Pregnancy, labor, and delivery is the time of intense emotions. You may be scared or nervous. Some women find it the worst imaginable time, while others take it as the most beautiful moment. Regardless of experience, the time and pains pass, and only the moment you lay eyes on your baby stays with you forever.
When your baby is born, you might have noticed that its skin is covered with a whitish substance. This substance is called vernix caseosa into the baby’s skin. In recent years, many people and doctors have been debating whether they should wash it off, rub it into the skin or keep it for a while.
If you are also swinging in this confusion, you are at the right place. We will discuss the purpose and benefits of vernix. Then you can decide if you should keep it or not. Let’s explore.
What Is Vernix Caseosa?
It appears as a white substance on the baby’s skin. Vernix caseosa looks like a slippery cheese compound that works as a protective layer on the baby’s skin. This natural protection appears on the skin of a baby when he is in the womb. Therefore, the trace travels with the baby to the world.
The vernix caseosa develops slowly with the passage of time during pregnancy, and it develops fully till the last months. This liquid substance is composed of lipids, proteins, and water. The presence of lipids and protein gives the feeling of being slightly greasy and oily.
Purpose of Vernix Caseosa
Consider mixing oil with water. Instead of mixing, the oil gathers on the surface of the water. Water is not eligible to mix and pass through lipids bonds. Similarly, vernix protects your baby’s fragile skin from absorbing amniotic fluid.
This is the secret behind the baby’s smooth skin despite being soaked in the water. Otherwise, the skin would look like the skin of a person who just came out of swimming. The vernix caseosa keeps the skin of the baby soft and smooth and protects it against infection in the womb.
When it is completely developed and reaches the climax and becomes stronger. With every passing day, you are getting closer to the delivery date; the vernix starts growing thinner. If you cross the delivery date, the vernix layer will be the thinnest. Similarly, premature babies have a thick layer of vernix on their skin.
Benefits of Vernix Caseosa
The one of the most important benefits of the vernix caseosa is that it protects and hydrates the baby’s skin, but many researchers have proven that it has many other hidden benefits. Some of them are mentioned below.
Newborn babies are sensitive and have fragile immune systems, which implies that they are likely to easily get ill. Breastfeeding play’s a crucial role in strengthening the immune system, but it is not enough and is only an option. The presence of vernix caseosa on the skin of a baby protects from infection after birth.
The vernix caseosa has antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-infection properties. It acts as a shield for the baby present in the woman’s genitalia tract during delivery. This thin coating keeps the baby well while passing through the birth canal. After that, it reduces the baby’s chances of getting ill from bacteria and viruses.
Vernix caseosa has a significant waxy texture which helps during the delivery process. It not only makes things easier for the baby but for the mother as well. The slippery nature helps in smoother delivery and glides to the world by reducing friction.
Body Temperature Regulation
After birth, the baby takes some time to adjust according to the worldly environment. Babies take time to regulate their temperature when they come out of the womb. This is why you must wrap your baby into the blanket right after birth and carefully monitor it.
The researches about this benefit suggest that leaving the vernix caseosa on the baby’s skin helps them stabilize their own body temperature quickly. It is also considered that leaving the vernix untouched and undisturbed for some days reduces the danger of hypothermia and the requirement for an incubator.
It is generally hard to find a complementary moisturizer that keeps the baby’s skin smooth and soft and fulfills the moisturizer’s requirement. Did you know babies have natural moisturizer on almost their entire skin? Yes, we are talking about vernix. It works as a moisturizer and prevents the baby’s skin from drying and cracking before and after birth.
While the baby is in the mother’s womb, this protective layer in the ear muffles the sound of the world. Anyhow, your baby is still able to you. Anyhow the presence of vernix makes sure that the baby is not or less startled.
As the babies spend nine months in a favorable environment, their initial days in the world can be stressful and terrifying. The experience of new smells and feelings takes the baby far from the relaxing feeling of your skin, which ultimately results in exceptional stress.
Unnecessary stress can boost the baby’s heartbeat, and the breathing can become irregular. Then crying will transform into agitation, and your baby’s body may respond by reducing its blood sugar level.
Reduce Vigorous Crying
An early bath can make the newborn cranky. A delayed first bath generally helps in reducing crying. A study has proven that leaving the vernix on the baby’s body has an optimal effect in the initial days.
