Benefits of vernix - Mothering Forums
Birth and Beyond > Benefits of vernix
ashrob123's Avatar ashrob123 11:30 PM 02-13-2005
I've read a few different places that rubbing the vernix into the baby right after birth is beneficial to his/her skin. Is this true? What are the benefits exactly?

Maprilynne's Avatar Maprilynne 01:11 AM 02-14-2005

momto l&a's Avatar momto l&a 01:19 AM 02-14-2005
Dont know if this helps or not but we dont wash the baby till its a week or two old, because of the protective coating the baby has. Cant remember where I read about it as it was over 5 years ago. I know my mw also mentioned it.
Quindin's Avatar Quindin 06:51 AM 02-14-2005
My babies never had any - they were also overdue, so I wonder if that's why
USAmma's Avatar USAmma 06:26 PM 02-14-2005
I don't know the answer to your question . . .but when I gave birth to Nitara I didn't want her to have a bath right away. They respected my wishes the first day but when the new nurses came on shift they kept hinting about there being babywash and washclothes for my use, and I could bath her in the room if I didn't want her bathed in the nursery. The funniest was when the on-call ped came in to examine her heart murmer and he unwrapped her swaddling and said, "Ohhhh I see the baby has not had a bath yet" and put on a pair of gloves. I thought the whole thing was pretty funny. I didn't give Nitara more than a sponge bath until her cord fell off at about 10 days postpartum. She had some vernix but not much, mostly in her creases. I just left it alone and it dissolved into her skin.
stayinghome's Avatar stayinghome 08:56 PM 02-14-2005
It's good because it's so moisturizing- you can rub it in and it helps with baby's post-partum peeling. At homebirths, we never give the babies baths, except for their hair if it's really sticky.
TwinMom's Avatar TwinMom 09:02 PM 02-14-2005
Joe was born at 38 weeks but didn't have any vernix at all. He took an herbal afterbirth bath with me about an hour after he was born, soaked in the tub with Daddy at 2 weeks, and that's all he's had. He smells so yummy without bathing!
nikirj's Avatar nikirj 11:27 PM 02-14-2005
My DD (the newest one) was born with quite a thick coating of vernix. We didn't rub it in, but we didn't rub it off either. It absorbed by the next morning (well, it was absorbed when we woke up at 11, she was born at almost-3).

I think the main benefit is keeping the skin from getting dried out. That skin has been in liquid until the birth, and the sudden transition to air is probably quite a shock. Having that nice thick 'lotion' can't hurt.
Maprilynne's Avatar Maprilynne 07:44 PM 02-16-2005
Hey! Look what I found!!! i got this in an e-mail from a friend. It's form the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. I found it very interesting and a very good argument against AROM and cleaning the vernix with soap. It also gets in a good word for breastfeeding. Enjoy!

"Antimicrobial Properties of Amniotic Fluid and Vernix Caseosa Are Similar to Those Found in Breastmilk

Akinbi, H. T., Narendran, V., Pass, A. K., Markart, P., & Hoath, S. B. (2004). Host defense proteins in vernix caseosa and amniotic fluid. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 191 (6), 2090-2096. [Abstract]

Summary: In this study, researchers analyzed samples of amniotic fluid and vernix caseosa (vernix) from healthy, term gestations to determine the immune properties of these substances. Participants were pregnant women admitted for elective cesarean section after 37 weeks gestation with no prior labor and no signs of chorioamnionitis (intrauterine infection). Women with a history of prenatal fever or premature rupture of membranes, or who received steroids prenatally or antibiotics during delivery were excluded, as were women whose babies passed meconium in utero, had congenital malformations, or required prolonged resuscitation after birth. Amniotic fluid was obtained by amniocentesis to determine fetal lung maturity prior to elective delivery. Vernix was gently scraped from the newborn's skin with a sterile implement immediately following delivery. There were 10 samples of amniotic fluid and 25 samples of vernix obtained.

Tests (Western analysis and immunochemistry) revealed that lysozyme, lactoferrin, human neutrophil peptides 1-3 and secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor were present in the amniotic fluid samples and in organized granules embedded in the vernix samples. These immune substances were tested using antimicrobial growth inhibition assays and found to be effective in inhibiting the growth of common perinatal pathogens, including group B Streptococcus, K pneumoniae, L monocytogenes, C albicans, and E coli.

