Often when women are pregnant, they google “how to survive the first trimester” or they spend hours learning all about how to get our baby out. Worried that once our baby is here, we aren’t quite sure what we’re meant to do!
Understanding your baby's skin
When babies are first born, they have very delicate skin. This is because when they’re inside the womb, they’re covered in a substance called vernix (Vernix caseosa), which helps moisturise and protect their skin.
What is vernix
Vernix is a waxy substance made of a combination of sebum, skin cells, and fine hairs called lanugo. It serves as a natural barrier stopping your baby’s skin from getting pickled from living in fluid (amniotic fluid).
When babies are first born, they remain covered in vernix for a few days, which can provide protection from their skin drying out. This also helps to keep babies warm as well as providing antimicrobial properties. This is why it is recommended to wait at least 48 hours before bathing your baby, to help the vernix sink in as much as possible. After the first 48 hours, you may notice a few changes in your baby’s skin. It may appear dry, peel, have a rash, look like it has acne or change colour in different temperatures.
Let's explore some common concerns with a baby's skin:
Peeling skin: Some babies are born with peeling skin, and this is completely normal. This is a natural process where the outer layer of a baby’s skin may peel off and is due to the transition from the wet environment in the womb to the drier conditions outside.
Temperature regulation: Babies are not able to regulate their skin in the first 6 weeks. This means you may notice changes in your baby’s skin colour as it tries to adapt to the temperature around it. The skin may appear mottled or develop small rashes, which is usually a normal adjustment.
Baby acne: In the first few weeks of life outside the womb, the mother’s hormones will leave the baby’s body. This stimulates the baby’s oil glands and may cause small red or white bumps on the face. This is harmless and will resolve on its own. During this time, it is important to gently bathe your baby in fragrance-free products such as b.box body cleanse. This will help to clean the skin without causing further irritation.
Dry skin: As our babies try to adjust to life outside the womb, their skin may start to dry out a little. This is where it is important to moisturise your baby daily and make sure that you are changing nappies frequently. Using b.box body hydrate, an all-natural, Australian-made moisturiser to help lock in your baby's natural moisture and prevent irritation.
Common skincare questions answered
How often should I bathe my newborn?
It’s not recommended to give your newborn baby their first bath until after 48 hours. After their first bath, they don’t need to be bathed every day. Newborn babies only need to be bathed every second to third day, and this is to prevent their skin drying out too quickly. Excessive bathing can strip the skin of its natural oils and cause irritation.
What should I look for in baby soap and shampoo?
It’s essential to look for fragrance-free, all natural, Australian-made soap. Ingredients such as fragrances, alcohol or harsh chemicals can cause irritations on baby's delicate skin. This is where b.box body cleanse uses the botanic elements of aloe vera, green tea and Kakadu plum to help hydrate your baby’s skin, provide anti-inflammatory properties and support their skin health.
How can I prevent and treat nappy/heat rash?
Nappy rash can be a common occurrence for new babies as their skin tries to adapt to life outside the womb. To avoid nappy rash, it’s important to change your baby’s nappy regularly and give them lots of nappy free time at home. Furthermore, using b.box body protect daily can help improve your baby’s skin health as it serves as a preventive measure against nappy rash. Protect contains zinc oxide to help provide protection against rashes and irritation, as well as soothing irritations using its antiseptic properties.
Heat rash is a common occurrence for babies because they aren’t able to effectively cool themselves down. To avoid heat rash, it’s important to dress your baby in breathable fabrics and layers you can take off as the day heats up. Good airflow and preventing overheating are essential in preventing heat rash.
What are safe nappy-changing practices?
When changing your baby’s nappy, it is essential to wash your hands first and cleanse the area where you will be changing their nappy. Ensuring the environment is clean will help avoid infection. Next, when putting the nappy on, ensure it is snug enough to provide coverage without impeding air circulation yet not so loose that it risks leakage.
Tackling cradle cap
What is cradle cap, and how can I manage it?
Cradle cap is a common condition that babies experience. It often appears as a crusty or oily patch on baby’s scalp and is thought to be cause by the mother’s hormones causing the sebaceous glands to become overactive. To manage cradle cap, use b.box body nourish on the area and leave for 5-10 minutes. This should loosen the scales and allow you to gently brush them off using the b.box body baby bath brush. It is important not to pick at the scales as this may cause irritation or potentially an infection.
Which products and techniques are recommended for cradle cap?
