Baby skin care

After birth, a baby's first touch begins a lifetime of discovery. The skin is the body's largest organ, allowing the sensations of heat, cold, pressure, touch and pain. It plays a major role in body temperature and fluid control and it's the body's first line of defence against the elements. So infant skin is something we want to nurture, protect and keep healthy.

Infant's skin is much more permeable and vulnerable than adults'. It hasn't built up any tolerance to the environment and is less able to ward off bacteria, toxins or infection. The goal of infant skin care is to minimise skin irritation and that means proper cleansing and maintenance.

You need to avoid over-bathing and use a mild non-soap cleanser that will help prevent dehydration by keeping the fat in the skin.

Nappies create a moist, warm environment which is in constant and direct contact with a baby's skin. Warmth and over-hydration may contribute to the growth of bacteria, so it is important to change nappies as often as possible.


Nappy Rash

Your baby will enjoy being nappy free for a while to let the skin breathe.Still, no matter what you may do, your baby may develop a nappy rash.This can be anything from slight redness to severe swelling with sores and weeping areas.A slight rash can become more serious if it is not treated.

Simple nappy rash is a burn-like rash in areas touched by the nappy. If the rash does not clear, the skin may break and become infected.
A common infection in the nappy area is Candida dermatitis (thrush) - a bright red shiny rash with sharply outlined patches, often with smaller spots out of the main area. The creases of the skin may also be red.

See your doctor if:

the rash spreads outside the nappy area
the rash worsens after two days of treatment
sores or yellow spots begin to appear
your baby also has a fever, is irritable, is not eating or shows other signs of illness

To treat nappy rash, apply a nappy rash cream over the inflamed skin.


Common skin problems

Dry skin that peels after birth
When a baby is full term or a little late, parents may see a little bit of peeling of the skin, particularly around the wrists and by the feet and ankles. Moisturisers can be helpful for smoothing out the skin.

Infant acne
Tiny red or white pimples are a result of the mother's hormones circulating through the baby's system. They usually appear at about two weeks of age and nothing needs to be done because, as the hormones leave the baby's system, the acne will disappear.

Heat rash
This may develop in hot, humid weather or if the baby is dressed too warmly. The pores in the skin become blocked, causing small pink pimples. This can be avoided by not overdressing your baby and by not overheating your baby's room. When the humidity drops very low, in a cold environment, the skin begins to crack and flake.

Cradle cap
This shows up as crusty patches in the scalp and eyebrows and is caused by overactive glands. Gently rub baby oil on your baby's scalp and leave on overnight to dislodge the crust. Loosen the scales gently using a comb before washing and rinsing your baby's hair.

Can occur whenever skin rubs against skin or there is friction between baby's clothing and skin. Use a small amount of baby talcum, cornstarch powder or lotion on the skin and avoid rough fabrics or tight clothes. Cotton clothes are very soft against the skin. Don't use woollen clothing without another layer of clothing between the wool and your baby's skin as wool is very harsh on the skin. Some polyesters can be scratchy as well.

Protection from the sun
Is essential, as babies are more susceptible to the harmful ultraviolet rays. Infants burn not only from direct sunlight but also from reflected sunlight from water, sand and concrete. Ensure that your baby's head is covered with a wide brimmed hat; dress your baby with protective clothing and use a very high protection sunscreen, formulated for tender young skin, on the exposed areas.

Skin allergies
Are reactions caused by many factors - genetic, environmental and bodily. To develop an allergic skin rash you need to come in contact with a substance and then have an immune response against it, so that when you're re-exposed to that substance you get the rash. Not every rash your baby develops is a true allergy, it is often a common skin irritation, so it is advisable to have the infant evaluated and see what other things may be going on.

Your baby is born with perfect skin, and generally you can keep it that way. Protection is essential. Prevention is the key. Healthy skin can often mean a happy baby.

Bathing your baby

Bathtime provides that special opportunity for holding, touching and bonding.

When is the best time to bathe your baby?
Really any time that fits in with your routine. Choose a time of day that's not too hectic or busy so you can devote your full attention to your baby.

It's better to bathe your baby before a feed, as long as he or she is not hungry.

Never leave your baby unattended. If you need to leave the bath, just wrap your baby up in a towel and take her or him with you.

After your baby's bath
Soothe and moisturise your baby's skin by gently massaging with baby lotion or baby oil. Apply a barrier cream, nappy rash cream or powder as necessary.