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!