When my eldest was born, I was fascinated by his smooth tummy, soft toes and plump little cheeks. I would caress him, scarcely able to believe that something so fragile and beautiful could be real. The reason it feels so exquisite is that babies’ skin is thinner than our skin (which more resembles an aged leather wallet the older we get.
In this beauty, there lies a fragility, a sensitivity. See, their skin is thinner and therefore less effective at keeping all the nasties out. This means you need to treat baby skincare differently from your own morning routine. Here are a few principles which can make sure that your baby’s bum remains as smooth as… a baby’s bum? Not the most helpful simile, I suppose.
Slip, Slop, Slap!
As I’m sure you can imagine, the thinness of babies’ skin means that they are extra susceptible to harmful UV light. In fact, until they are twelve months old, dermatologists recommend keeping them out of direct sunlight altogether. There will be years for them to get a bit of colour. Consider rigging up shade cloth over your pram when taking a stroll to make sure they don’t cop it accidentally. When they are older, you still need to take care: hats, long-sleeved shirts and sunscreen. It is important that you would choose a sunscreen that has been specially formulated for their little skin though. Apply it twenty minutes before they’re going outside, and make sure you re-apply after two hours.
Don’t stress the Cradle Cap
It is a source of frustration for many parents. Their child is perfect in every way, but the cradle cap just feels a bit unsightly. First thing you must do when your child is afflicted in this way: Relax. It is perfectly normal, and not even slightly dangerous. It is just a build-up of dry skin and the natural oil of the scalp. Sure, it might look a little bit crusty or uncomfortable, but your child is probably not even aware of it. It’s fine. There is enough to stress about as a parent without adding unnecessary things to that list.
Hair and nails
Your baby is not attending their Year 10 formal yet, and as such, there is no need to be shampooing or conditioning their hair and trimming their nails. If your child (like my child) delights in putting his dinner in their hair, and you need to wash it, water will do the trick. But if you’re determined to set your child on the path to stardom, you can wash their hair with a very gentle specially formulated children’s shampoo. They tend to be pH neutral so that if it gets in your child’s eyes, it doesn’t sting.
If you’re nappy and you know it…
One of the most fraught areas of baby skincare is the nappy area. It isn’t hard to imagine why this could get so tender. Anyone who has spent a day in wet boardies or cossies will know that chafe is real and it’s not fun. So we need to be very wary of this for our bubs.
- Change regularly. It gets wet and friction-y down there. Make sure you’re as fresh as possible.
- Disposable nappies absorb quicker so your child isn’t sitting wet for as long. This is a difficult point for me as washable nappies are so great for the environment (did you know that every single nappy in human history is still sitting in a landfill somewhere? Chaos). For those washable warriors among us, maybe consider donning the disposables when your child is in some discomfort.
- Nappy cream can be your best friend. If it is high in zinc it will create a barrier between the sore red areas and the rubbing of the nappy. Interestingly, Talcum powder doesn’t help anything when a rash kicks on.
- Get the nappy off wherever possible! As the old saying goes, let your children run wild and free! Sure, you might have the odd puddle to clean up (and pray that it is just a puddle), but the joy of watching your baby roll around unencumbered makes that surprisingly worthwhile.
This is either the zenith of your day, or it is the nadir. If your baby loves bath time, it is a joy to watch them gently kick and giggle in the warmth. If they don’t it’s a screaming match. Either way, it is recommended that for effective baby skincare you should bathe your child for 5-10 minutes daily. It is also crucial that you get the temperature right. Just because you love a scalding bath, that doesn’t mean your child will. Their skin is thinner, remember? It can actually be a painful experience if the bath is much warmer than 37 degrees. The good news is that most baby packs in Australia come with a bath thermometer so you can dial the temperature to the perfect level.
It’s pretty important that you don’t use soap early on. It actually dries out the skin of the natural oils that keep it healthy. If they have really done a number that particular day and water isn’t cutting it (e.g they found a texta like my son had a penchant for finding), then you can use a mild nonsoap cleanser on that specific part of their bodies. You could also consider adding baby bath oil to complement their natural oils on their skin.
Whatever your choices, you just need to make sure that you pat them dry at the end. If they stay wet, you are just inviting nappy rash and other foul smells which emerge from the various folds of their excess skin. Similarly, natural moisturisers can be applied after the bath to make sure they don’t dry out too much.
If all of these extra steps stress out, don’t worry about them. If your bub is happy and seems fine, you should pat yourself on the back. Here is something which all new parents need to hear, but never do: You’re doing a great job! No parent is perfect. But you are perfect for your little one.
As always, get in touch if you have any questions about baby skincare.
Floyd – Senior Pharmacist