Baby and Toddler Column – Oct. 2007
By Elizabeth Heubeck
I recently attended a baby shower where the mother-to-be received an enormous basket overflowing with skin products designed for infants. It contained more lotions, body washes, and other ointments than occupied my entire adult bathroom cabinet. I couldn’t help wonder if an infant really needed to be slathered and doused with all those sweet-scented toiletries, or whether these measures could even prove counterproductive.
So I decided to check in with a local pediatric expert to get the lowdown on infant skin care. Margaret Broderick, R.N., clinical supervisor at Franklin Square Pediatrics at Honeygo Village, shared her advice on a plethora of infant skin care issues, from routine cleansing to strange-looking—yet, thankfully, short-lived—skin problems.
The Rub on Bathing
I know once I got over my squeamishness of handling a tiny slippery baby, bathing my infant daily quickly became a ritual we both enjoyed. I’m not alone—lots of parents bathe their infants daily.
But it’s not necessary, nor is it recommended.
“Infants only need to be bathed three times a week. Bathe them too often and their skin will dry out,” Broderick says.
Only an infant’s face and diaper area need to be cleaned more—usually several times a day, she explains.
What about all those wonderfully fragrant products that find their way into the baby’s bath? While Broderick okays the use of mild liquid baby soap, she recommends using one without fragrances, which can be irritating to sensitive skin. So much for lavender, corn silk, and strawberry bouquets.
“Plain water is the best way to clean skin,” Broderick says.
No Attacking Baby Acne
While it may be tough to eliminate all those fun, luscious creams and body washes from the daily routine, what about reserving them for times of skin trouble? How about when a newborn suddenly breaks out with a bad case of acne—that seemingly strange but altogether normal occurrence thought to be caused by exposure to a surge in the mother’s hormones toward the end of pregnancy?
Definitely not then, says Broderick: “A lot of the creams and lotions out there will only make it worse.”
Instead, she advises parents to keep the baby’s face clean and dry, using plain water and a clean soft towel.
While baby acne doesn’t look very pretty, it leaves no lasting marks and eventually resolves on its own, reports Broderick, although she warns that it can last for up to six months.
Coping with Cradle Cap
As if a face full of pimples on a newborn isn’t enough to rile new parents, a scalp that’s red, flaky, and oily all at once—otherwise known as cradle cap—certainly is. As with baby acne, hormones transferred between mother and infant late in utero are believed to be the culprit of cradle cap. Also, like baby acne, cradle cap appears worse than it is.
With cradle cap, Broderick does give parents the okay to intervene with some simple measures. She suggests rubbing a little baby oil into the scalp, combing it through with a soft comb to loosen flaky skin, then shampooing with a mild baby shampoo.
Getting a Read on Rashes
Infants sometimes develop rashes on various parts of the body. Some are caused by viruses, others aren’t. Because they’re not as readily explained as common infant skin conditions such as cradle cap and baby acne, Broderick recommends that parents always seek a professional opinion rather than trying to treat rashes on their own.
“Any rash should be evaluated by a pediatrician,” she says.
Finally, if you simply cannot say no to all the prettily packaged infant skin care products on the market, make sure you choose those that are mild—preferably hypoallergenic—and fragrance-free. And discontinue their use immediately if you note any allergic reactions. BC
@ Baltimore’s Child Inc. October 2007