When a baby is born, his or her skin is completely covered with a white, waxy (and slightly gross, if we’re being honest) substance which is called as Vernix or Vernix caseosa. The nurses or the hospital assistants usually wipe off this substance the first thing but did you know that it actually shouldn’t be washed off right away?
Vernix is a protective layer that builds up around your baby during the time s/he spends in your womb. This starts to accumulate during the 20th week of gestation. Scientists believe that this is present to protect the baby’s skin (which is so delicate) against any other fluids that are present around.
Vernix is 80% water and the rest 20% is things like cholesterol, proteins, lipids and antibacterial compounds. This is supremely unique because most of these substances can be produced only by humans and no other animal on this planet.
There are many advantages of Vernix -
1. Since the baby’s immune system is not completely developed yet, the vernix protects the baby from various bacteria, viruses, and fungi that are disease-causing.
2. It helps the skin in developing to the extent that it is able to bear the outside air and temperature when the baby comes out.
3. During childbirth, Vernix acts as a lubricant making the process of pushing the baby out a little bit easier by reducing the friction in the birthing canal.
4. When you spend too long in water, you might’ve noticed that your skin does dry. Imagine being surrounded by water for 9 months! Vernix is the thing that protects your child’s skin from going too dry and keeps it moisturized.
5. When babies are born, they take time to adjust to the outside temperature and vernix helps them in this process by preventing excess loss of heat.
Not all the babies are born with vernix though. It is seen that babies that are born through Cesarean have a thicker layer of vernix than the ones that are born naturally.
All of this makes up for the fact that you shouldn’t actually wash off the vernix, so what should you do with it then? It should be rubbed into the baby’s skin like you would rub in a moisturizer. This helps in absorbing all the nutrients present in the vernix and your baby can obtain all the above-mentioned benefits from it.