In the months after you bring your baby home from the hospital, you might have questions on how to best care for your newborn’s skin. You know babies have sensitive skin, but what does that mean as far as moisturizers? Should you use them every day, sparingly or not at all?
Peeling and flaky skinNewborns often have flaky and peeling skin. You might think his or her skin looks very dry and your first reaction might be to apply moisturizing lotions to help heal the skin. This isn’t actually dry skin. Babies have** vernix**, or a covering over their skin to help protect it in the womb. Some babies shed the vernix before birth, others do so after birth. The peeling and flaking is a normal process and does not cause any discomfort or itching for your baby. Lotion is not necessary and is not going to speed up the process.
Dry skiany doctors indicate that moisturizing lotion is not necessary for a baby in the first few months. Some believe moisturizers should not be used because babies can absorb chemicals in the lotions through their skin. Other doctors indicate that moisturizers are usually not needed for newborns, but they can be used sparingly; think “less is better.” Once your baby is more than a few months old, you can add moisturizers to your regular bath routine.
Some babies do have dry skin and might have skin that splits, especially around the ankles and hands. You can use moisturizing lotion in these areas. Keep in mind that frequent baths can dry a baby’s skin. Your baby only needs a bath every two to three days, and make sure you are using non-soap, gentle cleansers. If you do notice dry skin, apply moisturizer when your baby’s skin is still damp from the bath.
Choosing a moisturizer
If you do choose to put moisturizer on your baby, you want to make sure the product is gentle. Most products specifically made for babies are fine. However, check the labels to make sure the product is:
- Fragrance and dye free.
- Hypoallergenic (this doesn’t mean a product is gentler; it means that it is less likely to cause an allergic reaction).
- Phthalate and paraben-free.
When to talk to your doctor
Most times, dry skin doesn’t cause discomfort. If your baby seems uncomfortable, the skin is red, you notice a rash or it seems like the skin is itchy, talk with your pediatrician. Eczema is a common childhood skin condition and might need to be treated with medicated creams. Eczema occurs most often on the face, arms and behind the knees.
Eczema: American Association of Pediatrics
Newborn Care: ABC Pediatrics
Skin Problems in Children: Frequently Asked Questions: University of Iowa Children’s Hospital