Think newborns should be welcomed to the world with a nice sponge bath? Not so, according to a new study that recommends waiting at least 12 hours so the baby can bond physically with the mother and begin breastfeeding, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. The study arose after more new moms told staff at the Cleveland Clinic Hillcrest Hospital in Mayfield Heights, Ohio, to delay the usual newborn bath. "Moms were coming into the hospital with this request as part of their written birth plan," says study author Heather DiCioccio. "They were reading it on the Internet on mom blogs, and their friends were telling them about it." So in April 2016, Hillcrest nurses began putting the whole bath question to the test.
With 996 pairs of healthy newborns and moms, the staff gave 448 of the babies a bath after about two hours and the other 548 a bath after at least 12 hours, Today reports. The finding: Breastfeeding rates jumped from 59.8% to 68.2% among newborns who waited for their bath. Hard to say why, but extra skin-to-skin time with mom may calm the newborn for suckling, while the smell of amniotic fluid still covering the baby may be a cue that encourages breastfeeding—which research shows is healthy for babies and mothers alike. While many clinics are still bathing newborns the old way, DiCioccio urges them to be open: "If the mother is willing to wait and wants to wait, let her," she says. (Last year, the US tried to block a resolution in favor of breastfeeding.)