According to doctors, the delayed first bath is connected with high mothers’ satisfaction. Postponing the first bath allows more skin-to-skin and heart-to-heart time with the bonding of mother and infant. Moreover, late bathing lets mothers help in the first bath if the newborn increases bond and breastfeeding rate.
Vernix is a natural protection that has infinite benefits, including some that doctors and people have not understood. However, antioxidant and antimicrobial properties are considered the most considerable advantage of vernix.
Interesting Facts about Vernix Caseosa
Apart from proven benefits, vernix caseosa has other interesting and useful facts that most people are still unaware of fetal and neonatal physiology. These facts include the following:
Baby Smell: The vernix caseosa layer provides the bay with a distinct form of smell that everyone craves. So, if you delay the first bath and let vernix caseosa on the skin, you can experience that sweet smell for some days.
Only human: this is a special gift of god, especially for humans; no other infant is born with this protective covering. This covering keeps the baby healthy and active inside the womb and out in the world.
Composition: It is majorly composed of water. The vernix caseosa contains 80 percent water and is composed of lipids and proteins.
Vernix color: the color of this natural protective covering elucidates the story of the things that happen inside the mother’s womb. It is usually white and cheese, but different colors indicate the infant’s distress or the possibility of other problems.
It lingers: if you do not want to leave vernix caseosa on the baby’s skin, you have decided to give the first bath early. You may be astonished by finding significant traces of vernix. It can stay in huge quantities between the folds, such as behind the legs and in the vaginal area. If you witness any excess color, gently rub it, and it will wash off.
Not always present: It is natural at some point in the womb, but it is not necessary for every baby comes into the world with it. If your baby is born premature, for instance, before 27 weeks, they are likely to have a thicker layer of vernix. Babies born after the delivery date are likely to have no or very thin layers of vernix. If you see no traces, it does not mean that you were born without them. It is absorbed naturally.
Should New Mother Wash or Rub Vernix?
When it comes to vernix caseosa, you will find many conflicting logics. Some believe in keeping it, and they will have logic to support the opinion, while others believe in washing it off, and they can prove they are right. Whether you want to wash it or rub it is your decision. Vernix poses harmful effects on the baby, but usually, hospitals choose to wash it through early bathing.
Sometimes, it seems that the hospital keeps the baby’s bathing task above all by measuring weight and height. You can comprehend why people want to clean this minor layer of substance, but why remove it if it is beneficial?
When to Wash the Vernix Off?
Previously, the hospital used to give baby baths an hour or two after delivery, but now the practice has been changed. As they get to know more about vernix, the more they prefer to postpone the first bath.
When the baby is born, he is covered with amniotic fluid, blood, and vernix. It is common to wish to give your baby a gentle bath, but if you know about the advantages and importance of vernix, you might want to consider your decision again.
According to a report from the World Health Organization, it is suggested to wait at least 6 hours before giving a bath to newborn babies. Anyhow, if you can wait 24 hours, it would be better. When we are talking about, we are also talking about wiping. Do not wipe off vernix right after birth.
Should you delay your baby’s first bath?
It is a myth that the baby is dirty and covered with germs. Instead, when a baby is born, he or she is covered with multiple fluids, including vernix. Therefore, you can delay the first bath. Here are the main reasons to postpone the first bath of the baby.
Stabilize Sugar Level
The babies who are given a bath right after birth are likely to become cold and develop hypothermia. The stress of having the bath as soon as entering the world can cause a significant drop in the blood sugar level.
Provide Time for Breastfeeding and Bonding with Baby
The first few hours of a baby are considered golden hours for the mother and baby. This period is the perfect time for skin-to-skin contact and mother-child bonding. This shared time with the baby helps in breastfeeding.
According to research, the chances of successful breastfeeding increases by 166 percent when a newborn is bathed after 12 hours and more as compared to babies who are given bath right after birth.
Letting the vernix contact with the skin for a few hours or more can help keep the newborn skin hydrated. It does not provide any hydration but locks the moisture and protects against the harsh weather and air of the world.
How Long can you Leave Vernix Caseosa on Baby’s Skin?
The World Health Organization suggests leaving the vernix on the skin of the baby for at least 6 hours, but if you want, you can extend the period to 24 hours.
