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So Fresh and Clean: Skincare for Newborns

Julie Yeh, MD, FAAP

October 18, 2018

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Bringing a newborn home for the first time is one of the happiest moments for new parents. But it can also be overwhelming, even frightening. There are so many questions that can only be answered through experience: How much should my baby eat? How often should I change him? How long will she sleep? 

Bathing and taking care of your baby’s skin undoubtedly falls somewhere on this list. While delicate, a newborn’s skin actually does not require much maintenance. Rule of thumb: less is more. The following tips will help you keep your baby comfortable and healthy.

First few weeks

You may notice peeling skin. This can be expected since your little one has been soaking in your belly for months. Before the belly button cord falls off, simply use a towel or sponge to gently cleanse your baby—that’s all that is needed. The belly button cord usually falls off in the first one to three weeks.

Leaving the belly button cord behind

Once the belly button cord falls off, bathe your baby as needed, based on how much she sweats and spits up. Generally, I recommend a bath every few days. Babies do not need daily baths at this time and may end up with dry skin if bathed too frequent.

Baby skincare products

There is a dizzyingly large variety of skincare products, just like the number of of strollers and cribs you’ve already had to navigate. It is difficult to say whether your baby will have skin sensitivities. Typically, products without added scents or colors tend to be less irritating so look for these.

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Other common skin concerns your newborn may experience include:

  • Baby acne is small red bumps or pimples that can appear anywhere on the face. It is likely an inflammatory response to maternal hormones and should self-resolve after a few months. Gently clean only as needed.
     
  • Cradle Cap appears as yellowish flakes on the scalp but may spread down to the eyebrows and ears. Washing baby’s hair with a mild shampoo may help remove the flakes, but be careful to avoid getting it in his eyes! If the flakes seem to be more stubborn, using a natural oil (such as olive oil) or a thick moisturizer (such as Vaseline) along with brushing with a soft toothbrush can help lift them. 
     
  • Milia appears as small white or off-white dots on the nose or elsewhere on the face. It is the result of natural secretions on the surface of baby’s skin and will self-resolve in the first few weeks. 

These tips should help you care for your newborn’s skin so that you can focus on enjoying skin to skin snuggles.

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