The authors point out that the innate immune proteins found in vernix and amniotic fluid are similar to those found in breast milk. As the baby prepares for extrauterine life, pulmonary surfactant (a substance produced by the maturing fetal lungs) increases in the amniotic fluid, resulting in the detachment of vernix from the skin. The vernix mixes with the amniotic fluid and is swallowed by the growing fetus. Given the antimicrobial properties of this mixture, the authors conclude that there is therefore "considerable functional and structural synergism between the prenatal biology of vernix caseosa and the postnatal biology of breast milk." They also suggest that better understanding of these innate host defenses may prove useful in preventing and treating intrauterine infection.
Significance for Normal Birth: It is well understood that routine artificial rupture of membranes increases the likelihood of intrauterine infection because it eliminates the physical barrier (the amniotic sac) between the baby and the mother's vaginal flora. This study suggests an additional mechanism for the prevention of infection when the membranes remain intact: a baby that is bathed in amniotic fluid benefits from antimicrobial proteins that are found in the fluid and in vernix caseosa.

The results of this study also call into question the routine use of some newborn procedures. Early bathing of the baby removes vernix, which contains antimicrobial proteins that are active against group B streptococcus and E. coli. Delaying the bath and keeping the newborn together with his or her mother until breastfeeding is established may prevent some cases of devastating infections caused by these bacteria. The fact that preterm babies tend to have more vernix than babies born at or after 40 weeks might mean that healthy, stable preterm babies derive even greater benefit from staying with their mothers during the immediate newborn period.

Finally, this study illustrates how the normal physiology of pregnancy and fetal development is part of a continuum that extends beyond birth to the newborn period. The immunologic similarities between amniotic fluid, vernix and breast milk provide further evidence that successful initiation of breastfeeding is a critical part of the process of normal birth."
Maprilynne's Avatar Maprilynne 07:49 PM 02-16-2005
Don't mind me, I am so excited about this article! Not that i think it will prompt much if any change but because it is the "real doctors" finally seeing what the rest of us have known all along. So if you didn't get a chance to read the whole thing, this is my favorite line.

"Delaying the bath and keeping the newborn together with his or her mother until breastfeeding is established may prevent some cases of devastating infections caused by these bacteria. (The study mentions Group B strep, E Coli and a few other names I didn't recognise.)"

Song of Joy's Avatar Song of Joy 08:11 PM 02-16-2005
Guess what I just added to my birth plan???

Thanks for the thread. DH agreed to not bathe the baby or rub the vernix off, so one more thing to enhance our baby's birth......
stayinghome's Avatar stayinghome 11:42 PM 02-16-2005
Wow- I never knew it had any health benefits other then helping to not dry the skin out! Very interesting!
fourgrtkidos's Avatar fourgrtkidos 11:47 PM 02-16-2005
I am replying so I can look back in my profile and find this later.

I never washed my kids either, until days old. The vernix seemed protective. Now I know my instincts were right!!!!
daisymommy's Avatar daisymommy 12:14 AM 02-17-2005
So are you just supposed to blot the skin dry after birth? What about all the dried blood? Or can you sponge them off without removing the vernix? Just wondering for my next babe!
jraohc's Avatar jraohc 01:23 PM 02-17-2005
I have two related questions. DD passed meconium shortly before being born. She was also vacuumed out after an episiotomy was cut - does that cause more blood? It seems like it would. Is it still recommended that she not be washed or would you bath in such a situation? How "yucky" would she be if she wasn't bathed?

I hate to say it, but I didn't really see her until after she was bathed - she was vacuumed out and handed off to the pedi's at delivery and by the time she got to me she was all swaddled up and I didn't even think to unswaddle her. Then she went off with dh to the nursery to be cleaned up and whatever else happened to her.

Also, for next time, in a normal birth, how "yucky" is the baby? I mean, it doesn't seem so yucky to me, but dh has commented many times on how he wouldn't want to handle the baby before she was wrapped up and/or bathed. He went through med school and actually delivered a few babies, so I tend to defer to him on things that I have no experience with. Then dd was vacuumed out, so I didn't even gain any experience when she was born. I really wanted to gently help her out, but I'm just wondering - is there an "ick" factor?
NoraB's Avatar NoraB 03:37 PM 02-17-2005
I knew vernix was beneficial, but I didn't know the specifics. Thanks for this thread!

My plan is to not bath the baby after birth, though I do plan on wiping any blood or extra fluids off. DD had a lot of vernix when she was born and we left it on her skin. The nurses did take DD for a bath, but managed to bath her w/o taking all the vernix off.
daisymommy's Avatar daisymommy 01:23 PM 03-04-2005
bump. Anyone who can answer the last 2 questions by PP ?
TwinMom's Avatar TwinMom 03:10 PM 03-04-2005
My baby wasn't "yucky" at all. He wasn't vernixy or bloody. In fact, my dh was shocked at how clean the whole birth was (he'd previously only seen c-sections). Joe is now almost 6 weeks old and still hasn't had a bath. He's been in the tub once and in the shower once, but just soaked for a few minutes, no cleaning involved. He smells yummy and is beautiful!

Okay, since you asked :LOL you can see for yourself how beautiful he is, even with no bathing, here, where I caught one of his first smiles.
zane's Avatar zane 05:42 PM 03-04-2005
A novel role for vernix caseosa as a skin cleanser.

