The vernix caseosa is a greasy, cheese-like coating that covers baby’s skin in the womb to protect their skin from getting pickled by amniotic fluid prior to birth. According to present knowledge, vernix production is unique to humans. At birth, vernix may cover the entire skin surface or only be found in body folds. Its color may actually help indicate intra-uterine problems or disease.
😳In utero: When swallowed by baby in utero, vernix helps:
• Develop the gut
• Prevents loss of electrolytes and fluids
• Seals the skin to prevent the amniotic fluid from turning baby into a raisin
• Acts as a microbial barrier from pathogens
• Protects skin growing underneath it
😳In birth: The oily texture may naturally lubricate the birth canal to reduce friction as baby makes their exit. It can also help with mother’s perineal healing!
😳 In postpartum:
• Vernix protects baby’s skin from drying out
• Reduced risk of bacterial infections
• Help baby retain heat
😳 In breastfeeding: The scent of vernix might be involved in triggering neural connections in babies’ brain needed for breastfeeding. The immune proteins found in vernix and amniotic fluid are similar to those found in breastmilk. Swallowing vernix and amniotic fluid in utero help coat baby’s lungs and digestive tract, preparing the digestive tract for the similar peptides found in breastmilk. The smell may also help baby find the breast!
The majority of the vernix is absorbed within the first day, so so it’s recommended to wait until after the first 24 hours to bathe baby. Vernix doesn’t fully absorb until day 5 or 6, so it’s best to wait until then.