I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen it – parents take their perfect little newborn home from the hospital then call or come in a week later near tears over the fact that their baby’s skin is … well, less than perfect. Newborn skin is very thin and fragile and needs time to get adjusted to the new environment outside of the womb. As a result, newborns are prone to skin ailments literally from head to toe. From cradle cap in the north to diaper rash in the south, these skin conditions, while common, can be very distressing for parents. Here are some tips for taking care of your baby’s skin:
Keep bath time short. Your little one does not need to soak in a bathtub full of bubbles twice a day on a daily basis. Fill the tub with about two to three inches of warm (not hot) water and wash your baby off with a clean, wet cloth. This should take two to three minutes max and certainly doesn’t need to be done multiple times a day. Too frequent, too long, too soapy, or too hot baths are very drying to your baby’s delicate skin and can ultimately lead to irritation and rashes.
I often get the side-eye for saying this, but avoid sweet-smelling soaps and lotions. I know from personal experience how exciting it can be browsing the baby product aisle and stocking up on all the scented baby washes and lotions but it’s really best to leave them on the shelf. Your baby’s skin is very sensitive and many of these washes and lotions contain perfumes, dyes, and other chemicals that can be irritating to your little one’s skin. Stick to fragrance-free soaps and washes for cleansing and natural oils for moisture.
Yes, you can wash your baby’s hair! I’m not sure which “old wife” spun the tale about not washing your newborn’s hair but she is responsible for a whole lot of cases of cradle cap! Be sure to choose a mild shampoo and gently wash your baby’s scalp and hair two to three times a week to prevent scale build-up. Massage a natural oil into the scalp after shampooing to keep the scalp from drying out.
Change diapers frequently. Most diaper rashes are caused by wet diapers staying on too long. It’s best to change the diaper as soon as you realize it’s wet. If you are changing your baby’s diaper frequently, but find that they are still developing a diaper rash, it could be that their diaper is too tight or they are having an allergic reaction to a diaper. It’s not unusual for parents to have to change brands due to allergic reactions. Alternatively, you can use a reusable cloth diaper.
Not every rash requires a cream. If I had a dollar for every time a parent asks, “Doc, I can’t get one cream for this rash, ay?”, I’d be a very wealthy woman. Many newborn rashes from milia, to erythema toxicum, to baby acne are self-limiting. Furthermore, many of the creams that parents request won’t work on them, anyway. Most skin rashes just need time and patience and eventually go away on their own.
Your baby’s skin is extremely sensitive and won’t always be blemish-free. It doesn’t make your baby any less perfect. Remember that your pediatrician is here to help you raise happy and healthy kids. If your baby has a skin ailment you are worried about, don’t hesitate to reach out.
• Dr. Tamarra Moss is a pediatrician committed to helping you raise happy and healthy kids. You can find her at Dr. Carlos Thomas & Pediatric Associates in New Providence, Lucayan Medical Center in Grand Bahama, or on Instagram @mykidsdoc242.