Health experts weigh in on newborns and post-birth baths

Vernix also has insulating properties that help newborns maintain body temperature. Picture: Jonathan Borba/Pexels

Vernix also has insulating properties that help newborns maintain body temperature. Picture: Jonathan Borba/Pexels

Published Jun 24, 2024


A growing number of parents are questioning the age-old practice of bathing newborns immediately after birth.

This debate was thrust into the spotlight recently by a TikTok user called Kae-Rodriguez, who shared a video titled: "My Unwashed 5-Day-Old." In the post, her baby appears happy and clean, despite not being bathed since birth.

The substance often seen on babies right after birth is called vernix caseosa, a white, waxy layer that covers the skin. This natural coating, also known as vernix, has garnered attention for its numerous benefits, prompting many parents to reconsider immediate post-birth baths.


Don't wipe off the vernix so fast! Vernix is a creamy substance that covers your newborn ans includes substances like skin cells, oils, and other secretions. Vernix serves several important functions: 1. Protective Barrier: Vernix acts as a natural barrier, protecting the baby's delicate skin from exposure to amniotic fluid while in the womb. It also provides a barrier against bacteria and other pathogens, reducing the risk of infection. 2. Moisturizing: Vernix helps to moisturize the baby's skin, preventing it from becoming dry and cracked after birth. 3. Thermoregulation: Vernix can help regulate the baby's body temperature by reducing heat loss from the skin. 4. Skin Development: Some research suggests that vernix may play a role in the development of the baby's skin, helping to mature and strengthen the skin barrier. Because of these important functions, it's generally recommended not to wash off vernix immediately after birth. Instead, healthcare providers often recommend gently wiping away excess vernix while leaving a thin layer on the baby's skin. This allows the remaining vernix to continue providing its protective and moisturizing benefits. You definitely dont need to rush to give the baby a bath, in fact newborns dont need to have their first bath for several weeks to allow their skins to retain moisture otherwise they can get very dry (and they often hate those early baths anyway!) Let me know when you first bathed your baby?

♬ original sound - Dr Brooke Vandermolen

In her TikTok post, Kae-Rodriguez explained her choice, stating: "Vernix does not need to be washed away immediately. My baby was born with very little and has beautiful skin at 5 days old. No bath for at least 2 weeks, not even a sponge bath is needed."

Dr. Brooke Vandermolen, a specialist in Obstetrics and Gynecology, responded to the video to shed light on this topic. She explained the reasons behind some parents’ decision to delay bathing. Dr. Vandermolen also shared her own choice to wait before bathing her child.

"Vernix offers several benefits," Dr Vandermolen noted. "It has anti-microbial properties, moisturises the baby’s skin and aids in temperature regulation. Delaying the first bath allows these benefits to continue aiding the newborn's adaptation to life outside the womb."

According to a “What to Expect” report, babies born earlier tend to have more vernix than those born later.

If your little one arrives a few weeks before the due date, they might still be well-coated. If they’re born on time, they might only have a little bit of vernix left in the folds of the skin or under the nails.

The same goes if they are born late as they might not have any vernix left at all (and their skin might be wrinkled or peeling as a result but experts said that this is temporary).

This debate highlights the growing awareness of vernix and its potential advantages. Many parents and health care providers now advocate for waiting at least 24 hours before the first bath, but some, like Kae-Rodriguez, choose to wait even longer.

The benefits of vernix and why some parents delay washing it off newborns

When a baby is born, it often arrives coated in the white, waxy substance.

This natural bio-film, formed during the third trimester of pregnancy, has been the subject of numerous scientific studies which have highlighted its many beneficial properties.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), vernix, is a protective layer that covers a baby's skin while in the womb. Composed of water, lipids, and proteins, it acts as a natural barrier, safeguarding the baby's skin from the amniotic fluid. This suggests that vernix helps to strengthen the skin barrier, which is particularly important for premature babies.

Many parents and healthcare providers now advocate waiting at least 24 hours before the first bath. Picture: Büşranur Aydın/pexels


Vernix plays a significant role in shielding delicate newborn skin from infections. Its anti-microbial properties are well-documented in a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, which found that it contains proteins that inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria and fungi.

Moisturise and hydrate

According to research in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, vernix acts like a natural moisturiser. The lipids and water content help keep the newborn's skin hydrated, reducing the risk of skin dryness and cracking.


Vernix also has insulating properties that help newborns maintain body temperature. In the initial hours after birth, as babies adjust to the external environment, vernix offers a natural thermal blanket.

Natural cleansing

The WHO published a report indicating that vernix has mild cleansing properties which promote the natural sloughing of dead skin cells.

Why do some parents delay washing vernix off

In recent years, a growing number of parents and healthcare professionals have advocated for delaying the first bath for newborns to allow vernix to perform its protective role more effectively.

Improved bonding

Some parents believe that delaying the bath promotes better bonding between the baby and the parents. The smell of vernix may carry hormonal cues that help the mother and newborn bond more effectively in the crucial first days of life.

Bathing can be stressful for a newborn. By delaying it, parents can avoid adding unnecessary stress during the early days when the baby is already adjusting to life outside the womb.

With its multi-faceted benefits, vernix caseosa is more than just a birth by-product, it's a natural protective layer that aids in the newborn's transition to the external world.

As more research highlights the advantages of vernix, delaying the first bath is becoming an increasingly popular choice among new parents. As always, consult with your health care provider to make the best decision for your newborn's health.