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Hats on newborns - when and why hats are not necessary in the delivery room!

Updated: Mar 28

It’s common to see pictures of babies who have literally just been born, just minutes earlier, with a cosy little hat on – be it knitted especially by granny or popped on automatically by the hospital staff - and all with the best of intentions of course. But there are also many reasons why placing a hat straight on a newborn babies (beautiful smelling) head may not be ideal.…

Breastfeeding initiation: Uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact, mothers inhaling their new babies beautiful smell, and easy access to the breast can all facilitate the release of the essential hormone oxytocin, needed to initiate breastfeeding. Oxytocin plays a huge part in your birthing and feeding journey. It is often referred to as the "love hormone" or "bonding hormone."  It plays a crucial role in various physiological processes, including uterine contractions during labour (and when delivering the placenta and preventing post partum haemorrhaging) plus milk ejection during breastfeeding. Oxytocin is involved in the let-down reflex, which is essential for successful breastfeeding. 

A hat may also interfere with the baby's ability to latch onto the breast or hinder the mother's ability to observe feeding cues. Let them be – they will find their way to your breast instinctively.

Skin-to-skin contact: Keeping a baby skin-to-skin with the mother or caregiver right after birth should be encouraged where possible. This helps regulate the baby's body temperature (see next point!), breathing, initiation of breastfeeding as already mentioned, and also promotes bonding and attachment. Both skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding stimulate the further release of oxytocin, also contributing to the bonding between the mother and her baby. Placing a hat on the baby's head can interfere with this important initial contact as the mother can’t smell her baby’s head easily. If you opt for bottle feeding, skin to skin as soon as you can is still important, for all the other benefits detailed here, such as temperature regulation and bonding, whatever your feeding option.

Temperature regulation: Newborns have a limited ability to regulate their body temperature. Their heads are an essential part of this process, as they may need to release heat. If a baby is skin to skin with their parent then their temperature will be regulated by their parents body. Placing a hat on a baby's head can hinder heat dissipation, potentially leading to overheating. The reason so many of us still believe that we lose an enormous amount of heat out of the tops of our head, necessitating popping a hat straight on a fresh baby, is thought to be based on a small military study conducted back in the 1950’s, measuring how much body heat the soldiers lost, out in snowy conditions - but as the only part of them that was uncovered, were their heads, it stands to reason that they would lose most of their heat this way. This is a myth which perpetuates, but is just a myth. We do not lose masses of heat out of the top of our heads. It is also confusing for parents who often have a hat popped straight on their baby in the delivery room of a usually very warm hospital, yet are also told by professionals that there should be no hats/coats on indoors!

Monitoring health: Medical professionals often want to observe a newborn's skin colour and assess their overall health. Placing a hat on the baby's head can make it harder to monitor these visual cues.

Sensory cues: Babies use their senses, including smell and touch, to find the breast during breastfeeding. Uncovering the baby's head allows them to use these sensory cues unhindered, to locate and latch onto the breast more effectively.

Cultural Practices: In some cultures, leaving the baby's head uncovered may be a cultural practice with specific symbolic or traditional significance.

Individual Preferences: Ultimately, the decision to put a hat on a baby immediately after birth may depend on individual parental preferences, cultural beliefs, and healthcare provider recommendations and it's important to note that all these points are general considerations and may not apply universally. 

Parents should of course first consult with their healthcare professionals to ensure that there is no medical reason why their baby needs to wear a hat. There may be circumstances where a hat is recommended for a specific baby, such as if they are born prematurely, are low birth weight or if there are concerns about their temperature regulation. 

If you need any postnatal support or new baby advice, please get in touch to book a discovery call, to discuss how I can help to support you to enjoy your new baby, and life as a new family!

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