Vernix: Magical Baby Goop & Delayed Newborn Baths

Vernix, formally known as vernix caseosa is the white, creamy, looking substance that newborns are born with. Most of us are inclined to look at it as gross, and when people hear that parents want to delay newborn baths because of it, its easy to think “WHAT?!” But, I’m here to tell you, its there for a reason, and its pretty amazing stuff.

Newborn Covered In Vernix. Picture by H20 Photography

Vernix is a complex, lipid-rich biofilm that is created during the last trimester of pregnancy. It has a consistency similar to shea butter and it helps protect your baby’s developing skin from the amniotic fluid, and also helps provide lubrication for birth. But, it does a lot outside the womb as well. For example:

  • Vernix helps babies regulate their body temperatures.
  • Vernix keeps baby’s skin well-moisturized as they adjust to life outside the womb.
  • Vernix is naturally anti-microbial and anti-bacterial, so it protects babies from germs and viruses that they come into contact with, early on, preventing both illness and infections.

Some babies are born with more vernix than others. It is thought that gestational age may play a role in the amount of vernix, but no studies have been able to prove a correlation.

In many other countries, it is common to rub the vernix in, as opposed to rubbing the vernix off. This allows your baby to benefit from the vernix, without looking like they’re covered in frosting.

In 2012, the World Health Organization came out with a statement that newborn baths should be delayed for the first 24 hours, unless the mother had HIV, or cultural reasons prohibited it. They even recommended that, in the case of cultural reasons, the bath should still be delayed for a minimum of six hours.

There were many reasons for this new recommendation, but among the top reasons were studies proving that a delayed bath drastically increased breastfeeding rates, decreased hypothermia and cold shock, and also reduced the risk of unstable neonatal blood sugar. Keeping baby and mom together, as much as possible after birth helps hormonal and neurobiological changes for both mom and baby, creating the smoothest transition into baby and motherhood.

If you have any questions about vernix, delayed baths, or other birth options, please drop a comment below, or feel free to reach out.

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