Vernix Caseosa (usually just called vernix) is the sticky, white substance found on the skin of a newborn. It develops on the skin while the baby is in the uterus and stops being produced towards the end of pregnancy. This is why premature babies usually have more vernix on their skin at birth than babies who go past their due date. Yes, I know it looks a little off putting, but there are incredible benefits to having vernix, it truly is one of natures miracle skin products.
It is protective
Your baby is living in fluid for 9 months so vernix acts as a barrier cream which protects the baby from becoming waterlogged. Vaseline is the barrier cream of choice for swimmers crossing the English Channel – babies come coated in their own naturally produced cream, vernix! Babies who are overdue are often born wrinkly and resembling little prunes as the body has stopped producing vernix towards the end of pregnancy.
Vernix continues to protect the baby’s skin long after birth so it is recommended to leave off bathing your baby for at least 24hrs after the baby is born. Some parents choose to delay this longer than that. Excess blood and amniotic fluid from birth is wiped off quite easily and gently with a towel at birth without disturbing the vernix coating. The exception can be if Mum is hepatitis B/C or HIV positive or the baby is coated in large amounts of meconium (the first poo).
Vernix keeps your baby’s skin nice and soft and protects the baby from any skin infections while in the uterus and after birth. It also contains anti-infective properties similar to those in breast milk.
Vernix is very slippery so it helps the baby to slide easily out of the birth canal.
When a baby is first born, they work really hard to maintain their body temperature. They have never had to do this before and they’re wet when they’re born. It is thought that the protective coating on the baby’s skin helps to keep them warm. A good reason to delay your baby’s first bath and have lots of skin-to-skin contact.
If we could bottle vernix and sell it, we’d be onto something! It is the best moisturiser (in the world) for your baby’s skin. It protects their skin from becoming dry in the first few days of life.
Studies show that the smell of vernix and amniotic fluid on your baby’s skin at birth facilitates with the bonding process. Newborn “smell” has been shown to activate pleasure centre in the brain.