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Expert Q&A: Bathing and Soothing Baby’s Skin

An interview with Jeremy F. Shapiro, MD .
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WebMD Feature

Guidelines for baby skin care can seem complicated -- full of recommendations about using this and avoiding that. But caring for baby’s skin isn’t really that difficult.

Sometimes new parents overdo it with products that aren’t necessary for babies.

To understand some of the best ways to care for your newborn baby’s skin, WebMD talked with Jeremy F. Shapiro, MD, MPH, FAAP. This California pediatrician and father of three discussed some of the top baby skin care questions he hears from new parents and what he recommends when caring for a newborn’s tender skin.

What are the three most common baby skin care problems, and how can parents solve them?

Diaper Rash: Never a day goes by without an office visit or phone call about diaper rash! There are many reasons for diaper rash. The most common include fungi or bacteria, pooping a lot, and dietary changes in the diet of the baby or breastfeeding mother.

No matter what the cause, I typically recommend that parents stop using baby wipes and instead use a warm-water cloth to clean the baby, then air-dry after each diaper change. I also recommend using a non-scented barrier cream to treat the rash. If the diaper rash gets worse, it’s important to talk with your pediatrician about further treatment.

I always remind parents to take comfort that diaper rashes will ultimately be gone forever because one day your child will no longer need diapers -- though it usually it takes a little time to get there!

Cradle cap: This is another common skin care problem and a very normal part of your baby’s skin development. Cradle cap doesn’t have a very pleasant appearance, but other than a little itching, it typically won’t bother your baby.

The No. 1 thing I do for cradle cap is to provide reassurance. Cradle cap will eventually go away. But if you really want to use something, try applying a little olive oil twice a day, let it sit for a few minutes, then brush off the flakes. If the cradle cap persists, a very low strength topical corticosteroid might be used, but definitely talk to your pediatrician before going further.

Baby acne: This occurs because of the transfer of maternal hormones across the placenta at the end of pregnancy, which increases the oil gland production on your baby’s skin. The acne itself typically occurs around four weeks of life. To treat baby acne, all I recommend is warm water and a clean cloth. Like cradle cap, baby acne also goes away in time.

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