Being pregnant, there is an unimaginable amount of decisions that have to be made. One of those decisions is whether or not you want to delay baby’s first bath. You may have seen some hype about this on social media and probably wondered why anyone wouldn’t want to give their baby a bath after birth. After all, birth is messy! The answer lies in a slick white substance called vernix.
Vernix caseosa (or just vernix for short) is the white coating that protects the baby’s skin in the womb. This protective layer keeps baby’s skin nice and soft (and without wrinkles!) despite spending the first 9 months of life suspended in fluid. Pretty amazing! During labor, it also provides extra lubrication to help move the baby down the birth canal. We now understand (and evidence supports) that vernix has some incredible benefits after pregnancy as well. It’s these benefits that have parents asking that their baby’s bath be delayed.
Immune boosting antimicrobials
The unique properties of vernix is vitally important for a newborn. We all know that newborns have delicate immune systems and are more susceptible to illness. Research shows that vernix contains antioxidants to help boost baby’s immunity as well as anti-inflammatory properties. Outside of breastfeeding, this may be the next best thing to help build natural immunity and protect your new baby from infection and illnesses.
Regulates body temperature
Newborns need help staying warm and keeping their body temperature normal. Vernix is lipid-based and helps keep baby’s temperature regulated and their skin nice and soft. This is important in keeping babies’ organs and other systems working properly. We must also consider that when a baby comes out of a bath, it’s going to be chilly! Luckily, we can avoid this cold stress until baby is more acclimated to life outside of the womb!
Any time spent between mama and baby after birth is going to positively affect initial bonding. By delaying baby’s first bath you get to spend that time bonding in the hospital AND create your own special memory by doing the first bath yourself at home! This uninterrupted time during the first couple hours post birth could also help establish breastfeeding.
So how long should you delay bathing? Some parents delay the first bath for 24-48 hours while some wait days, weeks or even a month. There is no right answer here! Nurses can simply wipe the baby off and you can rub the vernix into the skin over the next couple days. The choice is absolutely up to you. If you decide you would like to bathe baby yourself at home, make sure you include this in your birth wishlist (plan) so it’s not overlooked.
Breathe. I know all the choices you face bringing a new life into the world can be overwhelming.
The most important thing is what you are doing right now- learning; so that you can make informed decisions going forward. Good for you! You are well on your way to being the best parent you can be!