Caring for Your New Baby’s Skin
You may be wondering why your new baby's skin isn't perfect. Babies have very sensitive skin, especially during their first few months of life. Happily, most of the problems you will see on your baby's skin are not serious. They are temporary and will go away on their own with little or no treatment.
By the time you come home with your baby, or soon afterwards, you may see what is called “baby acne” on their face. The spots have that name because they look a little like acne. Baby acne is the result of high levels of hormones that mom has passed on to the baby through the placenta. Within a month or so, these will go away as the hormone levels drop. Babies can also have milia, another name for white heads, and they too will go away.
Cradle cap is an inflammation of the scalp that often goes away on its own, but may need a little treatment. You will see greasy scales on the baby's scalp in a “cap” pattern. It is recommended that you put a tiny amount of baby oil on the baby's scalp, and then rub the area gently. That may loosen the scales. Then you must simply wash the baby's head and hair with mild baby shampoo. If the rash involves more than the scalp, for example on the face, neck, or under the arms, a cortisone cream may be needed. You need to see the doctor if the cradle cap is getting worse instead of better.
If you or others in your family have had asthma, hay fever, and eczema, your baby is more likely to develop some of the same conditions. Eczema (also called atopic dermatitis) causes red, scaly, patches on the skin of the chest, face, arms, legs, elbows, and behind the knees. You need to stay away from chemicals that can cause allergies. You may need to use more gentle soap. You should only use detergent made for baby clothes in the laundry. You should not use dryer sheets, which leave chemicals on clothes that cause allergies. If your baby has increasing areas of redness, you need to see the doctor. The doctor may prescribe a cortisone cream for eczema.
Almost every baby has diaper rash at one time or another. Obviously, you need to change the baby's diaper as often as possible. Diaper rash is usually bright red and under the diaper area. You can treat it with an over-the-counter cortisone cream. It is also good to let the area dry out, if possible, by leaving the baby's diaper off for a little while. Ointments with zinc oxide can be used to protect the skin from contact with urine or feces. If diaper rash is spreading, if you see blisters, or if it does not improve with treatment, your baby needs to see the doctor.
Soaps & Shampoos
You should use only baby shampoo in small amounts on your infant and the most gentle you can find. Tom's of Maine makes good baby shampoo. The same thing is true for soaps. Natural ingredients may be better; although some babies can be allergic to specific natural ingredients. If you ever see a rash after using a new product, stop using the new product, and go back to what you were using previously.
Until the baby's umbilical cord comes off, you should only be sponge bathing your baby. After the cord falls off, you can put him or her very carefully into a baby bath. Remember that babies do not need to be bathed every day, but you need to keep the diaper area and the face clean. Be very gentle with a soft cloth, warm water, and mild soap.
Babies 0 to 2 months old should not be in the sun. They should be in the shade, in a carriage with a cover. If they are out of the stroller, they should wear hats and long-sleeved cotton clothes. No sunscreens are advised for young babies. The same is true of insect repellents. Keep the baby covered at this young age.
Your baby will be examined by a doctor before you leave the hospital, or within a few days if you leave early or deliver somewhere else. You should be told if the baby has “baby acne” or any other normal skin condition. If the baby develops a new rash after that, or a rash that is worsening with pus or blisters, you need to take your baby back to the doctor.