When babies are born, the top layer of their skin is thin and easily damaged, but within a month your baby’s skin will have developed its own natural protective barrier. A premature baby’s skin will take longer to develop, so you should speak to staff in your neonatal unit about skincare.
For this first month, you should bathe your baby in plain water only. Don’t use skin cleansers, lotions or medicated wipes as this will damage their fragile skin. A baby comb can be used to remove debris, such as skin flakes, from their hair. This is in place of using shampoo for the first four weeks.
You should avoid using baby wipes until your baby is at least 2-4 weeks old. After this time, the ones you use should be mild and free from alcohol and perfume.
Nappy rash can occur due to prolonged exposure to urine or faeces. Care of the nappy area should include cleansing with water and drying by exposing to air, or gently drying the area with a clean soft cloth whenever the nappy is soiled. Make sure you change nappies regularly. If your baby develops nappy rash, speak to a pharmacist or your health visitor about treatment options.
The white sticky substance on a new-born baby’s skin is called vernix, it develops in the womb and provides protection against infection whilst acting as a natural moisturiser. It should always be left on their skin. If your baby is overdue – the vernix on their skin may have been absorbed before they were born, leaving their skin dry and cracked.
If skin is dry or cracked, avoid creams or lotions (as they are likely to cause further problems) and seek advice from your midwife or health visitor. Early skin exposure to some products may result in allergic reactions or eczema.
After the first month, you can introduce an emollient on any dry skin (but only if needed). Any product introduced should be used sparingly and should be free from alcohol, colour and perfume. Always seek advice from a health visitor or pharmacist before applying any products to your newborn baby’s skin.
Spots and rashes are common in babies, in some circumstances they can be caused by something serious, take a look at our guide to skin rashes here. Spots and rashes may come and go, but if you notice anything that doesn’t seem right, such as if your baby is not feeding well or very sleepy, speak to a GP as soon as possible.
You should call 999 or go straight to A&E if:
- they have a rash that doesn’t fade when you press a glass against it
- skin looks bluish, mottled or pale (look around the lips and eyes)
- your child is difficult to rouse or wake
- they are breathing very fast
- they have had a fit or convulsion