Caring for your newborn's skin
Nothing is more soft and touchable than your newborn’s delicate skin, so it's understandable that you would want to keep it in tiptop condition. With hundreds of baby skin care products on the market, it's easy to become convinced that the latest moisturising formulas are the best option for your little one. However, when it comes to your baby's skin, less is most definitely more. Here is our guide to caring for your newborn's skin:
Vernix -- the guardian of your baby's skin
At birth many babies are covered in a white, waxy substance called vernix, which protects her skin from dehydration while in the womb. Although vernix is often quickly washed off or wiped away, experts have suggested that allowing it to be absorbed naturally into the skin may be more beneficial. Studies have shown that not only does vernix act as a moisturiser, it also has anti-oxidant properties and can provide protection from bacterial infections such a E. coli.
Caring for dry skin
If your baby was overdue, it is likely that her skin may appear dry and flaky as much of the vernix will have already been absorbed. While it may look as though it requires treatment with a moisturising cream or lotion, the best thing to do is wait for the dry layer to peel away on its own. Within a few days your baby's skin will look perfect again.
Caring for the nappy area
If your newborn is suffering from nappy rash, apply a thin layer of clinical proven barrier cream. Wherever possible choose a cream that is free from perfumes, preservatives, colours and antiseptics.
Bathing your baby
Current NICE guidelines for postnatal care recommend that "cleansing agents should not be added to baby's bath water nor should lotions or medicated wipes be used. The only cleansing agent suggested, where it be need, is a mild non-perfumed soap."
For the first two to four weeks your baby should be washed with plain water only. After this time, a mild pH neutral cleanser can be used, although it is preferable to alternate plain water baths with those that contain a cleanser. It is also recommended that you limit bathing to two or three times per week.
Bath time safety
In order to safely bath your baby:
- Always prepare the room where you will be bathing your baby in advance. Make sure the temperature is between 24oC to 27oC and ensure that you have everything that you will need to hand, such as a warm towel and clean clothing.
- Wash and gently dry your baby's face and head before removing her clothes.
- Ideally, use a thermometer to check the water temperature. Aim for between 34oC to 36oC, and never exceed 37oC. If you don't have a bath thermometer, use your wrist to ensure that the water is no hotter than body temperature.
- Bath time should last a maximum of 5 minutes so that your newborn does not loose too much body heat
- Wash your baby by hand, with cotton wool or with a soft sponge rather than a flannel as this may be too harsh for your baby's skin.
- Never use bath products that are intended for an adult as they are unsuitable for a baby's delicate skin. There is also no need to use shampoo on an infant under one.
As premature babies skin is particularly delicate, it is important to avoid bathing too frequently or using harsh wash cloths, creams or soaps. Recent research has suggested that massaging a premature baby's skin with pure vegetable-based oil may offer some protection from skin infections.