Becoming a parent brings a lifetime of joy along with new and unfamiliar feelings of anxiety and doubt. The care and responsibility for this tiny, delicate little bundle is all up to you now.
Unfortunately there is no handy user manual that offers a solution for every possible problem you might encounter. The quest to keep your baby healthy and thriving often seems like a daunting task.
As a parent, you’re brimming with questions about eating habits, sleeping patterns, normal weight gain, illnesses, baby medicines and much more. A common concern that new parents have is caring for their baby’s tender skin.
A plethora of baby care products are flooding the market, all claiming to be the best for your baby. How can new parents separate the substance from the hype and make the best choice for their baby? A good starting point is to understand your baby’s skin:
The first year is crucial in the proper development of the skin. Baby skin is very different from adult skin; it’s about 20% thinner. When in the womb, a baby’s skin develops a protective outer layer known as the vernix caseosa. This layer is lost after birth and the skin then develops a new protective layer known as the acid mantle.
The acid mantle plays a vital role in maintaining the health of the skin. It is composed of sebum, sweat and lactic acid producing bacteria. This acid mantle is responsible for maintaining the pH of the skin at 5.5 and acts as the first line of defence against pathogenic, or harmful bacteria. This acidic pH is necessary for the skin secretions and enzymes to do their job as the skin’s safety shield.
Babies are born with a relatively high skin pH and it takes two weeks before their skin settles into the 5.5 pH range. Thereafter, with appropriate care, the delicate skin develops into a more robust barrier over the next one year.
The skin care routine for a baby has three parts: pre-bath, in-bath, and post-bath care.
Oil massage has been part of the Indian traditional skin care routine for babies and has both physical and emotional benefits. It moisturises the skin and strengthens the bones, and the physical touch of a massage calms and soothes babies.
The choice of massage oil needs to be carefully considered for the following:
• It should be of low viscosity and easily absorbed
• It should not block the pores
• Mineral oils and mixed oils are not considered suitable
• A pure unprocessed virgin oil without fragrance is highly recommended
A baby can be bathed soon after birth. Make sure you use separate products for skin and hair. Some helpful tips while bathing your baby:
• Use lukewarm water to bathe the baby.
• Limit baby’s bath time to 5 minutes as too much bathing can damage the skin.
• Do not use soap. Commercial soaps are highly alkaline and can upset the balance of the acid mantle. Several popular brands of skin soap have a pH similar to that of detergent soaps. They not only remove dirt and sweat, but also strip the skin lipids, leaving the baby’s skin dry. Soaps interfere with the development of your baby’s skin and can trigger skin conditions like atopic dermatitis which manifests as rashes on the skin.
• Use non-soap syndets to bath your baby. These syndets are 100% soap-free and have a pH of 5.5. They are mild cleansers that protect your baby’s skin. Consult your paediatrician for more information on non-soap alternatives for your baby.
• Use a mild sulphate-free, tear-free baby shampoo on your baby’s hair. Sometimes your baby may develop flaky skin on the scalp. A gentle cleanser will help clear these flakes in two or three months. Your paediatrician can recommend a mild baby shampoo.
• Do not air-dry or rub the skin vigorously with a towel. Gently pat dry the skin after a bath
Poste-bath care can include moisturisers, baby powder, and diapers. Limit the number of products you use on your baby and only use what’s necessary.
Moisturizer: If baby’s skin appears dry, then use a suitable moisturizer.
• Avoid the use of creams and emollients in the first 2 – 4 weeks of your baby’s life.
• Moisturizers should be applied within 2 – 3 minutes after bathing.
• Use moisturizers that are specially designed for babies – hypoallergenic, fragrance-free or eco-certified fragrance
• Powders help absorb moisture, especially in extremely hot or humid conditions
• Use powder moderately as excessive use can block pores, resulting in skin problems
• Use talc-free powder, which is less likely to block the skin pores
Use of Nappies
• Cloth diapers are highly recommended.
• If disposable diapers must be used, diapers should be changed every 3 – 4 hours.
• When cleaning the baby during a diaper change, use gentle baby wipes that don’t contain paraben or MCI (methylchloroisothiazolinone).
• To prevent diaper rash, apply a thick layer of a barrier cream with at least 15% zinc oxide on baby’s skin before putting on the diaper.
• Do not use regular moisturizers in place of a diaper cream as it does not provide protection from urine and other skin irritants.
I hope this short skin care user manual helps you feel more confident and better equipped to take care of your baby’s delicate skin. Do seek professional medical advice when needed. Happy Parenting!