What to Do If Your Baby Has Chapped Lips

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on April 14, 2023
3 min read

Your newborn is especially susceptible to skin conditions. When they were in the womb, they were coated in a thick, white substance called vernix, which protected their skin. Now, their body has to self-regulate all its systems—including their skin, which is the largest organ of the body.

While most conditions are harmless, there are times you may be concerned by the appearance of your baby’s skin. But what about chapped lips?

Similar to adults, your baby’s lips can get chapped when the weather is cold and dry. Chapped lips can also occur from too much friction, such as licking lips or breastfeeding. While your baby shouldn’t have excessive sun exposure because exposure to the sun can be another common reason for chapped lips.

Since a baby’s skin condition can appear worse than it actually is, you may be alarmed by how their chapped lips look. But, rest assured; it’s very normal.

If you are breastfeeding, your baby’s lips may appear dry after nursing because of the constant contact with your skin. They also may develop a blister on their lip from friction during nursing. 

Many parents confuse this with chapped lips. Seeing a blister on your baby’s lip is very normal when breastfeeding. Just be careful that you don’t pop the blister. Instead, allow it to heal or come off on its own without intervention.

Your baby’s skin is very sensitive, and you should be cautious of any products you use on their skin, especially on their lips, because these products may be easily ingested. Medical professionals recommend against your baby ingesting anything   milk or formula for the first several months of life. Accidentally feeding your baby something else, no matter how small in quantity, can introduce bacteria to their sensitive gut.

Breast milk. Breast milk is the best option for treating chapped lips. You can either squeeze out milk from your breast directly onto your baby’s lips, or you can use a few drops of previously extracted milk. If you aren’t breastfeeding, ask a friend if they have a few ounces of extra breast milk you can use for your newborn.

Petroleum jelly. Since petroleum jelly is mild and has no additives, it is a great choice for your baby’s chapped lips. Use the tiniest amount and spread it across their lips, being careful not to get any inside their mouth.

Unscented chapstick. It is very important to read ingredient labels on any products before using them on your infant. Just because something seems mild to you doesn’t mean it will be mild enough for your baby. Ingredients to stay away from are as follows:

  • Camphor
  • Eucalyptus
  • Lanolin
  • Menthol
  • Octinoxate or oxybenzone
  • Phenol (or phenyl)
  • Propyl gallate
  • Salicylic acid

Be aware of added flavors or smells in chapstick, too. Common scents and flavors, like cinnamon, citrus, and peppermint, can especially irritate your baby’s skin and smell very strong to their sensitive nose.

Although it’s easier said than done, you can take some steps to keep your baby’s skin and lips from getting dry again once you’ve helped them heal.

Use a humidifier. If the air where you live is generally dry, try plugging in a humidifier close to where your baby is sleeping. The added moisture in the air will prevent their lips and skin from drying out.

Protect from the elements. If you take your baby out and the weather is cold and dry, be sure to protect their sensitive skin. You can use protective items like hats, mittens, socks, and clothes to cover their body as much as possible. You can also throw a blanket over the handle of their baby carrier or car seat as you walk to and from the car for added protection.

While you don’t want your baby to overheat, they also need protection from the sun. Invest in a sunscreen approved for infants. While you shouldn’t apply it to their lips, you can keep your baby safe from sun exposure by applying sunscreen to their exposed skin.