While taking an in-depth look at the cultural norms that surround pregnancy for her new book, Your Baby, Your Way, award-winning journalist Jennifer Margulis found that many common prenatal and infant health-care practices may not be best. Perhaps one of the most surprising—and controversial—topics is a newborn’s first bath. In most hospitals it’s standard to bathe a child immediately following birth, but Margulis found that this may actually interfere with the natural bonding process between mother and child.
The World Health Organization supports her claim, recommending that parents wait 24 hours for that first bath. “The scent of the amniotic fluid helps soothe the baby and encourages him to root,” says Jennifer Lincoln, M.D., an ob-gyn based in Portland, Oregon. Plus, leaving the vernix intact longer may help protect against infection.