Caring for a baby’s skin and hair can be a loving yet tricky endeavour. Parents would naturally do their best to keep their little ones’ hair and skin as healthy and touchable as possible. If you are a new parent and are not quite sure how to go about caring for your baby’s delicate skin and hair, let this guide show you how.
Experts have testified that infants and babies and in some cases, toddlers don’t need baths every day. At least, not the kind of baths that use skin cleansers and washes. Unlike older children or adults, babies don’t get their skin dirty so much so that it would need thorough cleansing. Two to three times a week would suffice.
Skincare experts also advice that bath time for infants and babies should be a deliberate act of tender loving care, using nothing more than a rinse of clean, warm water for the whole body and gentle soap or cleanser for areas which need to be cleansed like genitals, underarms, hands and feet.
Toddlers might appreciate a short, refreshing shower. Ideally, these should be more like freshening-up sessions instead like scrub-me-down ones. A child’s skin simply does not need that kind of cleansing treatment! By all means, let your toddler enjoy his once or twice daily short showers but do remember to moisturise the skin afterwards. Do this while the skin is still damp, to lock in precious moisture for healthy and problem-free skin.
Baby baths and washes
A baby’s skin is very vulnerable. During the first few weeks, avoid using perfumed baby bubble baths or washes as they may cause an uncomfortable reaction. What kind of cleansing product you choose for your child depends on what suits your child. There are kids who have super-sensitive skin which needs specialised skin care products, while there are children whose skin agrees with any kind of product.
There are plenty of gentle bath or wash ranges which are made especially for your baby’s delicate skin. Some have natural essential oils, others contain milk proteins or vitamins or extracts of mild flowers, herbs or plants. Choosing baby toiletries such as baby washes, baths or soaps are often a matter of trial and error. Not every product will work for your baby the way it is advertised. The best way is to try several products till you find one that best suits your baby.
Baby in a bath tub
Opt for a baby bath that is made of strong plastic, is fitted with a non-slip base and has a wide lip to minimise splashing. Always test the water yourself before placing your baby in the bath.
Many companies now sell bath inserts to make it easy for you to bathe your baby in the family bath tub. These inserts can be used for very small babies to help your baby feel secure and to take pressure off your arm. However, do not let yourself drift into a false sense of security! Keep an arm in contact with your baby at all times.
When preparing a bath for your baby, you should always prepare everything in advance. If you have forgotten something, take your baby out of the bath and take him or her with you. Never ever leave your baby unattended in water, not even for a second, as babies can drown in less than an inch of water, faster than a few blinks!
Lotion, cream or ointment to moisturise?
A baby’s skin is extremely delicate and may dry out easily, leading to skin irritations and rashes. Fortunately, there is no shortage of treatments and skincare products for babies – Lotions, creams, ointments… with all those brands out there, how would we know which product will suit your little one’s needs?
For a start, let’s get to know the difference between the composition of a lotion and a cream (or an ointment for that matter). The main differences lie in their water content. Creams are richer in oils and have less water content than lotions and are excellent for locking in moisture while ointments have very little or almost no water content! Creams and ointments may be a tad more of a hassle to apply and they tend to leave a greasy film. Ironically, therein lies their moisture-locking properties. Lotions on the other hand smoothes on easily and most disappear into the skin without a trace. However, they have quite a high water content, which is why they evaporate from the skin quickly and are less effective than their oilier counterparts when it comes to keeping the skin moisturised for longer.
Tip:Whichever you choose: ointment, cream or lotion, it will be most successful in locking more moisture in your little one’s skin if you apply it within three minutes after a bath or shower.
If you’re a parent faced with a baby with troubled skin, chances are you would already have an arsenal of creams and ointments to treat it. Babies on the whole are inclined to rashes, particularly diaper rash.
Diaper rash may be very mild or quite extensive with tender red bumps that spread to your baby’s tummy and thighs. Diaper rash is normally no cause for alarm. To have to deal with it is quite a general part of baby care. Diaper rash is more common in babies compared to toddlers.
Identifying the causes diaper rash
Chafing and chemical sensitivity. Your baby’s diaper rash may be the result of friction when the diaper rubs against his skin. This is especially so if baby is particularly sensitive to chemicals like the fragrances in a disposable diaper or the detergents used to wash a cloth diaper.
