How to Care for Newborn Skin: Tips from a Dermatologist

Adult cups a newborn baby's tiny, delicate feet.

First, there’s the thrill of finding out you’re pregnant. Then, the adventures that come with carrying, and later, giving birth to your long-awaited baby. You take him home and suddenly realize you are in charge. That can be unnerving. The idea of caring for this tiny, delicate thing is daunting at best. How do you even bathe a person this small and fragile? The answer: practice. To keep your baby safe and his skin healthy and clean, pediatric dermatologists have a few helpful tips.

Keeping your newborn baby clean is not as complicated as it seems. After all, they really aren’t doing very much and they haven’t started the messy process of eating solids at this stage. No tomato sauce in unseen places. Yet.

One of the most important tasks is to ensure your baby’s diaper area is thoroughly cleaned each time you change him. Always wipe from front to back and make sure the area is dry and/or treated with diaper ointment or a water barrier before putting the new diaper on. Air dry if you have to. Just remember to change frequently. You do not want a baby sitting in a wet diaper for too long. Moisture can really take a toll on that delicate baby skin.

How to Avoid Diaper Rash

A diaper rash is not something either of you want to experience, and keeping baby’s bottom clean and dry is the best way to avoid it. Diaper rash is usually considered a form of contact dermatitis. Other factors can be new foods or food intolerances—dairy is a big one here—diarrhea, and antibiotics. If you change diapers frequently, diaper rash is a pretty good indicator that something your baby is ingesting is the problem. Keeping a food log is a great way to narrow down offending foods. If you are breast feeding, what you eat is equally important.

Bathing Your Newborn

When it comes to cleaning and caring for the rest of your baby’s skin, let’s talk about bath time. This can be one of the most endearing yet also one of the more nerve-racking parts of becoming a new parent. Babies are equal parts delicate and wiggly. All you need is a bit of confidence and a few dermatologist tips for bathing your little one, and you are on your way.

The fact is, you really only need to bathe your newborn two to three times a week. Bathing too often can dry out your baby’s skin and contribute to eczema. In the first few weeks, it is only recommended that you sponge bathe. To do so, wrap your baby in a towel and lay him on a flat surface, always keeping a hand on him. Use a washcloth with lukewarm water to gently wipe his face, scalp, neck creases, and behind the ears. You only need to use soap for dirty areas. Use fragrance-free baby soap and warm water to gently wash the rest of the body. Rinse off any soap when you are done.

Once the umbilical cord falls off and heals, then you can start giving real baths. This is the fun part. You may choose to do this in the sink or in a plastic tub in your bathtub. Fill your basin with lukewarm water and test it with your wrist to ensure it is a safe temperature. You don’t need to fill it too high; just enough to sit in. Use a wash cloth to wash the face and scalp, doing your best to keep it out of his eyes. You only need shampoo once or twice a week. Again, only use soap in dirty areas. Don’t forget to wash between toes and fingers where dirt, hair, and lint get trapped. Then, rinse off any soap. Immediately wrap him in a towel and moisturize liberally with fragrance-free lotion or petroleum jelly. Then, cuddle all you like. That’s the best part.

For any questions regarding caring for your baby’s skin, request a consultation online or call us at (973) 571-2121.

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