What you need to know about caring for your newborn baby’s skin
Mothers are always asking me about their newborn babies skin. As a midwife I have realised that many health care practitioners and baby magazines give conflicting advice regarding caring for newborn baby skin. These can lead to confusion for new mothers and also can lead to baby skin becoming irritated by the incorrect products being applied to the skin.
Newborn skin is different from adult skin and over the years there has been lots of conflicting advice regarding caring for baby skin and for the cord stump. I am going to give you the most up to date evidence regarding neonatal skin care. This is based on the Royal College of Midwives latest article found here
The vulnerability of a newborns skin creates the potential for a number of skin complaints. These will include Eczema and urticaria. Newborns can be left feeling uncomfortable by potentially irritant products.
Infant skin differs from adult skin and continues to develop throughout the first year of life. Because the baby has been in utero for 9 months, and basically living in amniotic fluid, the dermis and epidermis take at least 10 days to adapt to the outside environment.
There is limited information is available concerning regimens that maintain or enhance the neonatal skin barrier. However, skin cleansing is important to keep skin free of unwanted irritants and recent studies suggest water alone is not sufficient in cleansing the skin.
It has become apparent that water alone does not clean the skin of bacteria. Babies skin should be washed on alternate days after delivery. It is important to remember that the cord area needs to be kept clean & dry (see link for NHS cord care video). Giving the baby a bath should be avoided for 3-5 days but top and tailing or sponge bathing is important. Select mild lipid cleansers or cleansing bars that have a neutral or mildly acidic pH (pH 5.5-7.0) or those that have been shown to have minimal impact on the baby’s skin surface pH.
Start with the baby’s face and head, once you have dipped the cotton wool ball in the water clean one side of face and dis-guard the ball, then use a fresh ball for the other side of the face. Babies can sometimes have sticky eyes after birth. Which can cross contaminate, so never use the same sponge or flannel for washing both eyes if the baby has a weepy eye. I have seen breastmilk applied to a sticky eye work wonders, and heal within twenty four hours. Breast milk is full on antibodies and its the only milk that can be used on newborn skin and eyes.
Choose cleansers with preservatives that have demonstrated safety and tolerance for newborns. Preservatives are usually needed to prevent the overgrowth of microorganisms that may occur with normal use, but they may result in skin irritation or contact dermatitis. Always do your research and understand that most neonatal skin care products are researched to ensure safety for babies, but read the labels. It should be noted that we should not be over cleaning our babies skin, 3 baths a week for a newborn baby should be sufficient and prevent the skin from over drying.
Change sponges and flannels after every bath, as they can harbor germs if left on the side until the next bath time.
Olive oil is no longer recommended and should NOT be used for the prevention or treatment of dry skin. There is no evidence to support this practice. Olive oil has a high oleic acid content that is detrimental to the integrity of the skin barrier. Oil that has high linolenic content should be advised instead, such as Organic Safflower, Rapeseed, Grape seed, or Sunflower oil. These oils are more stable, less inclined to degrade and will not clog the pores. I would recommend organic sources of these oils as less pesticides will have been used in their production.
We live in an age whereby the choice of skin care products for baby can be overwhelming, there are many decent products out there but check sources and PH levels, and for the first couple of weeks stick to the basics. Avoid cheap products that you cannot source.
Take care have a great day Wendy Kuharska Midwife 2017
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