Delay That First Bath! (All About Vernix)
If you've ever seen a freshly-born baby you'll most likely notice a white creamy coating on their bodies. If you give birth in a hospital, a lot of the time the nurses will take the baby away almost immediately to clean her off and bring her back to present her to you.
There is a reason that white stuff is there and also a few reasons why you shouldn't wash it off!
This cheesy substance is called Vernix Caseosa, or just vernix.
Vernix develops while baby is in utero. It's a protective layer that keeps their skin moisturized while they grow in the amniotic fluid (without which they would look like you after a very long bath: raisin-like). They lose it over time, so a baby born at 40+ weeks will have significantly less vernix (or none at all) compared to a baby born at 38 weeks.
The World Health Organization actually recommends leaving vernix on after birth as it provides antibacterial promotion and healing. It inhibits the growth of pathogens on the skin's surface and facilitates the colonization of beneficial organisms. Plus it contains vitamin E. I wish we had a cream that could do all that!
It also works as a lubricant. That's right, our bodies do it all. Vernix makes it a lot easier for baby to slide out of the birth canal. I don't even want to think of a dry baby coming out of there. Yikes.
Your baby will also stay warmer with the vernix left on, so no need for a hat and a swaddle. Just leave that vernix on and place baby skin-to-skin with mama; that's all they need.
You may wonder, 'Okay so when can I wash my baby then??'. Good question! And it is totally up to you! You can always take a gentle wet cloth to get the few bits of blood off of baby whenever. A lot of parents will choose to wait 24-48 hours to give their first bath. Plus it absorbs into the skin after roughly 24 hours, making baby all smooth and yummy.
There should be no rush as baby is not dirty. That is a huge misconception. Vernix is actually super clean.
To conclude, Vernix is amazing! And it has many purposes, namely:
It's a protective coating that has anti-bacterial properties
It moisturizes baby's skin
It helps get baby through the birth canal
It regulates baby's body temperature
So don't be afraid to speak up to your healthcare provider and tell them to 'nix' the first bath. See what I did there? I love wordplay.