Baby skincare – a new way of thinking

newborn baby skin

Everyone loves that new baby smell – that unique soft fragrance that makes you think of downy hair and petal soft skin. Unsurprisingly most baby shower gifts contain at least one skincare product.

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 influences both current rashes and the baby’s risk of skin 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.

READ MORE: Tips to survive the first 6 weeks of motherhood.

Straight after birth, your baby will have a white substance on the skin called vernix caseosa. This is nature’s own moisturiser and gives added protection against infection in the first few days. Therefore you should delay the first bath until it is absorbed, a process which may take a few days.

Babies are born with an alkaline skin surface, which changes within a few days to an acidic skin pH. This forms an ‘acid mantle’, a very fine film that rests on your baby’s skin. In turn, the acid mantle protects the skin against infection, balances moisture and stores fat.

Furthermore, 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:

A little note- we recommend some of our favourite products in this blog. These are not sponsored, these are just products we love and use.

  • Avoid using any baby skincare products on your baby in the first month of life. As babies are not dirty, 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 the baby’s skin.
  • Learn to read labels on baby skin care –  choose skincare products that are free of the chemicals Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES) and Sodium Laurel Sulphate. (SLS). We love the Oh Lief range of baby products- proudly South African and free of any nasties.
  • Avoid washcloths as these are harsh. Rather hand-wash your baby or use a soft natural sponge.
  • Baby’s skin may well appear dry and cracked, especially if your baby was born after 40 weeks. However, you should not be tempted to use cream, oils and lotions, as these may do more harm than good. The top layer of the skin will peel off over the next few days, leaving the skin perfectly healthy underneath.

Skincare for specific areas 

  • Avoid baby wipes for the first month. Rather clean the buttock area with cotton wool and water or reusable fabric wipes. We love these fabric wipes from Bamboo Baby as well as these from Pokkelokkie. Once wipes are introduced, choose brands which are mild and free from strong perfumes, like these from Oh Lief.
  • 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.
  • 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 the baby’s nails short to prevent him from scratching himself. File baby’s nails with a soft file to smooth any sharp edges.
  • There is no need to use shampoo for babies under one year old. Instead, just rinse baby’s hair with water.

Other household products 

  • While laundering baby’s clothes, do not overload the machine to ensure thorough rinsing. We love this natural detergent from Triple Orange.
  • 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 long run it may save you a lot of trouble.

Luckily all is not lost! If you really want that new-baby smell, sprinkle a tiny bit of baby powder on your baby’s clothes. Just be sure to do this away from your baby, so that your baby doesn’t accidentally inhale any powder, which is harmful to your baby’s lungs.

Christine Klynhans is a midwife and lactation consultant with a firm believe that gentle parenting can change the world. She has worked in midwifery since competing her B.Cur nursing degree in 2004, and has a special passion for education and for writing. She currently works in a well-baby clinic and give antenatal classes and breastfeeding support. She enjoys working with parents of babies and toddlers, aiming to help them find gentle solutions to their parenting problems and assisting them in incorporating healthy habits and natural health alternatives into their daily lives.

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