Your newborn's skin is like fine silk. It’s soft and supple to the touch, but it also needs special attention and care. One of the things you need to watch out for eczema, a general term for medical conditions that can cause redness, itchiness and dryness of the skin. Although its exact cause is unknown, it can be triggered by environmental factors that your baby is exposed to, from clothing to food to pollution.
“Eczema can pop up in the early weeks or even later on. It depends on when he was exposed to the triggering factors,” says Dr. Jamie Isip-Cumpas, a pediatrician from Parkview Children’s Clinic in Makati. She adds that eczema is a chronic condition--it will not go away on its own. Parents should consult with a pediatrician as soon as they notice a rash or redness in their baby’s skin, she advises.
However, prevention is still better than cure. The best way to keep eczema far away is to keep your baby’s skin irritation-free. Dr. Isip-Cumpas answers some of the most asked questions related to caring for the hygiene of a newborn’s sensitive skin.
How often should I bathe my baby? “You don’t need to bathe your baby every day. It’s recommended that you only bathe your baby thrice a week,” says Dr. Isip-Cumpas. You can, however, wipe down your baby whenever you see the need. “Clean the areas that get dirty like the baby’s diaper area, the face and even the neck. You can wipe the area or even wash it if you need to,” she says.
When you do bathe your baby, Dr. Isip-Cumpas says it should be no longer than 10 minutes. “Don’t soak your baby in his tub. Just a quick bath is enough and then rinse him right away.”
What soap should I use? “You’re looking for cleansers that are soap-free and less fragrant or fragrant-free. You don’t want the sudsy kinds of soap as these can strip the oil from the baby’s skin. Some people think that if the cleanser isn’t soapy then it can’t clean. But this isn’t true. These cleansers do the job well and they keep the skin’s moisture in,” says Dr. Isip-Cumpas.
Do I have to use shampoo? “You can actually use the liquid cleanser as shampoo on your baby’s head. No special shampoo needed.” Does my baby need lotion? “You actually don’t need it if there’s no drying of the skin. And, not all babies get dry skin, some don’t,” says Dr. Isip-Cumpas.
When you do notice that your baby’s skin is getting rough and dry, the first thing you should do is to find out why, she adds. “Is it because your baby is exposed to certain fabrics that might be too harsh for your baby’s skin? Are you bathing your baby for too long that his skin is drying out?” she says. “The you adress the drying by putting on lotion. Put it all over the body: the face, on the arms and the legs; paying close attention to the areas that don’t get aired out so much like the neck and behind the knees.”
What should I look for when buying clothes for my baby? “As much as possible, look for cotton,” says Dr. Isip-Cumpas. “It’s really about trying to find the most natural material and staying away from synthetic fibers.” And it’s not just the clothes either, she adds. You should also look for the same qualities in your baby’s bedding, blanket, towels, burp cloths and other pieces of fabric he regularly comes in contact with. What kind of detergent should I use? Some babies tend to be very sensitive to the regular detergent that we use, says Dr. Isip-Cumpas. Like with your baby’s soap, look for detergent that’s less fragrant or fragrant-free and does not contain any dyes.
“Technically, you don’t need to use fabric softener,” she adds, as some can be very harsh and can trigger some babies to develop rashes. “But if the fabric softener doesn’t have a strong scent, is very mild, and doesn’t irritate the baby’s skin then that should be fine.”