Babies are awesome.
When we normally use the word awesome, we mean awesome = great. It’s certainly true that babies are great! You won’t hear me arguing with that.
But here I’m using the word awesome in the old-fashioned sense. What I mean is that babies fill us with a sense of awe, wonder, and even reverence. The average newborn weighs around 3.5 kilograms, but when you hold one, it is as though you have the whole universe cradled in your arms.
To hold a baby is – if you will allow me to get a little philosophical – to get up close and personal with the wonder and splendour of what it means to be human.
With that awesomeness comes a reminder of something else: vulnerability, dependence, and – ultimately – fragility.
And that’s absolutely true for your baby’s skin.
Your Baby’s Skin
Congratulations! You have a newborn (or perhaps now a not-so newborn).
Their skin is incredible. Healthy skin helps to keep your baby safe from toxins in the outside world. It also protects babies against water loss and dehydration, dangerous microorganisms that can cause illness and interfere with the health and development of your child, and physical damage against essential internal organs.
Of course, all of this is true for your skin as well.
That said, the robustness of your baby’s skin continues to develop throughout their life. In other words, your baby’s skin is still fragile and susceptible to rashes, which means that effective baby skincare practices are an essential part of parenting.
Common skin conditions for babies include:
- Nappy rash. Nappy rash occurs when your baby’s skin is exposed to moisture and movement. For this reason, as the name suggests, it usually occurs in the nappy area, where moving skin comes into contact caused by damp urine and faeces. A baby with nappy rash will have red and red skin that may be sore or itchy and cause your baby to be unsettled.
- Baby acne. You might notice your newborn develop pimples on their face. They tend to become more severe before clearing up within a few months of birth. Acne that develops after your child is three months old can be severe and may require medical treatment.
- Cradle cap. Cradle cap refers to yellow patches that usually appear on the scalp of some babies, though they can emerge on other parts of the body also. Generally, this condition develops within the first few months of birth, and it often clears on its own. If symptoms persist beyond three months or if cradle cap turns red, becomes inflamed, starts to weep, or becomes excessively itchy, speak to your doctor about further baby skincare options. Your doctor or pharmacist may recommend light moisturising cream to help remove the cradle cap.
The good news is that many common baby skin conditions are not dangerous and will not impact the health of your baby in the long term. Of course, always speak to your GP if you have any concerns about your child’s health, if your child is unwell, or if you want specific baby skincare information suitable for your particular child and needs.
Looking after your baby’s skin
I remember once returning a pair of new leather shoes, unimpressed by the quality of the workmanship. I was disappointed; the shoes had been a gift, they looked great, and they were very comfortable. Unfortunately, they had started to fall apart after only a few days of wearing them.
The shopkeeper told me that they were falling apart because ‘they are made of leather, and leather is skin, and skin does not heal.’
This response seemed utterly perplexing to me. The thing about skin is that, under normal conditions, it does heal – imagine how terrible it would be if a graze you got when you were nine years old was still on your body!
After some discussion, I realised the shopkeeper’s point: you need to look after leather just as you would look after skin. I could not agree more. So, what baby skincare routines will best help your baby?
- Inspect your baby’s skin daily.
Create a routine where you diligently check for any blemishes, soreness, or unusual appearances on your baby’s skin. Make sure that you check in places that are easy to miss, such as between your baby’s fingers and toes. If you notice a rash that won’t go away, itchy skin, or anything else alarming, call your GP or an out-of-hours GP or nursing advice service. You should also seek medical help if your baby is unwell, or has any of the signs of meningitis.
- Bathe your baby effectively.
How long should I bathe my baby for? What should the water temperature be? Should I use soap?
These are some of the most common questions people ask about bathing their children. They’re great questions – good bathing practices will reduce the chance of your baby developing a skin condition.
According to the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, you should bathe your child
- For 5-10 minutes,
- In water that is 37 degrees Celsius,
- Avoiding soap.
Say no to a bubble bath or anti-bacterial products as these can damage your baby’s sensitive skin. Instead, you may like to purchase a non-soap cleanser suitable for babies.
- Minimise skin exposure to vomit, urine, and stools.
There are many things to love about having a newborn: the smiles, the laughter, the time with family, and the incredible privilege of caring for someone you love.
I’ve never met someone who loves changing nappies.
Nonetheless, nappies must be changed regularly to avoid contact skin with moisture and bacteria. Before changing a nappy, ensure that you sanitise your hands and find a space that is clean and uncluttered. In the change, ensure that you clean your baby but avoid using harsh soaps or products that may irritate or damage your baby’s sensitive skin.
- Dress them well
When I say dress them well, I don’t mean that they need to look like they have stepped off the runway at Milan Fashion Week (though if they do, great!).
Instead, I simply mean that you should choose clothing that is least likely to irritate your baby. Loose cotton fabrics, for example, can help to prevent and reduce the discomfort of eczema in babies.
Aim for clothing that is comfortable (for their sake) and easy to wash and remove (for your sake). Trust us – you want to tick both of these boxes.
There is nothing quite like enjoying the great outdoors with a baby. Try finding a place with a magnificent view to go to with your baby – there is something wonderful about the contrast between the immensity of nature and the intricacy of your child.
When you take your baby outdoors – even if it’s just to duck down to the local café, baby safe and snug in a stroller – choose clothing that will protect your baby from the sun. Select sun-safe clothes and a comfortable but effective hat.
- Educate yourself about meningitis
It is with a heavy heart that I bring up meningitis. While many skin conditions in babies are relatively harmless, meningitis is deadly and should be treated as a medical emergency. This rare but serious infection impacts the brain and spinal cord. According to Health Direct Australia, symptoms of meningitis include: ‘a high fever with a severe headache, stiffness and pain in the neck, dislike of bright lights, and a skin rash of red or purple spots that do not turn white when you press them with a finger.’
In small babies, symptoms include:
- a bulge in the soft spot on top of the head (the fontanelle)
- yellow skin (jaundice)
- unusual or high-pitched crying
- inactivity or floppiness
- feeding problems
- holding their head back and arching their back
- being difficult to wake
- purple-red skin rash or bruising
- pale or blotchy skin
- seizures (fits)
If your baby exhibits these symptoms, seek urgent and immediate medical assistance by either calling an ambulance or taking your baby to the emergency department.
Your baby is incredible. So is their skin.
Though I haven’t met your baby, here’s something I can say with confidence: your baby is incredible, and so is their skin. All the best as you continue the wonderful adventure that is parenting!
 This list is quoted from https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/meningitis