CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- A new study has found that hospitals have a wide array of bathing practices for newborns,

According to a release, a national survey of hospitals found a variety of approaches to newborn skincare, including the timing of the first bath.

This could potentially have lasting impacts on the baby's health and well-being.

This survey, which is likely the first of its kind, wanted to document newborn skincare practices because doctors now appreciate the importance of infant exposure to natural skin microbes.

However, there are no clear guidelines for hospitals to follow.

“The variation in what hospitals are doing for newborn skincare is a direct result of previously not having a good understanding of what really is the best way to care for a baby’s skin,” said researcher Ann L. Kellams, MD, of the University of Virginia Children's Hospital. “The hope now is that this work will challenge us all to take a look at the evidence and incorporate practices that protect babies the most.”

The release says the skincare a bay gets in the first few hours and days of its life has long-term effects, shapes breastfeeding outcomes, infant skin health, and even infection rates.

But there is little evidence on health outcomes that are associated with delayed bathing or other newborn skin practices, leaving doctors with conflicting opinions that are frequently based on anecdotes and personal experience.

The researchers sent questionnaires to nursery medical directors at 109 hospitals that are members of the Better Outcomes through Research for Newborns network.

The 16 questions asked about bathing practices, the products that are used and the advice given to new parents along with other topics.

The researchers found that 87 percent of the hospitals delay the baby's first bath for at least six hours.

Ten percent send newborns home without having given them a bath, which is a more common practice at non-academic centers and on the West Coast.

Additionally, there are a variety of products that hospitals use, though almost all of the "baby" soap items contain detergents that are known to compromise the skin integrity of a newborn.

The release says there is little evidence underpinning hospitals' skincare practices so the researchers are calling for the formulation of more consistent guidelines that are based on hard evidence.

“Given the potential widespread clinical impact of newborn skincare and the paucity of data to support or refute widespread adoption of specific practices, further research is needed to improve and standardize care in U.S. nurseries and mother-baby units,” wrote the researchers in a paper published in the scientific journal Hospital Pediatrics.

Kellams says that developing evidence-based guidelines would benefit parents and infants.

She adds that an increased emphasis on oil-based cleansing and the application of emollients would lead to better skin integrity, offering more protection to babies against infection, the development of allergies and more.