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Nothing is sweeter than the soft, smooth skin of a newborn. Your baby’s skin is a protective barrier, too. It will continue to change through her first year of life. Here’s how to keep it pampered and feeling good.

1. Rethink Bath Time

Even if you enjoy baby’s bath time as a nightly ritual, know that you don’t have to fully bathe him more than twice a week, at least until he’s crawling around and rubbing sweet potatoes in his hair. The rest of the time, sponge baths around the diaper area, mouth, and any skin folds (around armpits, thighs, and double chins), will do the trick.

You don’t even need to lather him up. “As a mom and dermatologist, I used soap only where needed in the areas with folds,” says dermatologist Sonia Badreshia-Bansal, MD, a clinical instructor at University of California San Francisco. “Water everywhere else was fine.”

Choose a mild liquid cleanser that won’t dry out baby’s skin or sting her eyes. “Soap-free liquid cleansers that are both fragrance- and dye-free are preferred,” says pediatric dermatologist Amy Theos, MD, of Birmingham, AL. “Some of these do not lather much but are still effective cleansers.”

Avoid bar soap and bubble baths. And remember to follow basic safety guidelines such as supporting baby’s head, and testing the temperature of the water on the inside of your wrist. Assemble your supplies beforehand, because a baby should never, ever be left alone in a bath. Not even for a second.

2. Block the Sun

Keep your baby out of the sun as much as possible. When she goes out in the daytime, dress her in the following to cover and protect her tender skin:

  • a hat
  • tightly woven clothing with long sleeves and pants
  • sunglasses with ultraviolet (UV) protection
  • a broad- spectrum sunscreen (that blocks out both UVA and UVB rays) with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15

For babies younger than 6 months, apply sunscreen only to small areas that might be hard to cover with clothes, such as faces and hands. Rub it in well. You can apply sunscreen to all skin areas of an older baby’s body, but be careful around his eyes. Also, try not to take him out between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. This is when the sun is the strongest and can do the most harm.

Sunscreen sticks or blocks with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide may be gentler on baby’s skin and help prevent tears. Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours or after baby swims or sweats.