Depending on where your baby is born, the first bath will vary. Hospitals traditionally bathe babies within the first hour of birth. However, that tradition is changing as the latest medical research recommends delaying the first bath until after 6 hours.
Bathing a baby whose temperature is stable poses no risk of hypothermia at any time. Moreover, the first bath should be in the family’s preferences and should have each member involved because it's a great experience to bond as a family. Also, it’s a good opportunity to offer helpful information about right practices on baby's skin care.
Use a tub
Bathing a baby in a small tub or practicing other types of immersion seems to provide the most comfort for babies. One option to consider is swaddle bathing especially for premature babies or babies that are easily stressed. The temperature of the bath water should be similar to normal body temperature. Bathing should be done with clean water and it should be performed quickly enough to prevent skin alteration which results from prolonged water immersion. Water alone is enough to clean most of the baby's body, but skin folds, creases, scalp and the diaper area could need a mild cleanser.
Choose the proper cleanser
It’s proper to choose natural original cleansers, not aggressive to the skin or the eyes, and also not contaminating to the environment. Most modern vegetal derived cleansers comply with this requirement. Another factor to consider for the perfect bath is pH as most cleansers have a more basic pH than skin. Neutral to more acidic pH is preferred for the baby’s bath.
Leave the Vernix On
On a final note, one of the particularities of newborns skin is the presence of a white sticky substance called Vernix caseosa. This substance will be more or less present depending on the baby's gestational age. When this substance is present on a baby’s skin, the first reflex would be to thoroughly and immediately remove it. (yikes!) However, Vernix has antibacterial, protective and moisturizing properties and should be left on the skin until natural disappearing.
To provide more comfort, a baby's bath should be followed by skin to skin warming contact while drying with a soft towel and lots of love. This article can help you with the next steps of baby skin care.