We’re not talking about giving your baby face masks here...
But babies need skin care routines too. When we picture our perfect little newborns, we imagine their skin being silky soft, smooth and smelling so fresh you want it bottled as a perfume. In reality, that can be pretty far from the truth. Newborn skin can get pretty funky; it can be flaky, dry, bumpy, discoloured - you name it.
As a parent, you feel like it’s your responsibility to make sure your little one is happy and healthy, and if their skin concerns are making them uncomfortable, you want to kick into problem-solving mode. Whatever your little one’s skin woes are, try these tips & tricks first to see if the issue is from an irritant or is environmental:
SKIN CARE TIPS FOR EVERY BABY
Be careful with overbathing. Overwashing can dry out your babies skin and strip it from its natural oils. When you are washing, be sure to get into all those nooks and crannies, washing all the folds and behind the ears. Pat dry with a soft towel, making sure to get rid of all the excess moisture in all the creases.
Evaluate the environment. Common irritants include laundry detergent, food allergies (either in formula or in whatever the nursing person is eating), or just from gunk in the air like dust & germs. Switch up your cleaning products & diet and see if that makes a difference.
Go easy on the Vitamin D. Sunscreen isn’t approved for infants under the age of 6 months and babies can get overheated real fast (Too late? Scroll down to the section on prickly heat). Keep your baby out of direct sunlight and stay in cool environments.
While I am not a doctor prescribing your little one medications, feel free to use this guide as a first line of action before you make that appointment, or as complementary care to the regime your care provider has prescribed.
Diaper rash presents as a red bumpy rash on the bum, sometimes spreading to the upper legs or back. Almost all infants will have an experience with diaper rash, but some are more prone to a reoccurring rash than others. There are a variety of potential causes, from chemical irritation from the diapers themselves, keeping a soiled diaper on too long, food sensitivities, or even a bacterial/yeast infection. If the problem comes from diaper irritation, try to let your little one air it out by staying naked while at home. If that isn’t totally possible, change diapers as often as possible.
Many over-the-counter diaper rash products contain petroleum, which dry out the area even further. Keep it simple & natural with lotions and wipes by using oils found in nature. I recommend this gentle baby essential oil diluted with coconut oil, a bum balm made from olive oil or beeswax, or just plain coconut oil on active diaper rash.
Eczema presents itself in babies as dry, itchy, red patches of skin, often starting on the chin and cheeks and spreading all over their body. It is fairly common in babies around 4 months of age or older. With eczema, dry skin isn’t just cosmetic - it can relate to extreme fussiness or excess spit-up due to your little one’s discomfort.
Thought to be caused by a variety of genetic and environmental factors, there are a few different things you can do to treat eczema. Weather can be a big cause, either in the winter causing cracked skin from the dry air, or in the summer, where excess heat and sweating cause their skin to be irritated. Keep your baby in neutral climates could help, or keeping a humidifier in the nursery if seasonal temperatures can’t be avoided.
Keeping skin moisturized can calm the irritated and cut the flakes. Coconut oil is a great natural option that cools the itching and pain. Oatmeal baths are also a soothing solution - mix ⅓ cup of blended oats powder into running water for a 20-minute soak.
Just like the birthing person, your baby is also going through some crazy hormonal changes that can manifest in red and white bumps. Towards the end of pregnancy, the birthing person’s hormones can cross into the placenta, stimulating the oil glands in their baby’s skin. Don’t feel too guilty - approximately 20% of newborns have acne.
Baby acne has nothing to do with acne later in life, so there’s no reason to panic if you’re dealing with little bumps for your infant under 4 months. As hard as it may be, the best thing to do here is wait this one out. Don’t scrub, pick, or pop their pimples, as breaking the skin can increase their risk of infection.
One holistic treatment involves squirting your little one with breast milk and letting their skin air-dry. The lauric acid found in human milk has anti-inflammatory properties and can help calm down your little one’s breakouts.
Those yellow scales on your newborn’s scalp are just baby dandruff. While there’s no itching or irritation associated with cradle cap, unlike adult dandruff, it isn’t the cutest thing to look at and can cause redness. There are a few theories as to what causes cradle cap, including: yeast infection, gut imbalances, or elevated hormonal production in the birthing person (similar to what causes baby acne).
Since cradle cap isn’t hurting your little one, you are totally okay to wait this one out. However, if you want to address the potential maternal health issues that could be contributing to your newborn’s cradle cap, you could always incorporate a nursing-friendly probiotic or add an infant-friendly probiotic to their bottle.
Picking and exfoliating the scales might cause your infant more discomfort, so instead, you could try a hair mask pre-shampoo. Massage a natural oil, or a calendula infused cream onto their scalp for 5 minutes before shampooing. It’s spa day for your little one - they might fall fast asleep before bath time!
Nicknamed “milk spots,” milia are small white or yellow bumps found on the face, caused by dead skin trapped in little pockets along the skin’s surface. They cause your little one zero pain or harm, so no reason to panic. This is a super common in newborns and tends to dissipate by itself after a couple of weeks.
Being a cosmetic problem, treatment isn’t required. In adults, milia is removed surgically, so don’t try extracting these yourself - most will dissipate after 2-3 weeks. When washing your baby, don’t scrub too hard in attempts to exfoliate the millia away as that will only cause more irritation.
Heat rash, or prickly heat, shows up when your baby’s sweat glands are blocked. Little red blister-like bumps appear in unventilated areas like skin folds, armpits, or the back of the neck. Heat rash could cause zero discomfort, or be itchy and throbbing. The presentation of heat rash is your little one’s body telling you they are way too warm; newborns aren’t able to control their own body temperature, as the temperature regulator function only appears when they’re about 3 months old. If you’re feeling toasty, there’s a good chance your newborn is too.
Keep your little one cool by dressing them in loose, comfy clothes or going totally bare. Try not to keep them in the car for too long, even with A/C blasting. Cool them down with a wet washcloth on the back of their neck or inside of their elbows. Fresh cucumber slices on the site of the rash or aloe vera gel can offer some cooling as well. Avoid any lotions or heavy topical treatments, as they can clog your baby’s pores & sweat glands even further.
If the bumps start to fill with pus or a fever develops, its time to call in your care provider.
Your baby is perfect, just the way they are. Keep doing your best - you got this.
Looking for a second opinion? Bring in a postpartum doula to help guide you to all the right resources.