Your bundle of joy has finally arrived in the world, and you couldn’t be more ecstatic. It’s hard to believe how a tiny, precious human being has suddenly become the center of your universe…which means that every sniffle and cough most likely puts you on high alert. The same can be said about sudden rashes that may surface during your little one’s first year.
But not to worry. Rashes are actually common in a baby’s first year of life. Below are the basics of infant skin care along with some tips to help you keep your baby’s skin healthy and smooth during her first 12 months. The basic principles are to avoid products containing nasty-chemicals, fragrances, talc, and dyes, and to keep your baby well hydrated and their skin moistened.
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Babies don’t need frequent baths like you and I do. In fact, bathing infants more than three times a week during their first year of life only serves to remove the natural oils that protect their skin, leaving it vulnerable and dry, which can aggravate or cause eczema, an inflammatory and itchy condition. Simply wash your baby’s face when needed and their bottom whenever their nappy is changed; warm water is sufficient.
When you do give your baby a full bath, do so only two to three times a week (again, in warm—not hot—water). A good tip: add olive oil (yes, from the kitchen!) in the bathwater to reduce skin water loss. Because babies have no acid mantle covering their skin, water loss through the skin is increased and occurs more quickly, causing dehydration.
Remember to be gentle as you bathe your baby as well, as her skin is incredibly sensitive. That said,there is no need for soap. You can use a soft sponge or washcloth for her body and a cotton ball moistened in water or cleanser to dab around her face. If your baby has cradle cap, massaging olive oil gently into the scalp can soften cradle cap so that it is more easily brushed out.
Finally, don’t forget to apply baby lotion once your little one is dry, too, to help seal in moisture and prevent dry skin.
Limit your baby’s exposure to sunlight especially in her first six months. A baby’s skin contains less protective melanin, which results in easier UV penetration and quicker sunburns. If you absolutely have to have your baby in the sun, then UV protection is absolutely essential. Choose sun blocks over sunscreens, as babies are regularly touching their skin and then licking their fingers,and this can often lead to them ingesting sunscreens.
That said, make sure you use a UV protecting cream without chemicals or fragrances that is based on zinc. Zinc is a natural physical barrier to UV rays. These days it doesn’t need to be a thick white product either; micronised zinc is easy to apply and the white dissipates quickly. Apply it all over any exposed skin (including the face as well as the backs of ears, knees, and hands) at least thirty minutes prior to heading outside…even if it’s a cloudy day. Then reapply the sunscreen every two to four hours. This ensures your baby is getting the best protection.
Additionally, dress your baby to properly combat the sun’s harmful rays: a wide-brimmed hat, full-length, sun-safe clothing, and sunglasses. When dressing your baby, always opt for breathable, natural layers, too. Babies have underdeveloped sweat glands and are therefore susceptible to heat rash. Loose clothing helps to prevent this.
Bring an umbrella with you to the park (be sure to use UV blocking shade cloths on your car windows!) and seek the shade outside whenever possible. Keep a close eye on your baby all the while. If her skin appears to be reddening, you’ve stayed out too long and it’s time to take her indoors immediately. Always keep your baby well hydrated and cool, and if possible, avoid those warmer hours between 10AM and 2PM.
Heat rash doesn’t just occur in the summertime. Babies can also get heat rash from being dressed too warmly during the winter months. Again, always opt for dressing your baby in layers to help prevent sweat glands from getting clogged up.
In the winter time, cold and windy air has a tendency to leave a baby’s lips chapped as well. Apply a thin layer of lip balm on your baby’s lips to help protect the top layer of skin. A moisturizer should also be used on your baby’s cheeks, which can also peel and crack in the cold.
Remember to properly cover your baby’s hands and head with mittens and a hood in the cold, too. Exposed fingers are particularly susceptible to mild forms of frostbite.
As tempting as it may be to do everyone’s laundry in one fell swoop, your baby’s laundry should be done separately from the rest of the family’s. This includes everything from baby clothes and accessories to bedding and blankets. This ensures that your baby’s items aren’t coming into contact with other fragrances, dyes, or allergens that may be harmful to their developing immune system.
Another important reminder: be sure to wash your baby’s new clothes and linen before they are first worn to ensure chemicals are removed. The thinner outer layer of a baby’s skin is less protective, which means chemicals and fragrances can penetrate more easily and deeply, causing inflammatory rashes. These same irritants can also be released into the bloodstream more readily once they’re absorbed.
Additionally, avoid scented baby products in the early months, as these can sometimes cause bad reactions from your baby’s sensitive skin. This includes laundry detergents. There are detergents available specifically made for the washing of baby items and they typically are fragrance-free and dye-free.
Diaper& Nappy Changes
One of the most common rashes babies face in their first 12 months is the notorious diaper rash. Most of the time, diaper rash is simply caused by the irritating wetness of a soiled diaper. It can also surface if a baby’s skin hasn’t been properly dried after a bath or a change.
You can easily prevent diaper rashes by checking and changing your baby’s diaper frequently and immediately. When wiping, do so gently and thoroughly. Some baby wipes may be irritating to a baby’s skin, so you can also opt to use a simple washcloth as well. After using diaper cream, a fragrance-free cleanser, or warm water on your baby’s bottom, gently pat her dry. Then wait a few moments more to let the area air-dry before putting on a new diaper so that lingering moisture doesn’t lead to an irritating rash.
A final note: be sure to use fragrance-free diapers (some fragrances can cause allergic reactions in babies) and also be sure your baby’s wearing the proper size diaper, as a diaper that’s too tight can lead to chafing.
These are just some of the most common skin problems that surface during a baby’s first 12 months. What’s important is to stay vigilant and also be aware of any changes in your baby’s skin during this important time of their development. If you’re ever unsure about a rash, always consult a medical professional.
For the most part, however, baby skin rashes can be easily prevented or treated, giving you the peace of mind that your little one is always happy and healthy.