In the process of creating a birth plan, many new parents are surprised at how many choices and options are available to them. One of those options is delaying baby’s first bath. You may not have even thought about this before now and you may be wondering why anyone would ever want to delay cleaning their baby. One of the main reasons some parents choose to delay this bath is to protect the vermix as long as possible. 

What is Vernix?

Vernix caseosa (or simply Vernix) is the white, cheese-like substance that coats newborn skin. Vernix production is unique to humans and it may cover the entirety of the baby’s skin, or it could just be in the skin folds. Babies who are born after 40 weeks may have less vernix than babies born earlier. Benefits of vernix include:

  • protection from amniotic fluid while in the womb
  • may help keep infection at bay before and after birth
  • provides some lubrication during birth
  • could help regulate baby’s temperature 
  • high water content in vernix can help moisturize skin
  • can be beneficial to breastfeeding

Benefits of Delaying the First Bath

Some parents will delay the first bath for several days or a week; it’s up to you if you want to delay or how long to delay. There is some evidence that waiting at least twelve hours can make breastfeeding more successful. Although the exact reason is unknown, keeping that layer of vermix and amniotic fluid may help baby find the similar-smelling breast, or the vermix’s temperature protection may help the baby reserve her energy for breastfeeding. 

Rubbing the vernix into baby’s skin (or yours!) instead of washing it off can help prevent delicate newborn skin from getting dry and peeling or cracking. Ready for some anecdotal evidence? My first three babies had baths at the hospital and each of them had horribly dry and peeling skin within the first week or two. I was putting breast milk and Auqaphor on their skin to help moisturize it. My fourth baby didn’t get a bath for about 6 weeks and didn’t have ANY dry skin issues. This isn’t to say all babies who are bathed in the first few days will have dry skin! Genetics and other factors play a role as well.

Area hospitals typically delay the first bath until 6 hours after birth. Some hospitals have recently moved to 12 hours. If you’d like to delay baby’s bath, you can ask your nurses to wipe him down as needed but not bathe him. 

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