Ever wonder what it is that makes newborn skin so incredibly soft and precious? It has a lot to do with vernix, a special, super-duper coating of armour your body makes for your baby during the third trimester, which is full of goodness and protective qualities that help your newborn in more ways than just offering skin suppleness.
While it might not look very pretty, that waxy, creamy looking substance covering your newborn’s skin when he emerges from the womb actually plays several very important roles. Made primarily from water and containing fats and proteins, vernix (or vernix caseosa to be precise), forms in later pregnancy and coats your baby’s skin, offering protective qualities against the acidic qualities of the amniotic fluid, bacteria present in the birth canal and the environmental change present at birth.
While most newborns are born with a covering of vernix, if your baby is overdue, you may not notice it, as the vernix will have been absorbed by the amniotic fluid. Likewise, if your baby is born premature, the vernix may not have been produced by your body at this stage.
The bath can wait
While the appearance of vernix on your newborn’s skin may make you want to give him a good wash, hold off from doing that right away, as it is still doing an important job in protecting your baby’s skin after birth. In fact, the World Health Organisation suggests leaving it for a 24-48 hours before giving your baby a bath, and even then, you can try rubbing it into your baby’s skin rather than off, as this will help absorb ongoing benefits from this magical substance.
You’d be amazed at the benefits vernix offers your new baby, and we’ve rounded up seven for you to marvel at and give you some very good reasons to hold off on that first bath.
1. It’s your baby’s moisturiser
Vernix locks moisture into your newborn’s delicate skin, which is especially prone to dryness. Vernix acts as a barrier cream by preventing water loss, and is probably the most effective skin moisturiser on the market – and your body made it!
2. It protects bub against germs
Vernix protects your baby against bacteria inside the womb and offers a protective barrier against germs when bub is moving through the birth canal.
3. It’s warm and cosy
Being all cosy and confined in your warm uterus makes adjusting to the temperature in the outside world tough on a newborn – vernix helps regulate body temperature while he adjusts to the new climate.
4. It protects from amniotic fluid
Amniotic fluid can cause your baby’s skin to become chapped and wrinkled. Vernix covers your baby’s skin and acts like a protective jacket against the acidic qualities of the amniotic fluid in utero.
5. It helps your baby’s skin adapt to the outside word
After being in the cosy confines of your uterus, the outside environment can be harsh on a newborn, as well as stressful. Vernix protects against the elements of the outside world and even contains the anti-oxidant Vitamin E, which helps reduce baby’s stress levels.
6. It’s a natural lubricant
It’s a big journey from your womb to the outside world, and vernix helps move things along. The creamy, slippery substance acts as a natural lubricant, helping your baby move more smoothly through the birth canal.
7. It’s protection for you, too
There’s a benefit here for you, too: vernix also offers your vagina protection, which is open and exposed during the birth process. The nutrients and antibacterial properties of vernix offer your downstairs the same protection from germs as it does for your baby.