Nourish is formulated with jojoba oil, which makes it non-greasy and stimulates the baby’s natural oils. Cradle cap's rough patches are no match for Nourish Oil's gentle touch. It softens and loosens the flakes, making them easy to remove during bath time. A soft baby brush can then be used to carefully brush away any loosened flakes, leaving your baby's scalp feeling smooth and irritation-free.
Navigating baby acne
Why does baby acne occur?
Erythema toxic, aka baby acne, is a rash that may appear on baby’s face, chest, neck or arms. It appears blotchy red and has small bumps that can be filled with fluid. Baby acne impacts up to half of all newborn babies in the first few days of life and normally takes around a week to clear up. It’s caused by the maternal hormones passed to baby during pregnancy
What are gentle skincare tips for managing and preventing baby acne?
If your baby has acne, it is important not to use any “acne-specific” products. Instead, you can care for your baby’s skin naturally, and it will go away on its own.
You can try:
- Only bathing baby 2-3 times per week to avoid drying their skin out and worsening irritation.
- Use warm water for baths.
- Use b.box body cleanse as it is a gentle, all-natural baby wash designed to help keep skin hydrated. Cleanse locks in the baby's moisture and doesn't strip the skin of its natural oils, making it a perfect choice for helping with baby acne.
Midwife's recommended skincare practices
1. Baby massage
I am a massive fan of baby massage for all babies starting from birth. The benefits of a daily massage for your baby go beyond relaxation and include:
a. Bonding with your baby:There is something so special about your baby lying down and relaxing while you massage and talk together. Really spending that one-on-one time together can help strengthen your bond.
b. Promotes better sleep: Massage is a great way to help your baby start learning the difference between day and night. In addition, it is also a great way to help the blood flow around the body and get baby nice and relaxed for bedtime.
c. Tummy time:When you place your baby onto their tummy for a massage, this becomes a calming way for you to do tummy time together. This not only helps to strengthen your little one’s neck muscles but also releases oxytocin through touch, allowing you to enjoy that bonding moment together.
c. Aids in digestions:A relaxing massage before bed is a great way to help get the blood moving around baby’s body and aid their digestion.
2. Which natural oils and moisturisers are safe for baby skin?
When massaging your baby, it is essential to use safe moisturisers and oils, which can be tricky if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Babies have such sensitive skin, so it is important to look for products made from coconut oil, jojoba oil or almond oil. b.box body nourish is the perfect baby oil made with jojoba oil to help support the body’s natural oils as well as provide antibacterial properties. Always make sure to use products that are free of harmful chemicals and fragrances, as this can irritate baby’s skin.
3. Sun protection
Sun protection for your baby is important to prevent their delicate skin from getting burnt and prevent overheating. Baby’s skin is thinner than an adult's skin, leaving them more susceptible to more serious burns.
a. When and how should I introduce sunscreen for my baby?
It’s not recommended to introduce sunscreen to your baby until they are 6 months old. This is because a baby’s skin is highly absorptive and is more likely to absorb higher levels of chemicals. Once your baby is over 6 months, try any sunscreen on a small area of their baby’s skin and wait to see if there is an adverse reaction. If your baby does not have a reaction, you can apply sunscreen to any areas not covered by hats or clothing. If your baby has a reaction to the sunscreen, it’s important to seek medical advice from a health professional such as a GP.
b. How to protect my baby from the sun?
When you’re out and about with your baby:
i. Try to make sure they are well covered from the sun with clothing, hats and pram shades. Try to look for wide-brimmed hats that protect a larger area of baby’s face and neck.
ii. Make sure that they have breathable materials, such as cotton, so they don’t overheat.
iii. Try to stay in the shade as much as you can.
iv. Try not to go outside in the heat of the day. Instead opt for early morning or late afternoon.
v. If baby is older than 6 months, reapply sunscreen every 2 hours.
vi. Check the UV level when you are planning to go outside. In Australia, if the UV level is 3 or above, try not to let your baby in the direct sunlight or make sure to use appropriate protection for their age. Just because it is cloudy outside, they can still get burnt. The free SunSmart app can help you go outside during lower UV levels
4. Seasonal skin solutions
a. How can I adapt my baby’s skincare routine to different weather conditions?
It is important to adapt your baby’s skincare routine (and yours) depending on the seasons. This is because dryness, heat, and cold temperatures can cause their own skincare concerns.
i. During dry months, you will need to reduce the amount of time that your baby is in the bath, ensure you're using b.box body cleanse so that it is an all natural, fragrance-free wash and increase the frequency that you moisturise you baby with hydrate. This will prevent your baby's skin becoming irritated from drying out
ii. During hotter months, you will need to ensure that baby stays well hydrated with breastmilk, formula, or water (if over 6 months). You will also bathe baby more frequently in lukewarm water to help keep them cool. You may also be more likely to use protect nappy + barrier cream to reduce irritation caused by heat rashes.
iii. During the colder months, you may notice that baby’s skin becomes drier and more sensitive. To combat this, reduce the frequency of your baths and increase massages using nourish.
b. What are the concerns related to dryness, heat and cold temperatures?
