Newborn babies come in all sorts of adorable looks and personalities. A baby always looks perfectly beautiful in the eyes of the parents. But they all have one thing in common that may seem strange looking– a waxy or creamy white coating all over their body. This is called vernix caseosa. It starts forming on the skin of the fetus during the third trimester of pregnancy and is present at the time of birth on a neonate’s body.
11 Facts About Vernix You Should Know
Vernix caseosa is essential for the well being of a baby.
Vernix may look yucky, but it is normal
The coating of vernix is a perfectly natural phenomenon. It may cover the entire skin of a baby or only the body folds. Some say it also gives babies their unique ‘baby’ smell that we all love.
What does vernix contain?
The vernix coating is made up of primarily water (about 80%). The rest of it is made up of fats and proteins. It also contains immunity providing components to aid in the baby body defence.
Vernix is nature’s baby moisturizer
Baby skin is thinner, has less skin barrier layers and less sweat and sebaceous (oil producing) production, as compared to adults. As a result, babies lose moisture quickly and are more prone to skin dryness. Vernix prevents water loss and promotes baby skin hydration. A layer of vernix keeps your baby’s skin smooth and as soft as melted butter, which is what every mom loves about her baby’s skin!
Vernix is a germ guard
A baby is exposed to a mother’s birth canal that contains germs at the time of birth. Also at the time of birth, a baby has low immunity and is prone to infections. A coating of vernix acts as a mechanical barrier that prevents passage of bacteria through it. Vernix contains anti microbial or germ fighting substances such as anti microbial peptides and lipids.
Vernix is like a waterproof jacket
A baby lies immersed in amniotic fluid in the mother’s womb. A coating of vernix starts forming inside the womb itself during late pregnancy. This vernix coating protects the baby’s developing skin from amniotic fluid. Vernix essentially covers the baby like a waterproof jacket and lets protective skin cells develop underneath it.
Vernix helps keep a baby warm and cozy
Vernix may help to maintain a baby’s body temperature after it is born.
Vernix helps a baby settle into the world
A baby lies nestled in a mother’s womb for about 9 months, warm and well fed, with all its needs taken care of by the mother. Being born is a drastic environmental change for a baby. A coating of vernix helps a newborn baby’s skin adapt to the dry and cold world it is born into, by helping retain moisture and maintain body temperature. Vernix contains vitamin E, a natural anti oxidant that helps a baby cope with birth stress.
Don’t be in a hurry to wash vernix off
Sometimes, newborn babies are given a bath immediately after birth to wash off the coating of vernix covering the body. This is not always a good idea because removal of vernix can cause increased redness, skin damage and make a baby prone to infections. So don’t encourage the removal of vernix for your newborn. Sometimes, the vernix is gently massaged into the baby’s skin for lubrication of the skin.
Baby’s first bath
A newborn’s first bath is aimed at removal of blood and meconium (stool). These can just be gently wiped off, leaving the layer of vernix intact. Bathing should be delayed for 24 to 48 hours after birth, to allow the baby’s temperature to remain normal and for the vital signs to stabilize. The coating of vernix helps in these functions.
Color of vernix tells a story of its own
The color of vernix is usually creamy white. If there is a color change of the vernix coating, it may indicate problems such as hemolytic disease of newborn, post maturity, where it is of golden yellow color. Fetal distress in utero may also stain vernix by bile pigments present in meconium, and may turn yellow – brown in color.
What if vernix is missing?
Babies born prematurely (less than 28 weeks) may lack a coating of vernix so it is more important to maintain temperature control and loss of warmth. So if your baby is due early, make sure extra care is taken to retain warmth and maintain body temperature.
Nature provides natural goodness to keep a baby warm and free of infection, in the form of vernix caseosa coating. Vernix plays an important role in the difficult transition of a baby from life inside a mother’s womb to outside it.