Newborn baby skin is extremely delicate and so caring for it in the early weeks can feel a bit daunting.
However when it comes to baby skin, less is actually more! You don’t need to do a whole lot as a parent to keep your baby’s beautiful peachy skin healthy.
In fact one of the key things you can do is not to pile on tons of creams, lotions and potions, or over-bathe your newborn.
When it comes to products you use on your baby’s skin, choose brands aimed specifically at newborn skin.
There are lots on the market at various price points, you do not have to spend a fortune to get a moisturiser and bubble bath that will be kind to your newborn’s skin!
This post will give you some simple ways to care for your newborn baby’s skin and show you that skincare in the early months does not need to be overcomplicated!
I’ve had two very different experiences of newborn skin with my two girls. My first baby had wonderful, clear skin from birth. Apart from a tiny amount of cradle cap we never had to worry about her skin drying out and simply bathed her twice a week, then moisturised her after every bath.
My second has had terrible eczema since she was born and this was very stressful in the first year as it would become extremely inflamed at times.
If your baby has eczema, you may also like these posts about our eczema journey:
Action plan for treating baby eczema
7 tips for treating eczema in babies
Winter skincare tips for babies with eczema
We have had lots of trial and error with my youngest daughter when it comes to finding the right treatment for her. However after advice from specialists we now know exactly what to do to help her when she has an outbreak.
1. Do not bathe every day
Newborn babies do not need to be bathed every day. The top layer of baby’s skin is extremely delicate and can become damaged easily.
Frequent bathing risks drying out the skin, so try to bathe once or twice a week at absolute most. You can wipe away any residual milk around the mouth, face and neck using cotton wool balls soaked in water.
The NHS advises to not use any products on baby’s skin for the first few weeks as there are some studies that have shown this can lead to problems such as eczema or allergic reactions.
When you do bathe baby, you can do the first baths in plain water. If you do use products in the water, stick to newborn-friendly ones and try using an emollient in the water to keep it soft.
2. Be careful with the moisturiser
Some newborns have dry patches, especially if they were overdue and the skin has dried out a little from those extra days in the womb. The protective vernix on their skin has been absorbed during those extra days before birth.
The NHS advice is to leave these dry patches and do not use any creams or lotions on the skin. The top layer will eventually peel off and leave smooth newborn skin underneath.
But if your baby is a few weeks old and still has dry patches in certain areas, then use some newborn moisturiser after every bath time. It’s best to use moisturiser without fragrance or dyes that is specifically for dry baby skin.
If the dry skin is particularly bad, you can use a newborn moisturiser twice a day, or at every nappy change, to help.
Common places for dry patches on babies include the tops of the feet, behind the knees and in elbow creases.
Always speak to your midwife or health visitor if you are worried about dry patches.
3. Change frequently
To avoid nappy rash, change your baby’s bottom regularly. The skin develops a rash if it has been in contact with urine or faeces for too long.
Some brands of newborn nappies have an indicator line on the front that will darken when the nappy is wet. This saves you having to touch or check the nappy visually inside.
You don’t have to use a barrier cream at every single nappy change. But if your baby’s bottom shows the early stages of nappy rash then you may want to start using one at every change.
Nappy rash can also be caused by the nappy rubbing in certain areas so check you are using the correct size of nappies. Also try not to dress your baby in tight clothing.
Nappy rash presents as red spots. There may just be a few to start with. They can cover the bottom, groin areas and then spread to the thighs too if it becomes worse.
A more severe nappy rash is known as a candidal nappy rash. In these cases, the rash is bright red and elevated patches. There may be raised blisters around the rash.
If you think your baby has a candidal nappy rash you should take them to see a doctor or health visitor to get an anti-fungal treatment.
For a standard nappy rash make sure you are changing baby’s nappy frequently and keeping the skin clean. You could switch wipes for cotton wool soaked in water to be more gentle on the skin.
4. Give their butt some air
One of the most effective ways to prevent and cure nappy rash is giving baby’s bottom some air.
This might seem like a risky endeavour, but you can take a few steps to prevent any mess.
Pop a towel, or a large muslin folded in half, down on the floor before you pop your baby down on top of it.
It’s worth putting extra towels down in front of where their bottom is as poo and wee can fire out and travel quite a surprising distance! Cover as much of the floor around them as you can just in case.
Give your baby 20 to 30 minutes of nappy-free time. You could coincide it with tummy time or their usual play time.
5. Use a good barrier cream
Using a barrier cream such as Sudacrem or Bepanthan can help to prevent nappy cream.
Smear a small amount all around their bottom and groin area. You don’t have to rub it in until it disappears.
You could try using a small make-up brush to apply it in order to keep your hands clean.
6. Use an emollient in the bath water
This can be particularly useful if you live in a hard water area. Whether or not you have hard water depends on where you live. It means the water has a higher mineral content and so can be harsher on the skin.
Regardless of the type of water you have, it can be really good for baby’s skin to use an emollient in the water. You can buy bath products for babies that soften the water.
You can also use your own homemade version. Simply put some oats in a pair of tights, pushing them right down to the toe of the tights. Next tie a knot in the tights and put it in the bath and run the water.
Squeeze the tights and you’ll see the water turn a creamy colour. This is great for helping to nourish the skin!
7. Pick cotton material for clothes
Materials such as wool and polyester will irritate newborn skin, especially if your baby has eczema or particularly sensitive skin.
Opt for simple cotton clothing, and try to use light layers for cold weather to keep your baby warm.
If your baby gets too hot, they can develop heat rash. This will present as tiny raised red spots and may be itchy.
If your baby does get heat rash you should strip them down and dab them with a lukewarm cloth to cool them down. Try to dress them in clothing that suits the temperature of the room. If you’re unsure you can get a GroEgg which tells you when the room is too hot.
8. Remember the folds of their neck
Babies have necks, but they kind of disappear underneath the folds of cute baby fat.
Most babies will dribble a little during or after a milk feed, and this can drip down to their neck where it can get trapped in the folds of the neck. If the milk is not wiped away, the milk can congeal and start to smell as well as irritate the skin.
If you are struggling to reach the folds of baby’s neck, then try this trick. Lay them down on their back, somewhere like the changing mat is a good spot.
Next encourage them to look upwards. You could dangle a toy above their head, or just behind it, so that they have to lift up their chin.
Now you should be able to get to their neck. Give it a good wipe with some cotton wool soaked in water or a wash cloth.
Try to do this every day before putting your baby to bed.
9. Be careful in the sun
Because baby’s skin is so much thinner than adult skin, it is very vulnerable when it comes to the sun.
Babies should be kept out of direct sun for the first six months. Use hats and sun shades to keep baby in the shade.
Take particular care to keep baby in the shade when the sun is at its most intense during the day, which is usually from around midday to 3pm.
You can cover baby’s skin with very light cotton layers so that they don’t get too hot, but their skin is covered to provide maximum protection from the sun.
On a hot day, it can be tempting to cover the open part of the pram with a blanket or muslin. Try to avoid doing this. It can cause the inside of the pram to overheat to dangerous temperatures.
You can buy parasols that fit to your buggy in order to provide shade for your baby.
When you are choosing a sunscreen for your baby, look at both the SPF rating and the UVA star rating. The star rating goes up to five and you should try to pick out one with a higher star rating as this offers more protection.
There are lots of tips for picking out a safe sunscreen over on this post.
The NHS also has lots of great advice for keeping babies safe in the sun.
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