Most babies are not born with flawless, peachy skin! In fact For the first few days and weeks after birth, rather than being smooth as a baby’s bottom, your newborn’s skin may well be blotchy and slightly spotty.
There are some things that may cause you concern, but for the most part each blemish, lump and bump is completely normal. Here are some things you may want to keep any eye out for:
- Milk Spots – He may develop tiny white spots (commonly called milk spots but actually caused by his sweat glands beginning to work) across the top of his nose or on other parts of his face. These spots are harmless and will disappear by themselves.
- Rashes – His immature circulation may mean that he suddenly develops an alarming-looking blotchy red rash on his face, neck or trunk, but this is likely to go away as quickly as it appeared. Newborns often get heat rashes (tiny red spots) too, which disappear when the baby cools down.
- Baby Acne – Don’t be tempted to squeeze or pick any spots your baby has. If you’re worried about them, talk to your midwife or doctor, but be reassured that baby acne is very common and (as with teenagers) is a result of hormonal fluctuations after birth and (if breastfeeding) in breastmilk. Baby acne usually disappears between 3 and 6 weeks after birth, so it’s nothing to worry about – it won’t bother your baby, so try not to let it bother you!
- Vernix – Your baby was probably born with some vernix (a creamy white substance that protected his skin while he was in the womb) on his skin, particularly in the creases. This gets absorbed into his skin or rubbed off in the first day or two. There’s no need to wash it off.
- Wrinkled skin – If your baby was born late, his skin may be a bit wrinkled at first.
- Dry & peeling skin – You may find that your baby’s skin is dry and peeling, especially on his hands and feet. This usually goes within the first week.
- Skin colour – black babies may look rather pale-skinned at first. It can take some months for their skin to take on its permanent colour.
Caring for your newborn’s skin
At birth, the top layer of your baby’s skin is very thin and absorbent and this can mean it is more sensitive to damage from germs, chemicals and water loss. Over the first month (longer in premature infants) your baby’s skin matures and develops its own natural protective barrier. The maintenance of this barrier is vital and damage can lead to the development of skin conditions. Early use of products when the skin is sensitive can sensitise it and cause long term problems. If we allow newborn skin a chance to develop its own protective barrier, we can help give it a ‘head-start’ to cope with the outside world.
If you choose to bath your baby, it is safer to use just plain water for at least the first month. After this time, small amounts of products can start to be introduced when their effect is less likely to cause any harm as the baby’s skin will be stronger and hopefully won’t become sensitised. By waiting until your baby’s skin is stronger, this can help avoid the development of allergic conditions.
Contrary to popular belief, most babies don’t need a bath every day. Most babies may only need to be bathed two or three times a week, or every other day, and a top and tail the rest of the time is fine.
- It’s important to wash your hands before and after carrying out any baby care
- The skin of a newborn is very delicate and sensitive, and so the current advice is to avoid any baby products for the first few weeks to help reduce the likelihood of your baby developing rashes, spots or cradle cap
- First baths should be carried out using only plain water
- Vernix (the white creamy substance that covers your baby’s skin in the womb) should always be left to absorb naturally. This is nature’s own moisturiser and gives added protection against infection in the first few days
- Avoid using wash cloths/synthetic sponges as they can be harsh. Instead use cotton wool or a natural sponge
- A baby comb can be used gently to remove any debris from thick hair after birth. You should consider having a baby brush and comb set in your baby’s bag
- The ears and nose should also be left alone and cotton buds should be avoided
- Continue with this regime for the first 2-4 weeks, then if you want to, gradually introduce tiny amounts of baby bath product. This should be of neutral pH, contain minimal dyes and perfumes and be used only 2-3 times a week
- Shampoo is not necessary for a baby under 1 year old. However, if you do use shampoo, ensure it is sulphate free (SLS and SLES)
- A thin layer of petroleum jelly or nappy rash cream can be used to protect against nappy rash
- Baby wipes should be mild and alcohol-free. They should also be avoided in the first 2-4 weeks (use cotton wool and water)
- Don’t use baby powder as talcum powder can cause lung problems if inhaled
- Any bedding or clothes that will come into contact with the baby’s skin should be washed in non-biological washing powder and rinsed well
- If you use a fabric conditioner, try to use products that are free from colours and perfumes