When some babies are born they can be covered in a white film, an almost waxy substance called vernix. Some babies are just covered in it while others might not have hardly any at all.
In about the 7th month gestation(~27 weeks), baby creates this coating to protect her skin from the amniotic fluid and for her trip through the birth canal. Vernix is sort of a natural antibiotic that baby has created for herself. A barrier from too many bad bacteria & meconium, but a carrier of good bacteria and the amniotic fluid smell.
Comprised 80% of water, this layer of cream cheese-like substance hydrates baby’s skin as it acclimates to its new environment. Rub it in and help baby have that kissable and soft skin.
There have been studies suggesting the wound healing properties of vernix. The benefit to mom would be faster healing of her perineum, as baby has left behind some vernix for her too.
The amniotic fluid smell that baby has known for all of her life remains all around her in the vernix. This same smell primes babies to find their mother’s breast for their first turn at breastfeeding. The combination of amniotic fluid and vernix help baby’s belly to be able to digest the peptides in the breastmilk - her first food. Neat stuff!
When and How do I Clean off the Vernix?
It is old school practice to wipe vernix off the baby as soon as she is born, however we see that it is more beneficial to leave it on baby’s skin. Most of the benefits are absorbed within the first 24 hours, but can continue to absorb more vernix benefits for the first few days and even week after birth.
Ideally, treat the vernix like a body butter or a cream. Keep rubbing it in for the first hours and days. It is the best cream that little baby can get. A first bath can be taken after the first 24 hours (at least) - no need for soap, just wiping baby with a soft cloth.
As always, I encourage parents and parents-to-be to keep researching & learning. Take control of your family's health and be informed. Keep reading about vernix from the sources below or wherever you find your information.