The Wonders of Birth: Vernix Caseosa Facts and Benefits
It’s often said that one of the most magical, most beautiful moments in the world is when a mother sees her baby for the first time.
When you lay your eyes on your newborn, all the pain, worry and fears disappear. Just for this moment, you see all your love in human form. They may be covered in blood, amniotic fluids, and other substances, it doesn’t matter! Your baby is here!
In other cases, mothers only get a few hours to cuddle and enjoy skin-to-skin contact with their newborn, before the baby is whisked away for their first bath. With all the fluids covering the baby, it’s common for parents to allow bathing as soon as possible.
We’re here to urge you to rethink this position. You see mamas, there are many benefits to delaying your baby’s first bath.
Why The Delay?
Know that you have the option of when you would like your baby’s first bath to be. In hospital settings, it is a standard practice to bathe the infant once breathing and temperature are stable. Some organizations set a minimum of two hours.
On the other hand, the World Health Organization (WHO) has set a minimum of six hours before the baby can get their first bath. It’s also preferred to wait a full 24 hours to do so.
Another research study recommends a time frame of 12 to 24 hours before bathing. Why, you wonder?
Introducing: The Vernix Caseosa!
The vernix caseosa is that protective layer on your baby’s skin. You’ll recognize it for its white, cheese-like appearance. The coating develops on the baby’s skin while they are inside the womb. When you see your baby for the first time, you’ll find traces of the substance on the skin of your newborn.
Think of your skin after a long swim. Isn’t it wrinkled and pruney? Skin responds this way to fluids. Including your baby’s skin! Since they are surrounded by amniotic fluids for 40 weeks, their skin needs protection, or else babies come out with cracked skin.
But it’s not just about babies having soft skin when they come out of the womb. The vernix also serves as a protection from potential infections while inside the womb.
The vernix is thick, but as your due date moves closer, the vernix begins to thin out. If you deliver on the date, you’ll notice a thin layer. If you deliver past your due date, you might find that there is no longer any layer on your baby.
The Benefits of the Vernix Caseosa
Primarily, the vernix serves to protect and hydrate your baby’s skin. Not only that…
…It lubricates the birth canal
The waxy, greasy texture helps make a smoother delivery. As your baby moves through the birth canal, there will be less friction because of the presence of vernix.
…It protects your baby from illness
The vernix acts as a natural barrier against any bacteria. As your baby is born into the world, their bodies need time to adapt to the new environment. Keeping them with vernix on their skin for a few hours gives some time for their immune system to grow stronger.
…It regulates your baby’s body temperature
Studies have shown that leaving the vernix on your baby reduces the risk of hypothermia. You see, it can take a few hours before your baby can stabilize its temperature.
…It gives mothers more time for skin-to-skin bonding
Delaying your baby’s first bath allows you more time to bond with your newborn. Skin-to-skin contact has a host of benefits, including the production of oxytocin-the love hormone.
If the bath is delayed longer, it gives an opportunity for mothers to assist in the first bath. It is one special moment that increases your special bond which in turn boosts your chances of a successful breastfeeding.
Options for Cleaning Up
The thought of your baby in blood and fluids might not be desirable for you. Don’t worry! You can still request your midwife to use a damp cloth instead. This can be used to remove the blood while keeping the vernix intact.
Isn’t the human body amazing? The vernix caseosa might look terrifying, especially for first-time mothers. But it truly has benefits that make your newborn stronger and more prepared for the outside world.
Here at Casa Natal, we give the privilege of the first bath to the parents. Instead, we gently wipe your precious baby’s face and then cover them in a warm blanket. You can bathe them in the week after the birth.
Make this a part of your birth plan and look forward to an even more beautiful labor experience. Contact us today for more information on midwifery care.
- University of Rochester Medical Center. The second trimester.
- Mardini J, Rahme C, Matar O, Abou Khalil S, Hallit S, Fadous Khalife M-C. Newborn’s first bath: any preferred timing? A pilot study from Lebanon. BMC Res Notes. 2020;13. doi:10.1186/s13104-020-05282-0