The arrival of your newborn is filled with inexplicable feelings of anticipation and excitement. Irrespective of how tired and sore you are from the process of childbirth, you can’t wait to hold the beautiful little human you’ve created. After all, you have waited nine months for this moment and imagined it over and over again in your head. Your newborn arriving with a wrinkled skin covered with a cheese-like white substance, however, was never a part of the picture. What is this sticky coating sitting on your baby’s skin? Why is it even there? And how are you supposed to deal with it?
Find out with this detailed guide on Vernix Caseosa, aka the white, cheesy coating:
Vernix Caseosa, a derivative of Latin words vernix meaning varnish and caseosa meaning cheesy, is a protective layer that prevents your baby’s skin from being in constant direct contact with the amniotic fluid inside the uterus. Now, while the amniotic fluid is in itself an essential protective cushion for your baby, being immersed in this fluid can adversely affect your baby’s skin, leaving it wrinkled and chapped; much like immersing your hands and feet in water for too long affects your skin. Vernix Caseosa safeguards babies’ skin against such damage, contributing to its soft texture after birth. In addition to this, this protective layer also acts as a natural barrier for infections inside the womb.
This layer starts forming at around 20 weeks of gestation and starts shedding as you near the completion of your term. Naturally, premature babies have more Vernix Caseosa than babies born at full-term. Even at full-term, it is normal for your baby to have at least some residual Vernix Caseosa sitting on the skin. The coating may be extremely thin or non-existent for babies born past the due date.
Vernix Caseosa is a mix of water, fat, and proteins. It is the fat and protein content that lends this protective layer its waxy, cheese-like texture. These very substances help the Vernix Caseosa stick to the skin as well as strengthen your child’s immunity levels.
Given its unsightly appearance, it is only natural to think of it as an unnecessary, unwanted presence that you must get rid of. However, the Vernix Caseosa is extremely beneficial for your baby in the womb, during the birthing process, and even after birth. Some of the top benefits of Vernix Caseosa include:
• The slippery texture of this protective layer helps both the mother and baby during the delivery, as it provides the lubrication needed for the baby to slip out of the vaginal canal.
• As already mentioned, the Vernix Caseosa helps in warding off infections, thanks to its anti-bacterial properties.
• Besides safeguarding your baby’s skin from the amniotic fluid, it also acts as a natural moisturizer that keeps the skin soft and supple.
• After birth, this natural layer helps your baby stay warm in the new temperature conditions they have been exposed to for the first time and also helps a newborn’s body get used to the new environment.
• It is also your baby’s first food. Your baby consumes the fallen off pieces of Vernix Caseosa floating about in the amniotic fluid as a ‘practice’ for swallowing and breathing. This prepares the baby for breastfeeding and also readies the baby’s delicate gut for digestion.
As a common practice, babies are cleaned up – often given their first bath – soon after birth to remove the vaginal fluids and blood from their body. In most cases, nurses are trained to wash off the Vernix Caseosa with the rest of the fluids. However, medical experts now suggest delaying the first bath to let this protective coating sit on your baby’s skin a little bit longer. You can discuss this with your hospital beforehand, and ask them to massage the Vernix Caseosa into your baby’s skin instead of washing it off.