Cracking The Baby Skin Code
Blotches, bumps, and patches are par for the newborn course.
Your baby is (finally) here, and you’ve never been more in love. The tiny toes, sweet coos, and… the blotchy, bumpy, irritated skin. Sound like a familiar scenario? Babies are delicate, and their skin is no exception. It is 30% thinner than adult skin, meaning it dries out quicker and can be more sensitive to temperature change (more sensitive to everything, really) and can take on some funky hues and textures, which, most of the time, is entirely normal. We sat down with pediatrician Dr. Florence Mogen to chat about the most common rashes you’ll see on a newborn, what might be worthy of a call to the doctor, and the best way to care for that sweet baby skin:
Newborn skin doesn’t always live up to its reputation of being soft, smooth, and perfect. Let’s go over some of the most common skin concerns, why they happen and what to do.
Often newborns will have rashes that appear red and blotchy and are worrisome to parents. Most newborn rashes are very common and will go away on their own with no treatment. In fact, treatment is not needed and can in some cases exacerbate the rash. Common newborn rashes include:
Erythema Toxicum: a blotchy red rash with bumps sometimes with a yellow color in the center. This rash will go away on its own over the first two weeks.
Milia: small white bumps that are present on the nose, chin, and sometimes cheeks of newborns. They occur because skin flakes get trapped under the surface of the skin. They generally go away on their own in the first month.
Peeling: is very common in newborns after being in amniotic fluid for 9 months. Premature babies tend to have less peeling. The peeling is completely normal and there is really nothing to do to stop it. It will occur no matter how much moisturizer you use. It does not hurt or itch your newborn.
Dry patches are also very normal and will generally get better on their own.
Let’s talk about bath time. How often should babies be bathed, how long should a bath last, and what kind of products should we be using?
As far as giving babies’ baths, until the umbilical cord is off, baths should be sponge baths only. After the cord is off, babies can be bathed in a baby bath with warm water. I usually recommend using a gentle unscented wash. Babies really only need to be bathed every 2-3 days, as long as one cleans the diaper area well and in the skin folds at diaper changes. Initially baths should be fairly short, but as babies get older they really enjoy bath time, so times can be extended for splashing and playing. I recommend an unscented cream after a bath to massage and moisturize the skin.
Do babies need a skincare routine?
Babies do not need a skin care routine per se, but as babies grow and develop more "folds " it is important to wipe and clean areas of folds, like under the arms and under the neck. Sometimes when babies begin to drool… they drool a lot. The skin folds under the neck can stay moist all the time, and babies can develop a very red, irritated-appearing rash in those skin folds caused by the over-growth of yeast. If that happens, you should call your pediatrician for treatment suggestions.
When is a rash worthy of a call to the pediatrician?
Any rash that looks different or worries you warrants a call to the pediatrician, but especially if it is accompanied by a fever; poor feeding or your baby acting like they do not feel well. In general rashes with blisters or purple or bluish areas need to be seen right away.
Let’s talk cradle cap. What can we do at home to treat it? When does it become worthy of a trip to the pediatrician?
Cradle cap is very common in babies, and sometimes can extend from the scalp to the face and even down to the chest with an oily acne-like rash. If one is dealing just with cradle cap or a flaky scalp, generally using an oil and a fine tooth comb to remove the flakes and then shampooing the scalp can help. If the cradle cap does not resolve with the above treatment, using a drop of a dandruff shampoo like Selsun Blue to massage into the scalp and then shampooing with baby shampoo can help. You just need to be careful about not getting it in the baby’s eyes. When the rash extends on to the face or chest, using a cream like Eucerin for red irritated skin can help. Sometimes your pediatrician will recommend 1% Hydrocortisone cream if the rash is really red and persistent.