breastfeeding initiation; delayed bath; exclusive breastfeeding; hypoglycemia; hypothermia; neonatal; newborn; newborn feeding.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Baths / adverse effects*
  • Baths / methods
  • Breast Feeding / methods*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemia / etiology*
  • Hypoglycemia / physiopathology
  • Hypothermia / etiology*
  • Hypothermia / physiopathology
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Odds Ratio
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors*