You’ve just met the most beautiful baby in the whole world, yours. Hopefully you are able to enjoy bonding with your baby right away and for the hour after birth. But before you think of handing off baby for a bath, think again. You may just want to delay that bath.
One Word: Vernix
Vernix is is the white, creamy substance you will find in varied degrees on your just born baby. (Premature babies have more vernix and the farther along you are when you give birth, the less vernix your baby will have.) It’s amazing stuff! Trust me, you don’t want to wash it away! “Postnatally, vernix is simultaneously a cleanser, a moisturizer, an anti-infective, and an anti-oxidant.” [1. The biology of vernix caseosa. Hoath SB, Pickens WL, Visscher MO.] So, instead of washing this incredible substance your baby was born with away, rub it in!
Inside the womb, vernix’s job is to keep your child’s skin protected from the amniotic fluid. It acts as a waterproof barrier as well as protection against common perinatal pathogens. [2. Research summaries for normal birth. Amy M. Romano, MSN, CNM] Once your baby is on the outside though, it’s job is not done. It is designed to protect your baby outside the womb, just like it was protecting him or her inside. Just like breastmilk, vernix has immunological benefits that protect your baby from infection. And the moisturizing affect will help prevent peeling newborn skin.
Another wonderful thing about vernix is it is the reason your baby has that intoxicating, unique to them smell. It is their signature scent, if you will. Breathe it in deep, mama! It helps kick into motion your bonding instinct by signaling oxytocin production.
So, are you sure you want to wash away your baby’s infection-fighting, dry-skin healing, anti-oxidant containing, skin cleansing, smell-good vernix? Instead of doing that, simply hold and enjoy your baby. Rub it in some. Snuggle, breathe deeply and enjoy!
[…] first post is up! I take a look at the newborn baby’s first bath. I tell you why you may want to delay it so if that is something you are curious about, head over […]
My son had his first bath at home at the ripe old age of 2 weeks. I didn’t want to bathe him until his cord stump fell off. He was never stinky but at about 2 weeks his hair got really greasy so we ran our garden tub full of water and he and I took a little bath together. It was very sweet 🙂
Very interesting! It makes sense to me. How long would you suggest waiting?
[…] One thing that is becoming more and more common is delaying the baby’s first bath so that the baby can get some of the benefits of the vernix, and better manage their own temperature before they get chilled in the bath. Not bathing the baby for at least 24 hours is even standard practice at the University of Utah hospital now. Here’s a great article explaining some of the benefits. […]
I left my children’s vernix intact, although there wasn’t much on my babies because I carry to 41+3. I loved how it just absorbed into my babies over time like a natural moisturizer.
We didn’t actually bathe our baby until he was 3 weeks old! My mom and plenty of other people couldn’t believe it, but we knew about the benefits of the vernix from our Hypnobabies class. We obviously wiped him down a few hours after his arrival with sensitive wipes and then gave him “sponge baths” every other day or as needed until he was 3 weeks. (:
I would think it is best to let nature do its thing and not bathe infants until the vernix falls off. They don’t get that dirty anyways and as long as you wipe them down if they spit up or a couple of times a day.