WTH is Vernix and why shouldn’t I wash it off my baby???

We are putting together our birthing plan, and along my research, I started reading all about Vernix Caseosa. It intrigued me so much that I thought I would share the research with all of you.

What is Vernix Caseosa?

Vernix is a very not-cute (in my opinion), white cheese-like substance that covers your baby’s skin in the womb and is present upon delivery. I don’t know about you, but thinking about my baby covered in cheese is not the most ideal situation I could think of, but before you rush your baby to the bath, learn about how AMAZING it is!!!

Purpose & Function of Vernix Caseosa-

I used to think Vernix was left over amniotic fluid or “stuff” from the birth sack or birth canal, but infact, it starts being produced in the 3rd trimester for some very important purposes:

  1. Waterproof coating- Vernix acts as a waterproof coating on the baby’s skin to protect the baby from the watery environment baby’s live in while in utero. According to Cosmetics & Toiletries Sciences Applied, the prenatal functions of vernix include: ”waterproofing, since due to the low surface energy, vernix caseosa is highly unwettable; the facilitation of the skin formation in utero; and protection of the fetus from acute or sub-acute chorioamnionitis (an inflammation of the outer (chorion) and inner (amnion) fetal membranes due to a bacterial infection). During delivery, vernix caseosa acts as a lubricant while postnatally, it exhibits antioxidant, skin cleansing, temperature-regulating and antibacterial properties.”
  2. Lubricant- During delivery, the more lubricant to get that baby out, the better! Can I get an “Amen” ladies?? Vernix acts as a slippery lubricant to help baby slide out as easy as possible considering the circumstances of baby being the size of a watermelon with the exit door being as big as a lemon.
  3. Temperature regulator- Vernix has been shown to help baby maintain a healthy temperature once he is born and prevent too much heat loss. Fascinating.
  4. Antibacterial & Antimicrobial properties- THIS is the part that fascinates me the most! We all know babies have low immune systems when they’re first born into this world, but did you know that they are born with a super (cheesy) shield to protect them from some of the most harmful bacteria?? A study regarding the significance of vernix was published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 191 (6), 2090-2096, titled: Antimocrobial Properties of Amniotic Fluid and Vernix Caseosa are Similar to Those Found in Breast Milk. This study revealed that a number of immune substances were present in both amniotic fluid and vernix samples. Tests using antimicrobial growth inhibition essays show these substances are effective at deterring  the growth of common perinatal pathogens— group B. Streptococcus,     K. pneumoniae, L. monocytogenes, C. albicans and E. coli! That’s amazing!

What should I do about Vernix Caseosa?

That is completely and entirely up to you my friend. That being said, The study mentioned above suggests that baby’s first bath should be delayed until at least twenty-four hours after birth. Did you know that  The Department of Health in conjunction with the World Health Association set a protocol for newborns including what they recommended on the vernix topic? In the section regarding thorough immediate drying of the baby (0-3 minutes after birth), it says “Do not wipe off vernix,” and “Do not bathe the newborn.”  The protocol later states that you should wait at least six hours to wash the baby. It’s interesting that these studies and this science with protocols are out there, but so many newborns are rushed off to have a bath right after their delivery. We’re such silly gooses, us humans. Due to our phobia of bacteria and “dirty” things, we usually go way over kill and make things much worse trying to sterilize and overkill. Hello superbugs!

All this being said, our birth plan will indicate that we would like the vernix rubbed in instead of all washed off. Rubbing in the vernix acts as nature’s best moisturizer for baby and will keep him extra healthy in our unhealthy world he arrives in. He has the rest of his life to be super cute, so a few extra hours of goop will be a quality, humbling experience for him I think. 😉 We will have the icky bits of goo and his face wiped off, but that will be it for the first day. Ideally, we’ll be able to give him his first bath at home.

For more information on Vernix Caseosa check out these links-

https://birthbliss.wordpress.com/2010/09/01/benefits-of-vernix-its-amazing-stuff/

http://www.scienceandsensibility.org/tag/benefits-of-vernix/

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