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27 April 2018

Don’t wash your newborn yet...

After nine months, your bundle of joy has arrived and is now ready for your love and affection. Just before cuddle time though, the nurse is ready for a little wash and dry.

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Is washing your newborn necessary? The waxy coating on your newborn’s skin (vernix caseosa) is the wax that develops in the womb. It contains loads of benefits for your baby when it’s left behind or even rubbed in. The coating is filled with amino acids, proteins, and antibacterial and antimicrobial compounds.

Bathing dos and don’ts

According to the World Health Organization, bathing can wait for up to 24 hours after birth. If this isn’t possible, wait at least six hours. Vernix caseosa is 80% water. It plays the role of a waterproof barrier in the womb. Your baby swims in amniotic fluid for about 40 weeks, and this coating protects their skin from the fluid and any infection while in the womb. Without this protection, your little one’s skin would wrinkle or chap.

Thanks to this waxy coating, your baby passes through the birth canal during delivery easily, with little friction. Vernix also stabilises blood sugar and maintains your baby’s temperature, whereas bathing your newborn can cause their blood sugar to drop.

Vernix also improves breastfeeding. A baby is likely to release stress hormones when taken away from the comfort of their mother. It is difficult to breastfeed a distressed baby, but with the vernix coating still in place, this process is easier.

A little-known factor about vernix is its smell. Wonder why newborns have that fresh and mesmerising smell? This distinctive sweet smell is unique to each baby and only lasts a short time. When you breathe in the special scent, the hormone oxytocin is released, which helps you relax and bond with your little one.

Research suggests that a mother and her baby shouldn’t be separated after birth and should stay in the same room for at least 24 hours. There’s no harm in delaying the first bath. Remember, your little one will have routine tests after their birth and this is just one of the reasons doctors recommend delaying that first bath.

Good to know

  • Humans are the only animals whose newborns are coated in vernix.
  • Research shows that leaving the vernix may even encourage antibacterial and wound healing properties.
  • You will find the gooey substance hidden in your baby’s folds. You can also find it in the folds of the vagina for several days or even weeks. Gently wipe it away or simply leave it.
  • Although your unborn baby can start to hear your voice during the 25th week of your pregnancy, the sound may not be clear because his ears are covered with sound-shielding vernix.
  • Research published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology says that the vernix can protect against Group B strep and E. coli bacteria.

Image credit: iStock

 
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