Caring for a baby’s skin and hair can be quite tricky. These days, the rate of skin issues such as eczema and dermatitis are on the rise like never before. Needless to say, so are the productions of pharmaceutical products that are made to counter these issues. Parents would do practically anything to avoid their little ones from being effected by skin problems, including trying out latest new skincare products for their babies. While many of these products have indeed been tested as safe and effective for babies, a newborn baby with no skin health issues may need very little to naturally keep his or her skin clean and healthy. If you are a new parent and are not quite sure how to go about caring for you baby’s delicate skin and hair, let this special guide show you how
The point where skincare for infants, babies and toddlers converge is bath time. How often, is, often the question asked here. Experts will testify 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 aren’t doing anything on a daily basis that makes their skin dirty so much so that it would need to be cleansed with soap everyday. Just two to three times a week would be enough.
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 which should be regarded more of a freshening-up session instead of a scrub-me-down one. 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 not neglect to moisturize the skin afterwards while its still damp, to lock in precious moisture so that bub’s skin will remain healthy and problem-free.
When using 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. Some baby baths are designed to change colour if the temperature is too hot – however, to be absolutely safe, always test the water yourself before placing your baby in the bath.
Many companies now sell bath inserts 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.
Baby baths and washes
The kind of cleansing product you choose for your child should depend on what suits him. There are kids who have super-sensitive skin which needs specialized skin care products where else there are children whose skin agree with any kind of product.
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.
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, while still others contain extracts of mild flowers, herbs or plant
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 to work. The best way is to try several products till you find one that best suits your baby.
Newborns and babies have sensitive skin If you are one of those conventional parents
who simply cannot make do without soaps at bath time, do opt for the mildest body soaps available when bathing baby.
Until baby is older, avoid the use of the following:
- Perfumed soaps
- Antibacterial soaps
- Deodorant soaps
As your baby grows older and becomes a toddler, any soap that is good enough for the family would be good enough for junior. Having said that however, anyone, be it a toddler, teen or adult, may have reactions to new soaps or any other skin or hair care item, so do keep an eye out for redness or irritation whenever a new product is used.
Be wary of SLS and SLES
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and its Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) are commonly used as foaming agents in many soaps, washes, shampoos and even car washes! They are surfactants behind the delightful suds and bubbles associated with most baby ‘bubble’ baths, washes and shampoos. Research has showed that concentrations as low as 0.5% of SLS or SLES could cause irritation even in adults with sensitive skin. Just imagine the potential irritation to a baby’s skin! Concentrations of 10 – 30% has been known to cause skin corrosion and severe irritation. Read the labels of baby skincare products carefully before purchasing. Opt for products which omit the use of SLS or SLES as much as possible.
Lotion, cream or ointment to moisturize?
A baby’s skin is extremely delicate and may dry out easily, leading to skin irritations and rashes. The good thing this is, we are never faced with a shortage of treatments and skincare products for babies – Lotions, creams, ointments… with all those famous brands out there, how would we know which product will suit a little one’s needs?
For a start, lets 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 moisturized 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 of a bath or shower.
While they’re too young to mind
Baby skincare experts advocate the use of creams and ointments for infants’ delicate skin to keep it moisturized and rash free. Tanya R. Altmann, MD, pediatrician, and author of Mommy Calls: Dr. Tanya Answers Parents’ Top 101 Questions About Babies and Toddlers states that one good reason ointments work best for babies, is that usually a baby doesn’t mind being slathered in a greasy ointment, but toddlers often do.
If you’re a parent faced with a troubled skin baby, chances are you would already have in your possession an arsenal of creams and ointments to treat it. Babies on the whole are prone 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 a general part of baby care. Diaper rash are more common in babies compared to toddlers.
Identifying the causes of 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 he’s particularly sensitive to chemicals like the fragrances in a disposable diaper or the detergents used to wash a cloth diaper. Similarly, the lotion you’re using for baby’s diaper area might not be suitable for your baby’s delicate skin.
- 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. Consuming solid foods will also increase your baby’s bowel movements, where baby’s skin will come into contact with stools more often than usual.
- 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
- Don’t put baby’s diaper on too tightly — but don’t put it on too loosely either
- 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.
With a little patience and proper care baby’s rash should clear in three or four days. However, if your baby’s rash appears to be blistered, with oozing patches or has pus-filled pimples or open sores, it may be infected. A doctor may have to prescribe an antibiotic for it.
Baby Hair Care
The key factor when caring for a newborn’s hair is to be as gentle as possible. Infants generally don’t have much hair. Even if they do, its soft and fine, hence there is no need for washing on an everyday basis.
When washing an infant’s hair, be very careful to avoid applying pressure to the soft spot on the top of the head. When washing the hair and the scalp of a baby or young child, 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 your baby’s hair to remove any tangles before shampooing.
You will find it easiest to gently recline your little one while holding them in the bath for a hair wash.
Sometimes, when held in this position, infants might experience a protective reflex and may look momentarily frightened. While holding your child securely, speak in a comforting tone of voice to help put him or her at ease. By doing every little thing you can to make hair-washing time an enjoyable experience for your baby, he or she will be more likely to practice good hair and scalp care in the future.
The choice of shampoos 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 your 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. Most baby shampoos are free of sulphates. If your baby has sensitive or dry skin you should avoid baby shampoos that are perfumed or that contain fragrance.
Organic and natural baby shampoos are always good choices. These are designed to be kinder to the environment as well as your baby’s hair and skin and often use essential oils in place of chemically derived fragrances.
Generally, baby shampoos tend to have a higher pH-balance, which may lead to more tangling of the hair. One option is to use baby shampoos when your child is very young and has sensitive scalp and then switch to very mild shampoos as your child ages and grows more hair.
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 what doctors refer to as infantile seborrheic dermatitis. Its something we commonly know as cradle cap. 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 the head. Fortunately, cradle cap is not harmful and not known to bother babies at all. It appears during the first few months of a baby’s life and clears up on its own in around six months time.
Cradle cap is really nothing to worry about. 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 are very sun-sensitive and their delicate, vulnerable skin might burn easily from exposure to the sun. A dab of sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher can be used on a newborn’s cheeks and hands when clothing and natural shade doesn’t provide sun protection.
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 comfortably covered in loose-fitting, cotton clothes.
- Keep baby in the shade whenever possible. When baby and you are outdoors, do keep in mind that the sun’s damaging rays easily reflect off the ground.
Use a sunscreen or sunblock made specially for babies and toddlers – 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, try to adhere to the following:
- Avoid exposure to the sun during its peak intensity, which is between 10 a.m. and 4.30 p.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.