Taking care of your baby's skin

Body Inside & Out   |   Age: 11 weeks 1 day


Taking care of your baby's skin

Newborn skin is known for its softness, and honestly, that’s a lot of pressure on your baby - especially right now, when she’s still trying to figure out the little things in her life, like when she is meant to be sleeping, what she shouldn’t be putting in her mouth, and the fine art of rolling over. Lucky for your baby, she’s got you looking out for her, making sure her baby-soft skin stays, well, baby-soft.

Dry skin

If you start to notice your baby’s skin drying out, there are a couple of different things you can try. To start, try avoiding scented products. It's a good idea to stay away from soaps and shampoos with fragrances as these dry out the hair and skin. It's also smart to switch to detergents without dyes and scents. If this doesn't work, a scent-free, gentle moisturizer might do the trick. Some healthcare providers and pediatricians recommend waiting to use moisturizer until your baby is a month to 2 months old, so it’s a good idea to check in with your healthcare provider before starting. The best time to apply a moisturizer is just after your baby’s bath.

Another tactic to take against your baby’s dry skin is to think about bathing her a little less often, or limiting soap and shampoo use to just once or twice each week. She only really needs to bathe a few times a week her first year, and bathing strips her of the natural oils that keep her skin from drying out.

Keep her from catching rays

your baby’s fresh, new skin is particularly vulnerable to the sun, and should not be exposed to direct sunlight until she is six months old. Under six months, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises against using sunscreen. The best, safest way to keep her from getting her first sunburn - one milestone you might want to put off reaching for as long as you can - is to keep her out of direct sunlight, and avoid taking her on walks during peak sun hours. Make liberal use of hats, lightweight long-sleeved clothing, little your baby-sized sunglasses, breathable blankets, and the sun-shade on her stroller. Once your baby is older than 6 months, it’s time to introduce sunscreen, but that doesn’t mean you should stop with the long sleeves and the hats. During peak sun hours, it's smart to limit direct sun exposure at any age.

Be sensitive to your baby’s sensitive skin

Try washing your baby’s clothes and bedding before putting your baby into it. She may not actually thank you for putting her in clothes made of soft fabric without rough tags, washed in a mild, baby-safe soap, but not having days when you can’t figure out what’s wrong with her as she fusses all day over an itchy fabric or turns up with a mysterious rash from one of the perfumes in your favorite detergent is sure to be thanks enough.

Don’t be rash

  • Cradle cap: a common rash in babies, typically peaking between 3 to 12 months. Its origin is unknown, but it's thought to occur from maternal hormones that cross into the placenta during pregnancy. Cradle cap appears as a flaky, scaly, yellow-brown coating over her skin, which, if it flakes off, can show redness underneath. Cradle cap usually shows up on your baby’s scalp, but can also show up on her face, bottom, or in her skin folds, like behind her knees and elbows. Cradle cap will often go away on its own, but you can help to get rid of it by washing her hair gently with warm water and a mild soap, combing her hair with a fine soft brush, or by gently massaging olive oil or baby oil into the affected areas. If the rash is moderate to severe, the pediatrician may prescribe topical steroids to help with treatment.
  • Diaper rash: these rashes are very common as babies tend to pee and poo at a much faster rate than their parents can change their diapers. These rashes are called “irritant dermatitis,” or inflammation of the skin from excess moisture. They typically look like red and scaly rashes that stay confined to the diaper area. Irritant diaper rashes are most easily treated just by keeping your baby clean and dry, and by changing her diaper promptly. If your baby is recovering from a diaper rash, giving her some time outside of a diaper to ‘air out’ can help her recover, and patting rather than rubbing her dry may prevent irritating already sensitive skin. Diaper rash cream can also help to create a barrier between the diaper and skin. Make sure that you choose a zinc oxide based cream that doesn't contain extra scents of colors. The more basic the better.
  • Yeast infection: another common type of diaper rash are rashes caused by infection with yeast, on top of extra diaper moisture. Diaper rash yeast infections are generally accompanied by thrush, and are caused by the ingestion of yeast. These infections appear as a bright red, raised rash, that may have fluid visible under the skin, or may develop into pustules. Unlike the simply irritated kind of diaper rash, this type isn’t easily treated with home remedies, so it’s a good idea to check in with your pediatrician about how to treat it. If you're breastfeeding, you may also notice a yeast infection on your nipples. If you do, check in with your healthcare provider to receive treatment to avoid passing on an infection.
  • Heat rash: heat rash (also known as sweat rash), like the name implies, happens in extreme heat, and is caused by blocked pores which cause sweat to build up under the skin instead of being sweated out. This is normal and very common as babies have immature sweat glands and so instead of sweating, they overheat. In addition, excess heat and friction commonly cause this kind of blockage, which is why heat rash often shows up on your baby’s neck, and in her skin folds when she is held tightly or over-bundled. Heat rashes usually go away on their own once your baby is cooled down, but if it doesn’t go away in a few days, or if it gets worse, it’s time to consult your pediatrician as it might be caused by something different.
  • Eczema: known as "the itch that rashes," eczema commonly appears as patches of red, dry, itchy, scaly, crusted skin on the cheeks, neck, backs of legs, and fronts of arms. Eczema is fairly common in babies (though it is sometimes a sign of a potential future food allergy) and sometimes clears up on its own. Make sure you protect your baby's skin by using mild baby soaps that are scent and dye-free and use them as sparingly as possible. Pat her dry after a bath and cover her liberally with petroleum jelly to help lock the moisture of the bath. Trim or file her nails to prevent scratching, and even try gloves if she lets you. You can also help by keeping your baby out of extreme temperatures and keeping her from being exposed to any texture that seems to irritate her skin. Evidence suggests that a diet rich in probiotics can be helpful for eczema as well.

  • Lawrence E. Gibson. “When is it OK for a baby to wear sunscreen?” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, June 8 2016. Retrieved October 25 2017.
  • Laura A. Jana, Jennifer Shu. “To Bathe or Not To Bathe.” HealthyChildren. American Academy of Pediatrics, November 2 2009. Retrieved October 25 2017.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Baby bath basics: A parent’s guide.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, October 25 2016. Retrieved October 25 2017.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Cradle Cap.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, August 4 2017. Retrieved October 25 2017.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Diaper Rash.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, May 8 2015. Retrieved October 25 2017.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Heat Rash.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, January 20 2015. Retrieved October 25 2017.
  • “Baby Sunburn Protection.” HealthyChildren. American Academy of Pediatrics, January 25 2013. Retrieved October 25 2017.
  • “Bathing Your Newborn.” HealthyChildren. American Academy of Pediatrics, November 2 2009. Retrieved October 25 2017.
  • “Cradle Cap.” NHS choices. GOV.UK, January 4 2017. Retrieved October 25 2017.
  • “Diaper Rash.” MedlinePlus. U.S. National Library of Medicine, October 3 2017. Retrieved October 25 2017.
  • “Eczema: How to Help Your Child Avoid the Itch.” HealthyChildren. American Academy of Pediatrics, November 24 2015. Retrieved October 25 2017.
  • “Taking Care of your Baby After the First Few Weeks.” Kaiser Permanente. Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington, March 1 2014. Retrieved October 25 2017. 

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