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Baby Maintenance: Baths, Nails, and Hair

Taking Care of Baby: Cradle Cap

It's common for babies to develop flaky, red patches of skin on their scalp called cradle cap. It's not a big concern and is easy to treat. Here's how:

  1. Before a bath, massage a little bit of petroleum jelly, olive oil, or baby oil into your baby's scalp to loosen the dry skin. Oils or lotions derived from or containing nut products should be avoided until after 5 years of age.
  2. Gently rub the oil into your baby's scalp with a soft brush or washcloth to release the flakes.
  3. Wash baby's hair with a gentle baby shampoo.

Cradle cap should get better on its own. If it sticks around or spreads to baby's face, neck, or other parts of the body, see your doctor. You may need a stronger prescription shampoo for your baby's hair and a cortisone cream for your baby's body.

Taking Care of Baby: Cutting Nails

Because your baby's fingernails grow very quickly and babies can easily scratch themselves, file or cut the nails about twice a week. Your baby's toenails don't grow as quickly. You can probably get away with cutting them a couple of times a month. Just watch out for any jagged edges that you may need to trim.

Whether you opt for baby scissors, a baby nail clipper, or a nail file is up to you. Considering the tiny size of baby's nails, decide which one you're most comfortable using. Filing generally runs less of a risk that you'll cut your baby's skin. Never bite off your baby's nails -- you could give her an infection.

Here are some tips to make cutting nails easier:

  • Cut nails after a bath, when they're softer. Sometimes it helps to trim a baby's nails when the baby is asleep and relaxed.
    If you use scissors or a nail clipper, press the skin under the nail down so you can get to the nail more easily. It may help to have your partner hold the baby's hand steady the first few times so you can concentrate on cutting.
  • Trim her fingernails following the natural curve of the nail. Cut toenails straight across.
  • Use a nail file after clipping to smooth any jagged edges.
  • If you accidentally nip baby's skin with the scissors, apply gentle pressure with a tissue or piece of gauze. Use a tiny bit of ointment on the cut. Don't put on a bandage because your baby could choke on it.
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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Roy Benaroch, MD on August 03, 2014
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