Waxy. White. Thick. Cheesy. Oily.
What is this that is all over my fresh tiny human?
That fabulous naturally made substance is your squish's birthday frosting or vernix. Sometimes it is all absorbed before baby is brought Earthside and sometimes babe's are lathered in it. And yes, the sticky, white, cheese-like coating covering your precious little one may not look that appealing. Which is why birth center or hospital staff may want to wash baby off right away. Don’t let them! Don't wash that baby! Vernix offers a number of benefits for baby when you leave it on or rub it in. In this blog post, I will be discussing the magical miracle cream that is Vernix.
What is vernix?
A white waxy cheese like substance begins to form on the surface of your baby's skin at about 20 weeks gestation, partially to prevent baby’s skin from getting too waterlogged after marinating in amniotic fluid month after month. Even though it helps protect baby's skin while in utero, the creamy birth butter is made up of about 80% water. There are a ton of beneficial qualities to the vernix. Researchers have identified lipids, amino acids, proteins, cholesterol, antibacterial, and antimicrobial compounds such as ceramides, wax & sterol esters, squalene, triglycerides, phospholipids, and amino acids, asparagine and glutamine. Sixty one percent of these proteins can ONLY be found in vernix. Humans are also the only ones to make it. Pretty rare stuff!
Uses of vernix?
Your baby's birthday frosting acts as antibacterial agent to protect baby inside and outside the womb. It also protects baby during passage through the birth canal and allows baby to pick up good bacteria while leaving the bad bacteria behind. Vernix also helps protect baby from meconium exposure and acts as a insulation by maintaining your baby's body temperature. Infants who are immediately bathed have a significantly higher rate of heat loss. This coating on tiny humans also acts as a lubricant by decreasing friction during birth which lowers infant trauma risk.
Vernix smells just like momma and helps keep baby calm after birth. Bub swallows vernix in the womb. The same proteins found in vernix are the same as those found in breastmilk. This helps the digestive track to be ready to breastfeed on Earthside. Vernix also keeps bub's skin soft and supple. My little guy's skin is still the softest baby skin I have ever felt. Humans have what is called an acid mantle on our skin. This protective barrier develops on a newborn shortly after birth, and helps prevent infections from bacteria we don't want. The vernix is thought to facilitate proper development of the acid mantle, and baby’s skin pH regulates more quickly when it isn’t washed/rubbed off.
What locks moisture into skin better than coconut oil, shea butter, and everything else? Vernix. Seriously. Not only does it provide a waterproofing barrier in utero, but it helps bub’s skin retain moisture better than any lotion or cream you can purchase. In fact, it does such a good job, that scientists are trying to create a synthetic version for preemie infants, burn victims, and those with dry skin.
Why did that baby have it but mine didn't?
When bub is brought Earthside, the vernix may be thick and noticeable or it can be so thin that it is only seen in the folds of the skin. Why the differences though? Babies born via cesarean section have more vernix as it hasn't been rubbed off while passing through the birth canal. Babies born after twenty seven weeks gestation but before full term gestation also retain more vernix. Early preemies, full term, and babies born after 40 weeks have less. I'm sure this is a majority of cases thing because my little came at 40+4 and had a nicely thick frosted back! *shrugs shoulders with arms raised*
Why do nurses rub it off?
Policies. It comes down to policies in the hospital system being outdated but unfortunately still practiced. It was once taught that vernix was a biohazard and needed to be rubbed off to avoid germ exposure. Because of this, you have to be diligent and ask staff to please reduce rubbing of baby so as to preserve the vernix on the skin. If you are unable to, educate your partner or a friend and have them make desires known to staff. Doulas are also great advocates for their clients birthing and postpartum wishes. When your tiny human has his first skin-to-skin moments, this is the perfect time massage it all in. The majority of vernix is absorbed 24 hours post birth but it is not completely absorbed until day 5-6. Make sure to delay all bathing/washing of babe to give best absorption chances. Spit-up and blow outs can easily be wiped away without bothering the vernix much so give your baby time to soak up this truly amazing au naturale miracle cream.
When did you bathe your tiny human? Let us know in the comments below!