Caring for your baby’s skin, from baths to diaper rash to sunscreen
May 22, 2023
New baby at home? No matter how prepared you may have felt at the beginning of this parenthood journey, you will undoubtedly be plagued with doubts at every juncture, whether you’re worrying about their diet, their sleep habits or their skin care.
“What are those spots? Is that a diaper rash or something more serious? How in the world do you give a newborn a bath? Do I need baby soap? How do you wash a newborn’s hair? Do they need shampoo and conditioner? Do they make sunscreen for babies? Who let me take this baby home? I have no idea what I’m doing!”
If any of those sentiments sound familiar, take some solace in the fact that you are not alone. Every parent wants to be sure they are doing everything they can to take the best care of their little bundle of joy, from the top of their precious heads down to the tip of their tiny little toes.
When it comes to taking care of your baby’s skin—from bathing to diaper rashes to sunscreen—we’ve gathered information from experts to help you navigate some of the endless questions that can torment you and every other new parent out there!
Babies can smell sooooo good! But they still need baths eventually, just like the rest of us. Many experts recommend only sponge baths until your baby’s umbilical stump falls off; check with your pediatrician for their recommendation.
In the first year, babies don’t typically need daily bathing as long as you do a thorough job keeping them clean at every diaper change, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD).
A baby’s skin is so soft and delicate, too much bathing can remove protective oils and dry it out. Aim for 2-3 times a week. (Of course, sometimes those diaper changes don’t go as planned and an additional bath is definitely necessary!)
Your baby’s safety and comfort are first and foremost when it comes to bathing. Whether you’re giving a sponge bath or a full bath, preparation is key.
Make sure the room is warm and gather everything you will need so it will be close at hand and you can give your baby your full attention. That includes a washcloth, baby soap or baby-friendly body wash, a cup for rinsing and a large fluffy towel. (Hooded ones are great and extra adorable!)
Many times baby’s first bath happens in the kitchen sink or with a parent in the tub. But you can also use a basin designed specifically for bathing babies with several safety features like cushions, non-slip surfaces and high temperature warning systems. If you’re using a sink or tub, line it with a towel.
Fill the basin, sink or tub with enough lukewarm water to cover about two inches of your baby’s body, swirling it around to eliminate any hotspots. You can test the temperature to make sure it’s not too hot in a few ways: Use the inside of your wrist, a thermometer or a specially designed gauge for baths that changes color with the temperature. You want to aim for around 100 degrees F (38 degrees C).
Gently lower your baby into the water feet first, holding them securely and supporting their head and neck as needed. Since the water is kept shallow for safety, frequently pour the bath water over them to keep them warm.
Start by washing their hair. Be sure to tilt your baby’s head back carefully with your hand supporting the back of their head. Wet the top of their head with water and gently massage a drop of baby-friendly shampoo all over their head and hair. As long as you are massaging gently, you don’t need to worry about harming their soft spots.
Once you’ve washed baby’s hair, with their head still tilted back, use a cup of clean, warm water and washcloth to rinse the soap away, being careful to shield their eyes. If some suds do get into baby’s eyes, wipe them away gently using a wet washcloth dampened with clean water.
Then move down their body, using a washcloth to wash behind their ears and in all the creases that can form on their chubby baby bodies, rinsing as you go. Don’t forget in between their fingers and toes!
Once your baby is rinsed from all bubbles and squeaky clean, carefully lift them out of the tub, wrap them from head to toe in a warm, fluffy towel and revel in that clean, fresh baby smell!
There are so many baby products on the market, how do you choose? The AAD recommends mild, fragrance-free products designed for babies. You also want to choose one that is hypoallergenic, tear-free and omits potentially concerning ingredients like artificial colors, mineral oil, parabens and phthalates.
Charlotte Lemmonds, Ph.D., a principal toxicologist in the Product Safety Group at Amway, said baby’s skin is thinner than adult skin and not able to maintain moisture levels in the same way.
“Because of these differences, baby skin is more sensitive to dryness and irritation,” she said. “It is best for babies to use soaps and shampoos that are specifically formulated with gentle ingredients to help protect their delicate skin.”
That includes g&h™ Baby Wash & Shampoo and Baby Lotion. In addition to being free from ingredients you don’t want in your baby products, g&h Baby Wash & Shampoo and Baby Lotion also have clean, plant-based ingredients—including Nutrilite™-approved chamomile oil, calendula water and olive oil.
“Together, they help cleanse and moisturize baby’s delicate skin,” Lemmonds said.
The Baby Wash & Shampoo is a light and fluffy foam formula that makes it easy to spread on your baby’s head and body. And the lotion is non-greasy, leaving your baby’s skin feeling soft.
No matter how careful you are with diaper changes and regular bathing, most babies will develop diaper rash at some point in their young lives.
Those red blotches on their bottoms and legs are not a pleasant experience for them and they will let you know it! But what causes diaper rash? Maybe your baby has extra sensitive skin, maybe their diapers aren’t being changed frequently enough or maybe the fit of the diaper caused some irritating chafing.
It could also be a reaction to the type of baby wipes, disposable diapers or laundry products you use. Regardless of the reason, you want to know how to treat a diaper rash. Fortunately, most cases can be handled at home. The AAD recommends changing wet or dirty diapers as soon as possible to reduce the skin’s exposure to moisture.
Try to be extra gentle, too, as the affected skin is super sensitive. Make sure your baby wipes are alcohol- and fragrance-free and try to let the area air dry before putting on a new diaper. You might even let them go diaper free for a time.
Use a diaper cream with zinc oxide. It soothes and protects the skin and can be applied at every diaper change. If the rash does not clear up on its own, call your pediatrician.
Typically associated with the teen years, acne is actually a common skin condition for babies. But baby acne doesn’t bring on the embarrassment that it does when you experience a flare up just before prom or a first date with a longtime crush. (Mostly because you think your baby is adorable no matter what!)
Baby acne can appear at birth, after a few weeks or after six weeks. The AAD says it’s nothing to worry about in the early weeks, as it typically goes away on its own. If your baby is older and develops what looks like acne, however, it’s important to pay attention and ask some questions:
Don’t be afraid to consult your pediatrician. If indeed it is acne, baby acne treatment is different from the typical teen acne treatments. Unless your pediatrician says otherwise, skip the drugstore pimple creams. Instead, be gentle with the affected areas, never scrubbing. Avoid using hot water to wash, sticking with lukewarm temps. And stop using oily or greasy products on their skin.
As adults, we likely all know the mantra to wear sunscreen every day, even when it’s cloudy. Since baby’s skin is so much more delicate, we need to take measures to protect them from the sun, too. But does that include sunscreen for babies?
Sometimes. Babies under 6 months of age should generally be kept in the shade and out of direct sunlight. When going out, blocking the sun with shade or protective clothing like hats, lightweight pants and shirts with long sleeves is the best way to protect your and your baby’s skin. If those options are not available, a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30 is an option.
“But it should be used sparingly and only when you can’t keep baby out of the sun,” Lemmonds said. “The best kind of sunscreen for babies are those containing zinc oxide or titanium oxide because they are the least likely to irritate baby’s sensitive skin.”
Now, do you feel like an expert on baby skin care? Not likely, but hopefully you feel a little more confident in a few areas of baby care. Just remember that you’re not alone!
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