Picture by Marijke Thoen
Maybe you haven’t thought about it for a second. Or perhaps it is the most obvious thing for you: because don’t all newborns have a hat on their little head?
It is often an automatism after birth: the baby has barely given its first cry and there is already a hat on its wet hair. The idea is that a newborn baby loses a lot of its warmth due to its comparatively large head and that a hat prevents this.
But is it really necessary to put on a hat right away? And are there any disadvantages to this? We were keen to find it out for you.
What immediately strikes me is that little research has been done into the pros and cons of putting on a hat right after birth.
We know that a newborn baby has difficulty regulating its warmth itself, and that a lot of heat can indeed be lost through the head. But we also know that skin-to-skin lying on the mother’s chest has a thermoregulating function. Both in case of fever and when the baby is too cold (2). In the case of a healthy newborn who is skin-to-skin with one of his parents, it is therefore a good idea to get rid of the hat for a while. When mum and baby are separated after birth, for example in the case of a premature birth, a hat is strongly recommended (3).
“I can hear you thinking, no harm, no foul? It’s not that simple.”
Not putting on a hat in the first few hours after birth also has its advantages. Much of the (fantastic and unique) scent of a baby is released through the scalp. This releases oxytocin (also known as the love hormone) from the mother and promotes a good bond between mother and child (1). Scientists also think that it helps with the birth of the placenta, for which the mother needs this oxytocin.
Given these advantages, putting on a hat in a healthy newborn could be seen as a ‘medical intervention’ or interaction in the natural birthing process (Odent, 2013). However, more research is needed to reach a conclusion that immediate putting on a hat after birth would be harmful.
1. Lundström, J. N., Mathe, A., Schaal, B., Frasnelli, J., Nitzsche, K., Gerber, J., & Hummel, T. (2013). Maternal status regulates cortical responses to the body odor of newborns. Frontiers in Psychology, 4.
2. Marín Gabriel, M. A., Llana Martín, I., López Escobar, A., Fernández Villalba, E., Romero Blanco, I., & Touza Pol, P. (2010). Randomized controlled trial of early skin-to-skin contact: Effects on the mother and the newborn. Acta Paediatrica (Oslo, Norway: 1992), 99(11), 1630–1634.
3. McCall, E. M., Alderdice, F. A., Halliday, H. L., Jenkins, J. G., & Vohra, S. (2008). Interventions to prevent hypothermia at birth in preterm and/or low birthweight infants. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 1, CD004210.