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When your baby is born, she’s covered in a beautiful white waxy frosting called Vernix. This cream-like coating may not seem appealing but it is a rare and precious substance that should be protected from being removed after birth. In most cases, immediately after your baby is placed on your belly, hospital staff begin vigorously rubbing the Vernix away. It seems like this happens before you have a chance to take a breath.
The majority of nurses either immediately scrub the vernix from the baby or they do so after a brief skin to skin bonding time with mama. You can request that hospital staff leave vernix undisturbed after baby’s birth. Baby can be gently patted with a soft cloth to remove body fluids but vigorous rubbing should be refused.
WHAT IS VERNIX?
It’s a substance that forms on the surface of your baby’s skin at about 27 weeks gestation. It helps prevent baby’s skin from getting waterlogged in the amniotic fluid for all those months. But that’s not all it does. Scientists have identified lipids, amino acids and proteins, as well as, antibacterial and antimicrobial compounds in that amazing creamy goo.
WHY IS IT SO RARE AND PRECIOUS?
About 61% of the proteins found in vernix can ONLY be found in vernix! Human babies are the only ones who produce it making it extremely rare and unique. Vernix is the primary substance protecting the infant from unwanted pathogens both in the womb and when they come through the birth canal. It may not look appealing but it’s actually a skin cleanser and antioxidant. It also offers a protective coating while baby passes through the birth passageway keeping her from picking up bacteria, viruses and yeast’s from her mother.
ANOTHER REASON TO NOT RUB AWAY VERNIX AFTER BIRTH
It provides a thick waxy coating over the baby’s skin and helps insulate the newborn to maintain her body heat. Baby’s who have their vernix rubbed away have significantly higher rates of body heat loss.
Most hospitals will put babies under warming lights but recently some hospitals have re-discovered the power of mama’s chest to regulate baby’s body temp even better than expensive equipment, especially when their baby is able to keep her vernix from being disturbed.
Babies are attracted to vernix because it smells delicious like colostrum. You’ve heard of newborns crawling to their mother’s breasts after being placed on mama’s belly after birth? They can smell food so they reach upward with one hand and push forward until that hand is behind them and the next hand is in front leading them to their mother’s darkened areola, an obvious target for the newborn to find.
IT’S AWSOME FOR MOM’S TOO
Not only is this magical substance awesome for baby, its good for mama too. The fact that it’s antibacterial and antimicrobial means Vernix can help prevent infection of the vaginal canal as baby passes through. It also provides superior wound healing properties and has been shown to help heal tears to the perineum.
WHEN SHOULD YOU RUB VERNIX INTO THE SKIN?
Right after baby is born and placed on mother’s chest for skin to skin bonding is the perfect time to begin gently massaging vernix into baby’s skin. Vernix rubs in like body butter and the gentle massage stimulates baby’s circulation and breathing. Continue for the next few days smoothing your baby’s skin until the vernix is all rubbed in. It is also an excellent moisturizer and helps baby avoid having dry flaky skin.
Vernix doesn’t fully absorb into the body until after five or six days so it’s best to wait until then to give baby her first bath. In the meantime you can easily wipe off any spit-up, baby poops, or other messes with a little warm water and a drop of mild soap.
“THESE ARE THE FACTS MA’AM”
Professional groups like, The World Health Organization and the National Association of Neonatal Nursing officially recommend leaving vernix on the baby after birth.
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