Have you ever wondered why your baby is covered with a white substance when he/she is born?
Well, this substance is called “Vernix Caseosa”. It is a white cheesy substance that covers and protects the skin of the fetus and is still all over the skin of a baby at birth. Vernix caseosa is composed of sebum (the oil of the skin) and cells that have sloughed off the fetus' skin.
"Vernix" is the Latin word for "varnish." The vernix varnishes the baby. "Caseosa" is "cheese" in Latin. (MedicineNet.com)
The vernix development starts in about the 20th week of gestation. It is secreted by the sebaceous glands and reduces towards the end of pregnancy.
It is said to have antimicrobial properties which help protect the newborn against a huge variety of infections. A secondary benefit is that the vernix caseosa is a luxurious body cream custom made for your baby and is highly moisturizing that many cosmetic companies have researched it.
Those benefits give a good reason to ask your doctor/nurse team not to wash it off immediately after birth but to rather allow it to absorb into your baby’s skin.