This is enough time to let the baby adjust according to the surroundings with the help of vernix. If you are considering leaving it longer, consult your healthcare provider about how long it is healthy to leave vernix on the baby’s skin. You can also wait until the first bath. He can guide you better after observing the baby’s vitals and other health conditions.
Are there any risks associated with leaving the vernix on your baby after birth?
There is generally no side effect of leaving the vernix on your baby after birth, but remember that there are some exceptions. Babies who are born with meconium staining or chorioamnionitis require immediate baths after delivery to eliminate the chances of bacterial or fungal infection.
Apart from that, babies born whose mom has transmittable diseases such as hepatitis or AIDS should also be bathed instantly.
Initially, the vernix caseosa might not look good, but it is a great protection for the baby when he is in the womb and offers some considerable benefits during or after the delivery. Therefore, leaving it on the skin for a while is beneficial, but do not stretch the period for a long time.
Do not waste anything benefiting the baby. Vernix caseosa is an appreciable natural protective layer that makes the birth process convenient and smooth for both mother and baby. The whitish cheesy substance is well-known for its antimicrobial as well as protective qualities.
Giving the baby the first bath is compelling, but leaving the vernix on the baby means you are helping to regulate body temperature and save him from infections. Leaving the unwashed vernix poses no side effects unless it does not contain meconium. If you decide to leave the vernix, it is definitely a good option.
Does Vernix Help with Nursing?
In case you have not talked to the doctor, it is possible that you miss the chance to even see the baby covered in vernix. It is because the hospital staff gave the baby a bath immediately. The first touch of mother and baby is really important. You are only meeting for the first time, but you are also their source of relief.
Many new mothers start feeding their children in the first hour of birth. Only a few make skin contact. This sense of touch after birth offers sensory triggers and stimulation, which assist your newborn retain the body’s temperature.
Yes, it is true that breastfeeding a newborn after skin-to-skin touch because the babies who have not experienced it can stress your baby. The distressed babies refuse to latch.
Is Your Baby Born Dirty?
No! Babies are not necessarily born dirty, but it is common for babies to carry traces of blood, vernix, and amniotic fluid. Therefore, it is usual for the parents to want to get the baby bathed. Anyhow, their skin is not dirty, so you do not need to send them for the first bath immediately.
The only case when a baby needs an immediate bath is when he is born with meconium. It is the first poop that a baby passes. Sometimes, it passes before or at the time of birth. It poses a risk of infection and lung problems. This is why babies require immediate cleanliness.
What Does Vernix Look Like?
It generally appears in the form of clamps in the skin fold and clumps of a newborn’s skin. Vernix usually has a thick, creamy, cheesy, and waxy texture with white color. However, if it is a greenish, yellowish, and brownish tinge, it is a green signal that the baby has already passed meconium, but he will require an immediate bath.
Can a baby be born without vernix caseosa?
Those parents who know about the new child usually get confused and ask if all babies have vernix. So the answer is no. All babies do not have vernix. Premature babies have a prominent thick layer of lipids and proteins, while the babies who have already crossed the due date are likely to have scant or missing vernix entirely.
It happens because, with the passing of time, it gets absorbed in the amniotic fluid. The babies without vernix are likely to have drier skin as compared to other babies.
What is vernix caseosa made of?
It is a protective layer babies develop in the womb to manage vitals and protect them from their surroundings. The sebaceous glands, which are responsible for producing oil on the skin throughout life, start producing the vernix coating at around the 17th week of pregnancy. It is simple, creamy, waxy, and slippery, mostly containing lipids, proteins, and water.
How to Clean Vernix?
Sometimes the vernix becomes sticky and lingers between skin folds such as knees, elbows, etc. it will eventually dry up and require warm water for thorough cleanliness.
Why do hospitals not wash babies?
In previous years, the hospital staff was directed to give the baby an immediate bath after the birth. However, the rules have changed. Now according to vernix acts, bathing is delayed in order to promote bonding and keep the baby warm and prevent skin dryness. Moreover, studies have strengthened this decision by proving that the breastfeeding success rate is generally high for babies whose bath is delayed and who have been given proper time to bond with their mother.
What is Lanugo?
Apart from vernix, if you observe a newborn baby, he has a layer of downy hair on the baby’s skin. This is known as lanugo. It covers the baby’s skin during the last stage of pregnancy and fades away before delivery. The presence of this layer helps the vernix stay stuck to the skin.
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