New foods. It’s common for babies to get diaper rash when they begin weaning or are introduced to a new food. Any new food changes the composition of the stool, and it will take time for baby’s sensitive skin to get used to it.
Infection. The diaper area is warm and moist – basically a playground for bacteria. The cracks and folds also makes the diaper area the ideal place for yeast to flourish and cause rashes.
How to keep baby’s diaper area less prone to rashes:
- Change baby’s diaper often
- Expose baby’s bare bottom to the air for as long as possible
- Make sure baby’s diaper is fitted properly
- Slather on diaper rash creams and ointments after each diaper change
- Avoid using baby wipes with perfumes or alcohol, which can be irritating to an infant’s skin
Baby Hair Care
When caring for a newborn’s hair, the trick is to be as gentle as possible. Infants generally don’t have much hair. Even if they do, it’s soft and fine, hence there is no need for daily washing.
When washing an infant’s hair, be very careful to avoid applying pressure to the soft spot on the top of the child’s head. Be sure to go very slow and easy. Make sure that there are no tangles in the hair before washing it to avoid unnecessary tugging. It would be a good idea to gently comb through the hair to remove any tangles before shampooing.
The choice of shampoo is another important factor to consider for new parents. Nowadays, there are so many to choose from! Many parents opt for specially made baby shampoos that promise not to cause irritation if the soap comes in contact with baby’s eyes. Most baby shampoos are specially designed to gently cleanse, moisturise and protect your baby’s scalp and hair and are much softer on the skin than those designed for adults.
When choosing a baby shampoo, you should look for one that is free of soap and alcohol and that is hypoallergenic and dematologically tested. If your baby has sensitive or dry skin you should avoid baby shampoos that are perfumed or contain fragrances. Organic and natural baby shampoos are always a good choice. These are designed to be kinder to the environment as well as your
baby’s hair and skin and they often use essential oils in place of chemically derived fragrances.
Akin to dandruff on an adult’s head, cradle cap is anything but cute. It may appear flaky, oily and may look like crusty patches on a baby’s head. Fortunately, cradle cap is not harmful. It is not known to bother babies at all. It is known to appear during the first few months of a baby’s life and clears up on its own in around six months times. Experts believe that the hormones a baby receives from his or her mother towards the end of pregnancy over-stimulate the baby’s seborrheic glands (oil producing glands), resulting in cradle cap.
Cradle cap is harmless. However, if it bothers you that your baby’s head is covered with it, here are some ways you can manage it.
- Using your fingers, give baby a gentle scalp massage.
- Use a soft brush or a terrycloth towel to loosen the flakes on baby’s scalp.
- After shampoo, be sure to rinse baby’s hair and scalp thoroughly.
- Try baby shampoos developed especially for cradle cap.
If your baby has a case of stubborn cradle cap, you can also try this: Gently massage a small amount of natural oil such as almond or olive oil, preferably organic, on your baby’s scalp and leave it on for about 15 minutes. Then, using a fine-tooth baby comb, gently comb out the flakes or brush them out with a soft brush. Follow up by washing your baby’s scalp with a gentle baby shampoo. Be sure not to leave oil on his head, for it could clog the pores and cause the flakes to adhere more stubbornly onto baby’s scalp.
Newborns and babies have delicate, vulnerable skin that might burn easily from exposure to the sun.
These tips come highly recommended for protecting newborns and young babies from the sun:
- Put on a brimmed hat for baby when you take him or her outdoors. Choose one that shades the neck.
- Keep baby comfortable covered in loose-fitting cotton clothes.
- When baby and you are outdoors, keep in mind that the sun’s damaging rays easily reflect off the ground, so keep baby in the shade whenever possible.
Use a sunscreen or sunblock made specially for babies – one that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Apply the sunscreen each time you venture outdoors with your little one, even on cloudy days. Don’t neglect those easy-to-miss spots like the rims of the ears, the lips, behind the knees, and the tops of the feet and hands.
And no matter what your little one’s age is, try to adhere to the following:
- Avoid exposure to the sun during its peak intensity, which is between 10a.m. and 4.30p.m.
- Apply a sunblock or sunscreen at least 20 minutes before going into the sun.
- Reapply the sunscreen every two hours.
- Stay covered up on hot, sun-shiny days, even with sunscreen on.