The Benefits of Vernix
Have you ever wondered what that thick, white, gunky layer is coating a newborn baby immediately after birth? This waxy substance is called vernix caseosa and it is a result of a secretion of oil from your baby’s sebaceous glands. Vernix typically begins to accumulate in the last trimester of pregnancy and is thought to not only protect the baby in utero but it also serves as a mechanism of defense after your baby is born.
In past years of practice, as soon as your baby emerged from your womb, it was whisked away to be given its first bath, have that gunk wiped off, and have a whole series of tests taken. Luckily, research has shown that delaying your baby’s first bath and allowing that vernix to reside on the skin has a number of health benefits:
- It has antimicrobial properties. Recent studies have shown that vernix contains antimicrobial amino acids that block invasive bacteria present in the amniotic fluid from meconium contamination. After your baby is born, these amino acids work to protect against harmful bacteria such as B. streptococcus and E. coli.
- Vernix has wound healing properties. Vernix has been shown to help with the quick regeneration of skin following a wound. In fact, the use of vernix in skin grafting the burn areas of burn victims is currently being investigated!
- It moisturizes and hydrates your baby’s skin. Your baby’s skin undergoes immediate change following birth, including dehydration. Because of its high water content, vernix acts as a natural moisturizer for your baby, protecting its skin from dryness and cracking.
As the movement toward evidence-based practice has become standard, more hospitals are delaying baby’s first bath for 24-48 hours after delivery. However, many families are choosing to wait for several days or even up to a week after birth. The length of time you choose to delay the bath is completely up to you. If you decide to wait on giving your baby its first bath, you can gently massage the coating into your baby’s skin over the next several days.
So, after you delivered your baby, don’t be surprised if they arrived with a thick coat of vernix, it’s there for a reason! Instead, use that time to snuggle up to your baby and enjoy the magic of skin-to-skin. For more information on the importance of skin-to-skin and breastfeeding initiation, check out this post!