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A Pediatrician Answers Parents’ Top 5 Questions About Newborn Skin

Photograph by Twenty20

While your newborn may resemble you, their skin is so much more sensitive than yours – it’s soft, delicate, and requires more than just mild and gentle cleansing. A baby’s skin barrier is also especially fragile—it is thinner and immature, still developing and changing. In fact, during a single bath, baby’s skin can lose moisture up to five times faster than an adult’s, making it vulnerable to dryness. After soaking for nine months in amniotic fluid, you’d expect a baby to be born with soft, silky skin. However, most of the time, babies are born with areas of dry, cracked skin—which is a sign that pediatricians use to help determine how close a baby was to full-term.

Here are the most frequently asked questions I get asked by new parents and a few key tips to guide the care you give to your baby's skin:

What are the best kind of bathing products to use?

Consider baby skincare products that are dermatologist and pediatrician tested, as well as those with a hypoallergenic formula.

Can I bathe my newborn in the bath tub?

While in the newborn stage, sponge bathe your baby until the umbilical stump falls off and the area is dry and healed. Once healed, then you can start the fun tub baths with rubber ducky and all!

Should I take a less-is-more approach when it comes to using products on my baby?

At the early newborn stage, washing your baby with a gentle baby wash is enough to moisturize and nourish skin. You want to look for a cleansing product that helps replenish moisture and nutrients to protect the skin’s natural barrier. After the first few weeks, if skin still looks and feels dry, use a mild lotion after bathing or apply directly on dry patches.

How can I can rid of my baby’s cradle cap?

This common condition usually peaks at around 6 weeks old. If your baby develops cradle cap, lather and massage your baby’s scalp with a mild shampoo every two to three days and use a soft brush to gently exfoliate to help remove scales and prevent it from occurring in the future.

What is the best remedy to prevent diaper rash?

To prevent diaper rash, wash baby’s bottom daily to remove stool and urine that can cause irritation. Washing with a mild, gentle cleanser will help replenish essential moisture and nutrients in baby’s skin that is lost through bathing and wiping. Consult your pediatrician about using a diaper rash cream for a few days if the redness and irritation continues and if it worsens, see the doctor in person.

What products should I use or avoid if my baby has sensitive skin?

For babies with sensitive skin, look to reduce the number of fragrances in household products that come in contact with skin and moisturize baby’s skin regularly. Using a free-and-clear laundry detergent and skipping dryer sheets can avoid irritation to the skin. Try fragrance-free bath products that are developed for babies with sensitive skin.

Pediatrician Dr. Tanya Altmann is the author of "The Wonder Years" and the official medical advocate for Baby Dove, a new range of baby care products that go beyond mildness to replenish essential moisture and nutrients in Baby’s skin.

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