Moraille R, Pickens WL, Visscher MO, Hoath SB.

Division of Neonatology and Skin Sciences Institute, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, Ohio 45229, USA.

OBJECTIVES: Skin cleansing is a complex process involving endogenous and exogenous mechanisms. This study examines the role of vernix caseosa in the process of skin cleansing in the perinatal period. METHODS: Vernix was evaluated as an exogenously applied skin cleanser using digitized image analysis which quantified residual carbon particles following a standardized cleansing assay. In addition, the detachment of vernix from human cadaveric skin and Gore-Tex supports was investigated following timed exposures to a variety of commonly used commercial surfactants. Detachment was quantified spectrophotometrically as increased turbidity at 650 nm. RESULTS: Image analysis showed that exogenous application of vernix exhibited a cleansing capability comparable or superior to standard skin cleansers. Dose-dependent increases in solution turbidity (vernix detachment) were seen following exposure of vernix-covered Gore-Tex vehicles to sodium laureth sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate, and cocamidopropyl betaine solutions. Similar results were seen with cadaveric skin. CONCLUSIONS: These results demonstrate a role for vernix caseosa as a skin cleanser. Previous views of vernix as a soil or skin contaminant at birth need to be reevaluated.
Is vernix caseosa a protective material to the newborn? A biochemical approach.

Baker SM, Balo NN, Abdel Aziz FT.

Department of Nursing, Al-Arab Medical University, Faculty of Medicine, Benghazi, Libya.

Twenty random samples of vernix caseosa were collected from immediately born neonates, in Jamahiriya Hospital, Benghazi. Biochemical studies of these samples revealed presence of lipids (62.5%), proteins (36%) and carbohydrate (1.5%). Also we could observe inhibition of staph. aureus and klebsiella growth on nutrient agar by this vernix. This observation could be explained either by its higher asparagine content or by its elevated lipid component. In addition tripalmitin was found to be the major lipid constituent, responsible for its hydrophobic property. So we recommend leaving this vernix layer on newborn skin until spontaneous drying.
Sounds like even the scientists would reccomend delaying a bath with soap.
Lisalee2's Avatar Lisalee2 01:54 PM 03-09-2005
My midwife called vernix 'nature's cold cream' :LOL

Both my babes had plenty of vernix (though neither were born 'early) and I remember my midwife dabbing a little below her eyes. She's awesome.
treehugginhippie's Avatar treehugginhippie 01:59 PM 08-19-2008
Bumping this old thread. Great info and wanted to share
wbg's Avatar wbg 02:49 PM 08-19-2008
My first three babies were born in Australia and where I gave birth, the babies are not bathed until day 3. And you don't have to. Its more like if you want a lesson in bathing your newborn (first time Mums) they will help you out. But they do not encourage bathing until the baby will be able to handle the temperature change without the need for a warmer. It is funny, because none of the OBs and midwives get icky about the babies or insist on wearing gloves to handle them. If your baby is covered in a lot of birth fluids, you just give them a gentle rub down with a warm towel or receiving blanket while you are giving them a cuddle. My last baby was covered in vernix. She was completely white and it was so lovely! I was very surprised to find out that newborn babies are routinely bathed within minutes of their birth in hospital and not by the parents. They are then put in a warmer to get their temps back up. I think it seems odd that a perfectly healthy baby would need to be separated from its Mum and have to get artificially warmed up. What better place to snuggle up than the Mother's chest. The hospital in Australia called vernix: miracle moisturizer!
slave2myprincess's Avatar slave2myprincess 11:14 PM 08-19-2008
i delievered my dd at 38 weeks and she had a ton of it. They took her so quick from me that i didn't even know they washed her. She just came back to me all wrapped up and bathed. Next time if i have a hospital birth i plan on telling them ahead of time not to bathe my baby ! I def. think it should be your choice. And the pedi put on gloves for no reason. i'm pretty sure he's had to deal with worse.
frontierpsych's Avatar frontierpsych 11:20 PM 08-19-2008
Originally Posted by TwinMom View Post
Joe was born at 38 weeks but didn't have any vernix at all. He took an herbal afterbirth bath with me about an hour after he was born, soaked in the tub with Daddy at 2 weeks, and that's all he's had. He smells so yummy without bathing!
lol, I didn't realize how old this thread was and when I read this and looked at your sig I thought "What?! That's all the baths her 3.5 yo has had?!"
clearlycrazy's Avatar clearlycrazy 11:06 AM 02-28-2014

Bump to a very old thread - with some great and relevant info. Anyone have any updated info on whether  to bathe or not to bathe? 

lsanchez's Avatar lsanchez 11:46 PM 03-02-2014
I don't have new info, but I loved rubbing the vernix into my DD2 after she was born! And plan to do the same with this baby, I'll probably delay the bath for a little longer after reading this thread too wink1.gif