Vernix Caseosa: What Is The White Stuff On My Newborn

Vernix Caseosa: What Is The White Stuff On My Newborn

When you see your baby for the first time, you are filled with love, joy, and maybe even terror! As the doctor or nurse hands you your sweet baby for the first time, you look over all their perfect features. 

Their chubby cheeks, long eyelashes, perfect heart-shaped mouth, and tiny fingers and toes. As you continue to admire your baby, you may notice that they are covered in a white substance. 

Why Do Newborns Have White Stuff On Them?

As fragile as your baby may seem as their little body is placed against yours, they just went through quite the adventure being born! Let’s be real, so did you!

It seems that babies have been well designed for the birth process. Their skull is not fully formed, which allows their head to pass more easily through the birth canal. 

Their bones are also partly made of cartilage to help your baby maintain the fetal position in the womb, as well as being more flexible during birth as they move from the womb through the birth canal. 

Babies skin is also covered in a white, waxy coating that protects their skin that can also aid in delivery and their immediate exposure to the world. This “white stuff”, called vernix caseosa, is a substance that protects your baby inside and outside of the womb. 

What Is Vernix Caseosa?

Vernix caseosa, commonly referred to as “vernix,” is a thick, creamy-like substance, almost like a natural body butter that your baby comes out of the womb with. 

Some also describe it as being “cheese-like.” It can be considered your baby's natural “waterproofing” as they grow and develop in the womb. This protective barrier helps your baby's skin develop and helps to protect your baby from losing vital fluids in the womb needed for development. 

Vernix starts to develop around 19 weeks, and depending on when your baby is born may determine how much vernix they will be born with. As your baby reaches full-term gestation, the amount of vernix decreases on your baby. 

Preemies tend to have a larger amount of this substance on their skin when they are born, and full-term babies may only have a small amount of vernix, mainly in the folds of their skin. If your baby is born after their due date, they may not have any vernix left on their skin. 

Is It Okay To Leave Vernix on a Newborn Baby?

When you and your parents were born, nurses would whisk babies away to be cleaned up and dressed up before being handed to their doting parents. Vernix was thought to not be a beneficial substance, and it was removed almost immediately. 

Today’s births look vastly different, with babies being placed right on mom after they are born for skin-to-skin contact without being washed first. Well, maybe a dab or two to dry them off, so they aren’t too slippery to hold! 

It is definitely okay, or even preferable, to leave vernix on your newborn baby. It has many benefits for your baby, and it is recommended that you even wait to bathe your baby so that all the benefits can be taken advantage of. 

When Should Vernix Be Washed Off?

As soon as your baby is born, they are gently wiped clean of any fluids that may be on them after birth. Nurses and doctors are careful to leave as much vernix on your baby as possible. 

As a timeframe, it takes about five days for the vernix to be completely absorbed into your baby’s skin. Anytime before this is completely fine, and many will only wait a full day before washing their baby. It may be a little easier to transport your baby home after a bath so they can wear their going-home outfit. After all, you probably spent way too much time picking it out! 

How Soon After Birth Should I Bathe My Newborn?

The length of time that should be observed before bathing your newborn is completely up to you. The recommended amount of time to wait is between six and eight hours, and the World Health Organization even recommends waiting up to 24 hours before fully bathing your newborn. 

Are There Benefits of Vernix Caseosa?

Vernix is an amazing substance that is beneficial to your baby in several ways. It helps to keep your baby’s skin moisturized as well as protected from any microbes in their new environment. It also aids in the birthing process and keeps your baby’s temperature regulated in the first hours of life. 

Moisturization for Baby

After your baby is born, they go through vast changes as the world is a much different place than the cozy and warm womb they spent their first nine months in. To adapt to this new world, your baby’s skin changes to adapt to a more dry world instead of the amniotic fluid they were cocooned in up to this point. 

Vernix helps keep your baby’s skin more hydrated, as it protects the skin from too much evaporation of fluids from the skin. Vernix is also more than 80% water, which aids in moisturizing your baby’s skin. Vernix is one of the most moisturizing substances, and there is even research to try to recreate it synthetically

In the first few hours of life, rub the vernix into your baby’s skin so it can absorb all its beneficial properties, so your baby’s skin is protected and moisturized. 

Birth Canal Lubrication

Vernix is beneficial as it helps to reduce rubbing or chafing as your baby passes through the birth canal. This is helpful to both mom and baby, as a quick delivery is much preferable!

Regulation of Your Baby’s Body Temperature

Vernix has been found to be beneficial when it comes to helping your baby regulate its own body temperature. Giving babies baths can cause them to lose a great deal of their body heat.

In recent times, first baths are now delayed for skin-to-skin bonding immediately after birth. 

Evidence supports that delaying a baby's first bath for up to a full day allows the vernix to help newborns regulate their body temperature and less need for a warming incubator. In fact, another study found that delaying a newborn’s first bath decreased incubator time and crying time while being bathed. 

Antioxidant & Antimicrobial Properties

Vernix helps protect babies from bacteria and infections that can occur inside or outside of the womb. Vernix has been found to contain peptides that help defend against harmful bacteria that your baby may have been exposed to. It can almost be thought of as a natural defense bubble!

Does a Water Birth Wash Vernix Off of My Baby?

If your delivery of choice is a water birth, no worries about washing the vernix off of your baby! 

Vernix is thick, but as your baby is pulled from the water almost immediately after exiting the birth canal, there is no worry about vernix being washed off. 

Are There Potential Risks Associated With Leaving Vernix On My Baby?

There are no known risks in leaving vernix on your newborn if they were full-term and had a safe and normal vaginal or cesarean delivery. However, if your newborn is found to have meconium (their first poop!) on them after birth, they will need to be fully bathed to prevent any bacterial infections from occurring. 

Always be sure to consult your doctor for any questions or concerns regarding you and your baby’s health. 

Conclusion

Pregnancy is so amazing when you think about all of the protections that your baby is afforded when born. From the shape of their heads and flexibility of their bones to the protective barrier of vernix that benefits your baby as they make their transition from the womb to the world. 

At Little Yawn Collective, we’re here to offer products that help calm and cleanse your little one from head to toe. Additionally, (and perhaps most importantly) our products are melatonin-free to help your baby snooze easier while giving you peace of mind. 

As your baby graduates from their newborn stage, you can start to incorporate our gentle and soothing products into your baby’s bathing and bedtime routines. 

Try our Soothing Shampoo & Body Wash with Calendula for a calm and soothing bath time experience for your baby, or our Nourishing Body Lotion with Oat & Shea Butter to include in your gentle massage routine. 

As you massage this lotion in your baby’s skin, it will certainly take you back to the first newborn hours when you were full of wonder of what your body helped to create!

 

Sources:

Newborn's first bath: any preferred timing? A pilot study from Lebanon | BMC Research Notes 

Vernix Caseosa: Purpose, Benefits, and Washing It Off | VeryWell Health

UNRAVELING THE MYSTERY OF VERNIX CASEOSA | NCBI

What is all that white stuff on my newborn? (Vernix) | DoulaCare Archive

Delayed Bathing | International Childbirth Education Association

Beautiful Vernix - Reasons To Delay That First Bath! | Southeast Doula Care 

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