Everyone loves the smell of a small baby – that unique soft fragrance that makes you think of downy hair and petal soft skin. A baby skincare product forms part of most baby shower gifts, and the beautiful packaging and lovely variety of products is inspiring.
But in recent years the guidelines of how you should care for your baby’s skin have changed drastically.
Skin rashes and irritations are among the most common baby skincare problems that mothers of new babies experience. Some of these rashes are considered normal, others not.
How you care for your baby’s skin not only affects the appearance of skin rashes right now, but can also lead to problems like eczema later on.
At birth a baby’s skin is not fully developed yet, and a few very important changes happen in the early days of life.
Babies are born with an alkaline skin surface, but within a few days this changes and the skin pH become acidic. This forms an ‘acid mantle’, a very fine film that rests on your baby’s skin. It protects the skin against infection, balances moisture and stores fat. There are also fat layers that must still be laid down in your baby’s skin in the first few months of life. These protect the skin against drying out and against irritation.
Baby skincare products can prevent these changes from happening.
Follow these baby skincare tips to protect your baby’s skin and prevent eczema and irritation:
- Straight after birth baby will have a white substance on the s in called vernix caseosa. This is nature’s own moisturiser and gives added protection against infection in the first few days. You should delay the first bath until it is absorbed, which may take a few days.
- Avoid using any baby skincare products on your baby in the first month of life. Babies are not dirty, and they don’t actually need to be washed with soap. Even mild soaps will interrupt the fat layers that need to be laid down in baby’s skin.
- There is no need to use shampoo in babies under one year old; hair can be just rinsed with water.
- Learn to read labels on baby skin care – after a month, choose skincare products that are free of the chemicals Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES) and Sodium Laurel Sulphate. (SLS).
- After a month, if you feel that a lotion is necessary, use an emollient based product. These are the lotions that are routinely recommended by most hospitals and paediatrians.
- Avoid wash cloths as these are harsh. Rather hand-wash baby or using a soft natural sponge.
- It is best to leave the delicate area around the eyes untouched. Sticky eyes can safely be treated with drops of breast milk.
- The ears and nose should also be left alone and should not be cleaned with cotton buds.
- Keep baby’s nails short to prevent him from scratching himself. File baby’s nails with a soft file to smooth any sharp edges.
- Baby’s skin may well appear dry and cracked, especially if baby was born after 40 weeks. Don’t be tempted to use cream, oils and lotions, as these may do more harm than good. The top layer of the skin will peel of over the next few days, leaving skin perfectly healthy underneath.
- Avoid baby wipes for the first month. Rather clean the buttock area with cotton wool and water. Once wipes are introduced, choose brands which are mild and free from strong perfumes.
- A thin layer of barrier cream can be used in the buttock area. The ideal preparation should be free from preservatives, colours, perfumes, antiseptics and clinically proven as an effective treatment for nappy rash.
- While laundering baby’s clothes, do not overload the machine to ensure thorough rinsing.
- Fabric conditioners, if used, should be mild and free from colours and strong fragrances.
You can know that most of these tips are the opposite of what friends and family will be advising you to do. But in the longer run it may save you a lot of trouble. And all is not lost!
If you really want that new-baby smell, sprinkle a tiny bit of baby powder on baby’s clothes. Just be sure to do this away from your baby, so that baby doesn’t accidentally inhale any powder, which is harmful for baby’s lungs.