Babies are born needing a good wipedown. They are usually covered in amniotic fluid, a little blood and a waxy covering called vernix. The whitish vernix protects your baby’s tender new skin from soaking in amniotic fluid during your pregnancy. Vernix may look like onion dip all over your baby, but it serves an important purpose. Just look at your pruney fingers after soaking in the tub for 30 minutes and then imagine the wrinkled raisin you would have after 40 weeks.
Vernix does more than just create a barrier to protect your baby’s skin it has other beneficial properties too:
- It protects your baby’s skin from injury and infections after birth. The antimicrobial properties of vernix help keeps any open areas from becoming inflamed or painful
- Regulates body temperature, vernix can act as an insulator and keep your baby comfortable and reduce chilling
- It acts as lubrication and reduces friction as your baby moves through the birth canal
The amount of vernix on your baby decreases as she matures and gets closer to her due date. Some full term babies are born with very little vernix while premature babies may have much more.
Delaying your baby’s first bath keeps the vernix in place, protecting your baby through the first hours of life. New evidence even suggest delaying your baby’s first bath can improve your breastfeeding experience. When a hospital in Ohio changed their policy so a baby’s first bath occurred after 12 hours instead of 2 hours, the exclusive breastfeeding rate of their new moms jumped from 59% to 68%. Researchers don’t know the exact reason for the increased breastfeeding rate but suggested that keeping mom and baby together gets breastfeeding off to the best possible start.
Instead of a bath, ask your nurse to wipe your baby with a towel and not too thoroughly, leave some vernix behind to moisturize your baby’s skin. Place your baby skin to skin to share your good bacteria and body heat along with your colostrum and kisses.