Babies arrive varnished. Their entire body is greased with vernix (Latin for varnish), a substance that looks like cream cheese and protects your baby from shrivelling and wrinkling up in the bag of amniotic fluid.
Premature babies have more vernix than babies born at term, and a baby well past its due date is likely to have reabsorbed most of its vernix by the time they are born. When present, it is best to leave any vernix on the baby’s skin, as it combats and repels potential sources of infection and regulates the pH of the vulnerable newborn skin.
The skin is not just our covering, but a living organ, a blank canvas ready to develop its own skin flora and microbiome in the outside world. Parents are perfectly placed to give their baby’s skin the best start.
Trans Epidermal Water Loss (TEWL) is a scientific measurement of skin health and TEWL is the normal loss of water vapor from the skin, not be confused with sweating. Every hour of the day and night, a baby’s skin is drying out much more quickly than is good for it. All babies have a higher rate of water loss, especially in the first 28 days of life, and it takes a couple of years for this TEWL to settle to that of an adult.
- An unbathed newborn is getting the best skin care. New guidelines suggest we have all been overbathing our babies and screwing up their efforts to build their skin’s biome. NHS staff will no longer bathe a newborn routinely. They’ll advise you to let their skin settle without bathing for at least 24 hours and to rely on the old top and tail cleansing method most of the time. Bathing twice a week is sufficient in the first few months – babies do not get dirty or sweaty. (Plus, leaning over a tub can be back breaking!).
- Leave that skin alone – allow vernix to reabsorb or rub thick patches of vernix into the skin.
- Shield your little one from relatives wearing perfumes, hairsprays, and deodorants, which can irritate their skin, as well as play havoc with their sensitive sense of smell.
- Visitors can say hello but ask them not to nuzzle or kiss your baby as this is the easiest way to breach the skin’s barrier and pass on infections.
- Dress your baby in loose fitting clothing made from natural breathable materials and choose laundry products for sensitive skin