Your newborn's skin is ultra sensitive and very delicate.
It can't be treated in the same way or with the same products as adult skin. Perfumes, dyes and chemicals found in clothes and bedding, washing powder and even in baby products can cause rashes, irritation, dryness and chafing.
On the positive side, this sensitivity means your touch is especially important when it comes to soothing and nurturing and can be important in your baby's development.
Natural baby skin care
When it comes to baby skin care 'less is more'. Too much bathing removes the natural oils that protect baby's skin and can lead to problems later.
The skin of a newborn is wrinkly and covered in a white, creamy substance called vernix. During the first week of life this gradually peels off. You don't need to help this natural process along by rubbing the skin or treating it with lotions or creams. If baby was overdue the peeling stage will probably be complete before birth.
With the exception of dribble and nappy changes babies really don't get very dirty - so, for the first month or so, your baby will be safely clean with just a sponge bath 2 or 3 times a week. In between just clean baby's mouth and nappy area with squeezed cotton wool that's been dipped in plain warm water.
In the early months, when baby's immune system is still developing, don't use baby products. If there's a family history of allergies, skin problems or asthma, it's especially important to protect baby's immune system from irritating allergens.
Always wash baby's clothes and bedding before they're used. They may appear new and clean, and it may be tempting to use them straight from the packaging, but they will be better for baby once they're washed in a mild, fragrance free detergent and given an extra rinse. Wash baby's laundry separately from the rest of the family's washing.
Eczema in young babies often starts as a red, itchy rash mostly on the face, scalp and body.
Tips on preventing eczema and dry, irritated skin:
- Reduce bathing - try bathing once a week to retain natural oils.
- Limit baby skin products - if necessary, use only a small amount of lotion on dry skin areas.
- Avoid rubbing and chafing by making sure baby clothes are seam free and as soft as possible.
In babies under 6 months old eczema is sometimes connected with milk and egg allergies.
Check with your doctor before using over-the-counter lotions or creams to treat eczema because it may be your baby needs a prescription treatment.
Nappy rash is usually the result of baby being in a wet or soiled nappy for too long. It can also occur if baby isn't dried properly after washing.