Nothing is sweeter than the soft, smooth skin of a newborn. As he starts to grow, you can take these five simple steps to keep the skin feeling pampered and feeling good.
1. Rethink Bath Time
It’s great if you enjoy it as a nightly ritual. But when time is short, know that you don’t have to fully bathe your baby more than twice a week -- at least until he’s crawling around. 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, of University of California, San Francisco. “Water everywhere else was fine.”
Choose a mild liquid cleanser that won’t dry out your 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. Also, follow basic safety guidelines -- support your baby’s head, and test the temperature of the water on the inside of your wrist, for example. Gather your supplies before you get started. Never leave your baby while she’s in a bath -- not even for an instant.
2. Block the Sun
When you take your baby out in the daytime, use these items 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 guards against UVA and UVB rays) with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15
For babies younger than 6 months, try to keep them out of direct sunlight as much as possible. When you take them out, apply sunscreen only to small areas that might be hard to cover with clothes, such as the face and hands. Rub it in well. You can use it all over 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., when the sun is strongest.
Sunscreen sticks or blocks with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide might be gentler on skin. Reapply it every 2 hours or after your baby sweats or gets wet.
3. Be Careful With the Baby’s Laundry
When you wash your little one's clothes, use a detergent that's free of perfumes and dyes.
“Many brands carry a ‘free and clear’ product,” Theos says. “Fabric softener, in any form, should be avoided.”
You can use the same product for the entire family.
“A rash could appear anywhere on the body that is covered by clothing, or on the face, due to contact with bedding or parents' clothing,” Theos says.
That brand-new, soft baby skin needs to be moisturized, just like yours.
Use a fragrance-free emollient cream or ointment immediately after the bath to keep dryness at bay, Theos says.
Moisturize more frequently if your little one's skin is dry, during winter months, or if he has eczema.
“Creams and ointments are preferred over lotions, which are more likely to irritate a newborn's skin,” Theos says.
In wintry climates, use heavy moisturizing cream on your baby at least twice a day, Badreshia-Bansal says. “The greasier, the better,” she says.
5. Soothe What’s Sensitive
Diapered skin is often wet, exposed to a lot of friction from rubbing -- and then there’s the poop. All can irritate a baby’s skin.
To take care of this sensitive area, change your baby’s diaper often. Cleanse the area gently with disposable wipes that are alcohol- and fragrance-free, or use a damp washcloth.
Let your baby “air out” when possible, and use a barrier cream before putting on a new diaper.
You can use a barrier ointment such as petroleum jelly after every diaper change. It helps keep your little one's skin from getting too wet and raw.