Many doctors suggest you give your baby a bath every day if she has eczema. Baths add moisture to dry skin and get rid of bacteria that can cause infections.
"It can be fun for baby, and it's good for bonding with the parents," says Amy S. Paller, MD, a professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University. "It's a wonderful way to get hydration into the skin."
Use fragrance-free, mild soaps or soapless cleansers for sensitive skin. Keep baths to 5 or 10 minutes. Pat your baby dry to retain some moisture on the skin, then apply moisturizer.
To soothe dryness and itching, put moisturizer on your baby's skin at least twice a day.
Dry skin can make eczema worse and cause more inflammation, says Lawrence F. Eichenfield, MD, a professor of pediatrics and dermatology at the University of California, San Diego. Moisturizing often helps break what he calls "the itch-scratch cycle."
Thick, moisturizing creams and ointments work better on your baby's skin than lotions, which have more water. If your doctor has prescribed anti-itch cream, put it on before the moisturizer.
You may want to switch moisturizers, depending on the season. Petroleum-based ointments are ideal for cold-weather months but too thick for summertime. A lighter cream is better in warm weather.
Organic and natural baby products are popular. However, most have herbs and plant-based products that can cause reactions in babies with sensitive skin.
"People think about organic products as being healthy," says Nanette Silverberg, MD, director of pediatric dermatology at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York. "But most kids are going to be sensitive to some extract, fragrance, or flowers."
Silverberg suggests you ask your doctor for the name of a product line that’s been proven to work well for children with skin sensitivity.
Consider Diluted Bleach Baths
Silverberg suggests them for babies older than 6 months who have moderate or severe eczema. They're especially helpful if your baby has crusting on their skin. Bleach helps remove staph bacteria -- a known eczema trigger -- without antibiotics.
Talk to your pediatrician before giving your baby a bleach bath. If you do, use 1 teaspoon of bleach per 1 gallon of water or 1/4 cup per full bathtub.
Sound harsh? Silverberg says it's just like putting your child into a swimming pool with chlorine. What’s more, it may give your baby fewer flare-ups and more comfort.
There are special mittens you can put on a baby's hands to stop her from scratching. But the older she gets, the less likely they are to work.
Keep your child's fingernails cut short and filed with an emery board so they're not sharp. That’ll lessen irritation. If you notice your child scratching more than usual, take her to the doctor. He can prescribe anti-itch medicine.
Keep Clothing Loose
Tight outfits can trap sweat against your baby's skin. That can lead to rashes and itching. Dress your baby in layers of soft, loose-fitting, breathable cotton to keep her comfortable.
At night, it may help to swaddle her in a cotton blanket. That helps many babies sleep better.
Avoid Eczema Triggers
Fragrances: Products with them can cause reactions. Use unscented products whenever you can.
Detergents: Ask your pediatric dermatologist to recommend a gentle, fragrance-free laundry soap.
Rough fabrics: Consider your wardrobe, too -- change out of a wool sweater before cuddling your baby.
Saliva: Babies who drool when eating or sleeping can get rashes on their faces. Saliva can irritate sensitive skin. Put petroleum jelly on your baby's cheeks before mealtime or naptime to create a barrier between the saliva and skin.