When I receive a few emails with the same question I love to answer with a blog post, as I understand there are a few of you who are curious about the same topic. So I write down all your questions and try to get back to you about them as soon as I can.
I am speaking for me personally and from what I have come to know by reading books or learned from great doulas, baby nurses and most importantly other mothers and grandmothers.
THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO NEED TO WASH THEM WITH SOAP!
When babies are born, most of them come out of their mother’s womb with something like a white, greasy cover all over their skin and some parents, especially first-timers, think that this might be a disgusting thing to see or to touch: well, many things may seem scary or strange if we don’t really know what they are.
I myself, along with many women I have spoken to, did not find it gross at all, and was actually surprised by this. The soft, waxy, odourless texture is called vernix, and it has many benefits such as protecting your baby’s skin from being in amniotic fluid month after month, or from harmful bacteria they might encounter inside and outside of the mother’s body. It is also a skin cleanser, antioxidant and offers a protective covering while going through the birth canal. So instead of washing it off, you should actually rub it into your newborn’s skin with a gentle massage, to get the most good out of it.
The feeling when you hold your newborn baby for the very first time is so beyond magnificent that there is no space for thinking that something is gross.
This is all natural and this is they way we are supposed to be: every single one of us has been there, just after birth, with white, thick texture on our skin that has a very good reason to be there, nature has its ways and we should do more of listening to the way things are made to be.
Free your mind from the way we are made to think it should be, just go with the flow and enjoy the moment you are living. Hug your little baby and give it a gentle rub on the back and legs while it cuddles up to your skin for the very first time.
The majority of the vernix will absorb into the skin within 24 hours from birth, but it may take up to 5 -6 days to fully absorb: the world’s best moisturizer for your little baby. That is why it is advisable to wait to give the baby its first bath until after its first week of life.
Many hospital baby nurses or doctors like to wash off the vernix so the baby ‘’looks better’’ for the new parents, but really, don’t let them do that. I told my doctors to leave it on before my sons where even born just to make sure they would not start to rub it off, or soap wash them.
A newborn baby should go straight into its mother’s arms if possible: sometimes it can be an emergency situation so the baby may have to go under further or intense control, but in most cases all is fine and the baby should go straight to resting with its mother, covered in white lovely greasy natural fat, listening to its mother’s heartbeat, skin to skin. So, cuddle and get to know one another. In that very moment, there is nothing to hurry about.
Regarding what to do for your baby’s first bath, it depends. Just a soft, warm cloth stroke around the areas where you feel it is needed may be enough (that is what I did). They are so pure and wrapped all day in clean clothes or blankets, so they don’t really NEED a bath. But it could be lovely and relaxing for them. Most of them will love it : make sure the room is warm, with soft light and maybe even peaceful music – for example, I used to play the same music I had in the delivery room just to create a lovely, romantic and cozy atmosphere.
They are going through so many new things each day. New sounds, new light, new touch – new everything. I would recommend waiting 5 days or up to a week for the first bath and when you do, no soap needed. To this day, I still do not use soap on my sons, and they are 2 and 4. I use coconut oil in their baths and massage it into their skin afterwards. Again, our bodies are so perfectly made, we do not need soap – especially in the first years of life. Normally the little ones don’t really even get that dirty except for the face, hands and bottoms, and those are washed often throughout the day.
Just by letting your baby relax and play moving around in the water will definitely do the job of cleaning your baby, and if you feel more comfortable you can stroke him or her with a soft cloth in the water. Babies also do not need a bath every single day: every 2-3 days is more than enough. I give my sons a bath 2-3 times per week in the winter and a bit more often in the summer as they are boys and love to play outside with sand, mud and water.
Sparing the soap will also protect their skin from rashes or dry spots and keep their skin looking better for longer with its natural oil, as baby skin is very delicate and sensitive.
Babies also do not smell or stink, especially if their diet is good.