The main concern with dry and cold weather is irritation from skin drying out, while the main concern with heat is overheating and heat rashes. This is where it is especially important to make sure you’re using the right bathing products for your baby.
5. Addressing specific skincare concerns
a. Eczema and other skin conditions can be tough on a little one. Two of my four children have eczema, so I know exactly how hard it can be for them. Eczema presents with red, itchy patches and can sometimes be painful, too. Eczema often appears on the face, hands, backs of legs and other areas where the skin folds. If you are concerned that your baby may have eczema, it’s important to consult a paediatrician for confirmation.
Managing eczema is essential in helping restore the skin and reducing discomfort for your little one. It is essential to avoid using fragranced bath washes on your baby and always use products with natural ingredients and oils. This ensures that the skin's natural oils are not stripped but rather supported. Make sure to dress your baby appropriately for the weather and avoid overheating. Opt for hydrate to keep your baby’s skin moisturised and protected to reduce irritation or inflammation.
What should I do if my baby has sensitive skin?
If your baby has sensitive skin, their skincare routine needs to prioritise being gentle. This includes:
i. Using a fragrance-free bath wash, such as b.box body cleanse, that doesn't strip the skin of its natural oils.
ii. Making sure their skin stays hydrated to prevent dryness. Make sure to moisturise with hydrate after every bath.
iii. Use soft fabrics and loose-fitting clothes such as cotton. Any tight clothing or tight elastics can irritate the skin.
iv. Make sure your baby doesn’t overheat, as becoming hot or sweaty can further irritate the skin and cause rashes.
b. Allergies and reactions in babies
Although the true cause of allergies remains unknown, babies can be more susceptible to reactions such as allergies, which are thought to be due to their sensitive skin and developing immune systems. When a baby is trying new foods, it is important only to give small amounts at a time. This is because usually, the more of the allergen food that is consumed, the more they may react. Sometimes, babies won’t react to the first time they try a food, but the second or subsequent time. Therefore, it is important to always watch for allergic reactions in babies.
What are the signs of allergies in babies? Usually, when a baby has an allergic reaction for the first time, it is a mild reaction. However, every baby is different, so if you are concerned, always seek medical advice immediately— do not wait.
Additionally, if your baby is showing two or more of the below mild symptoms, call 000.
Symptoms of a mild reaction may include:
i. A red, itchy rash or hives on the skin
ii. Watery eyes, runny nose or sneezing
iii. Nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea
Signs of severe reaction include:
i. Shortness of breath
ii. Repetitive vomiting
iii. Swelling in the face or mouth
iv. Hives all over the body
v. Lethargic and/or pale/blueish skin
If your baby has any of these symptoms, it’s essential to call 000 immediately— do not wait.
If your baby has a skin reaction, that is not an allergic response to a product. Try to gently wash that product off the skin and stop using immediately. Make sure to write down what was used, what time and what the symptoms were so that you can accurately determine the trigger and discuss the reaction with a healthcare professional.
Bath time should be a fun and memorable experience for you and baby and doesn’t need too much thought. As a mum of 4 and experienced midwife, I know just how daunting the bath and skincare routine can seem, but following this easy guide can help take the pressure off. By understanding your baby’s skin, common skincare conditions, how to adapt your skincare through the seasons, and potential adverse skin reactions, you can be well-equipped to handle anything that parenthood sends your way.
So, use this guide as a valuable resource to answer any of your pressing questions, as well as help you stay informed on the best products to use on your baby’s skin. Oh, and don’t forget to take lots of photos and videos because bath and massage time are so special!!
Written By Lauren Brenton
Endorsed Midwife and Founder of One Mama Midwife Pty Ltd
I’m Loz and I’m an Endorsed Midwife who runs Antenatal Classes in the Sutherland Shire. I have completed a Bachelor of Midwifery and a Master of Midwifery. My favourite area is in the labour ward, this is where you can find me most days. One Mama Midwife came about in the height of Covid in 2020, when so many women were missing out on the chance to have antenatal education. Aimed at empowering you with the tools you require to have the pregnancy, birth and postpartum journey that you want to have, with advice and recommendations you can trust.