When I had my daughter, I made sure that the hospital staff did not give her a bath. I had done my research and learned that the vernix offers so many benefits and protection to a newborn, thus, why the baby is born covered in it to begin with. The vernix needs time to be absorbed into the baby’s skin; it is the best form of moisturizer that, unfortunately, money can’t buy! This combined with the fact that a newborn is not born dirty (contrary to popular belief) and the fact that he/she doesn’t need any type of chemical/additives that may be in what the hospital uses to bathe him/her are the reasons I wanted to wait and bathe my daughter at home. If you doubt my claim that babies are being washed with harsher soaps, please note that many hospitals use regular soap, and others use the wipes found through this link – I have not been able to find the ingredients to these, but, based on what I have found, they don’t look to be what I consider non-toxic by any means! Sage Cleansing Washcloths and one hospital’s take on bath wash: Parkland Memorial.
That being said, when I read Jennifer Azzariti’s article on Eco18.com about the importance of the vernix, I wanted to share it with you all. Both she and Eco18 graciously let me repost her article here! This is a shortened version. You can read her whole article on Eco18.com
WAIT! DON’T WASH THAT NEWBORN!
A Guest post by Jennifer Azzariti
Have you ever watched a television show where a baby is born and laughed as they hand the new mom a clean, approximately 8-week old baby? Most people are well-aware that babies are born with a slimy mucus-like covering on them. For years I just assumed it was from being inside of the mom’s uterus—leftover amniotic fluid or something that surrounded the baby while in utero. Well, this stuff has a name—vernix. And by definition, it’s “a white cheeselike protective material that covers the skin of a fetus.” But, what is it, and why do babies have it?
Vernix is produced during the third trimester and it provides a temporary skin barrier for the watery environment babies 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.”
Proven to have such great benefits postnatally, it makes you wonder why we are in such a rush to give newborns their first bath—removing the vernix.
Modern science and Western Medicine recognizes the benefits of vernix. 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.
Results from this study brought into question the practices commonly used when treating newborns. The study suggests that baby’s first bath should be delayed until at least twenty-four hours after birth. The Department of Health in conjunction with the World Health Association has set-forth a protocol for newborns, and 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.
When you have a baby, it’s important to discuss your wishes with not only your physician, but also your entire care staff at the hospital where you deliver your baby. Make sure your partner is aware of your wishes, because if you’re like I was, you will be so caught up in pushing out a baby and the excitement that goes along with it, that postponing the first bath could easily slip your mind. If I were to have another child, I would inquire as to what the hospital’s protocol is. Whatever you do, make sure your wishes are known by everyone who will come into contact with your little one.
So, the next time you have a baby, let the hospital staff know you’d like to “Keep the vernix now, clean the baby later!”
MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE WONDERS OF THE VERNIX:
A side note from Dawn: When posting this I wanted to do a bit more digging and stumbled across this – a conversation of sorts between nurses questioning when the first bath should be given. I was surprised to see that baths are sometimes given at certain times based on the baby’s condition. For instance, if their temperature is of a certain range, they get a bath sooner than later. If not, they wait on the bath because of the danger it may pose to the baby. Not once in these conversations did I see mention of the importance of the vernix or the fact that it acts as a temperature regulator. From talking with nurses, it seems they aren’t taught about the vernix in school (at least the ones I have had conversations with)! This information made me think – another reason to delay the first bath! (I personally believe that a bath should not happen until the baby is at least a week old. The body needs its natural oils and a newborn’s skin is so delicate!) Timing of Newborn Bath
When you are ready to bathe your baby, here’s some options: Baby Washes
About the author: A once working mother of two young children, Jennifer had an ah-ha moment and put her professional career on hold shortly before the birth of her daughter. Shifting her focus to being a stay-at-home mom, Jennifer’s communication and research talents could not be suppressed. She has been successfully transforming her family’s lifestyle into a greener one and helping other moms take “green baby steps” too. Raised in Central New York, Jennifer now calls Long Island her home, but still holds true to many of the ideals instilled upon her growing up in a more rural area. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.