Is anything more perfect than your baby's skin? You can't help but touch and caress it. Go right ahead! Your baby loves it as much as you do.
Protecting delicate skin from harm is an important job for a parent. Here's what you'll need to know and do.
The Soft Touch
The Soft Touch
While your baby's skin is famously soft and smooth, it is also strong and resilient. The skin is the body's largest organ—a group of cells stacked together to form a thin but tough barrier. Skin constantly renews itself throughout life, and the renewal process begins even before birth.
Still, many a newborn's skin is anything but perfect at first. Don't be alarmed by considerable peeling, redness, or flaking in the first few days after birth. Areas like the wrists, knees, and feet may even bleed as they adjust to being exposed to air. This is all normal. Use a gentle skin ointment to help lubricate and heal cracked or bleeding skin. Your baby's skin will fill out and get smoother very soon.
For more information on how to prevent or heal diaper rash, click here.
To keep your baby's skin healthy, you need to maintain its natural softness and strength. Even if your baby's skin isn't peeling, it will benefit from using moisturizers. For everyday lubrication, try petroleum jelly, Aquaphor, Eucerin, Moisturel, or Cetaphil. You can get fragrance-free products with ingredients such as mineral oil or petrolatum. The routine moisturizer you use on your infant should not contain alpha hydroxy acids or sunscreens.
In fact, using the same moisturizer you use on your body is an excellent choice, since you and the baby are always touching anyway. Whatever you choose, stick with it so your baby's skin won't have to readjust to the different blends of ingredients in various products.
Babies of all ages should stay out of direct sunlight. A baby can get sunburned in as little as 10 to 15 minutes, even on cloudy days.
The first line of defense should be clothing. On warm days, dress your baby in lightweight cotton clothing that covers her arms and legs, and make sure she wears a wide-brimmed hat for every outing. Try to avoid going out when the sun's rays are strongest, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has recently restated its policy on babies and sunscreen. Previously, it had recommended against using sunscreen on babies under 6 months of age. Now, however, it says there is no evidence that small amounts of sunscreen on young babies pose any risks. Still, don't rely on sunscreen as a substitute for protective clothing or sun avoidance. Use it to cover your baby's exposed face, hands, and feet.
Your baby's tiny fingernails are very thin and sharp and grow surprisingly fast! You may need to trim them as often as twice a week. This is important since newborns can scratch their faces with their own nails.
Use a soft emery board, baby nail clippers, or baby nail scissors for trimming. You may find it easier to do this job when your baby is asleep. To avoid snipping the fingertip skin as you trim the nail, hold her finger firmly and press the finger pad away from the nail as you cut. Don't panic if you draw a bit of blood (this is bound to happen at least once, despite your best efforts). Just apply a little pressure.
Toenails grow much more slowly and are usually very soft. They don't need to be kept as short as fingernails—a trim once or twice a month is enough. Although the toenails may appear to be ingrown, babies seldom suffer from ingrown toenails. Call your health care provider if the skin around the toenails gets red, inflamed, or hard.
Caring for your newborn son's circumcision isn't difficult if you know what to do. For the first week after the procedure, the penis may look quite red and develop a yellow scab. Keep the area clean using mild soap and water after each diaper change. Coat the head of the penis with petroleum jelly to protect it, and cover it gently with a gauze dressing. Your health care provider will tell you how long to keep the dressing on. If you suspect an infection at any time, notify your provider.
If your son is not circumcised, bathe his penis with a mild soap and water just like the rest of the diaper area. Don't try to pull back the foreskin—it will gradually retract on its own, usually by his third birthday.
Dress your baby in one more layer of clothing than you are wearing yourself to keep her warm and comfortable. For newborns, this means an undershirt or onesie, except in warmer climates. When the temperature rises above 75 degrees F, you can reduce this to a single layer. Touch your baby's skin often to detect signs of discomfort: If her hands and feet feel cold, add a layer; if her skin gets hot and sweaty, subtract one.
If your newborn is premature or has little body fat, she will be less able to regulate her own body temperature and may need additional layers for warmth. Newborns with little hair may need a cap, especially at night.
Your baby's skin may be sensitive to chemicals in new clothing and to soap and detergent left on clothes after laundering. To avoid problems:
• Wash all new clothes and linens before your baby uses them.
• For the first few months, do your infant's wash separately from your other laundry.
• Use a gentle detergent and a thorough rinse cycle.