It starts out wrinkled, mottled, and most likely dotted with infant acne. Then, as those hazy first weeks pass, your newborn's skin evolves into the stuff of poetry -- rosy, plump, and soft, enviably elastic, and infinitely kissable. But that buttery exterior comes with a price: A baby's skin is way more delicate than that of bigger kids and adults. "Infant skin needs to be protected and cared for," says Patricia Witman, M.D., chief of pediatric dermatology at Nationwide Children's Hospital, in Columbus, OH. In other words, we can't take that kissability for granted. Here's how to ensure your child's skin stays "baby soft," even long after she's a baby.
Daily tubtime is perfectly fine. Even though babies don't get that dirty beyond their bums, it's fun and a nice way to wind them down. Just follow these guidelines:
- Skip the soap. What?? Isn't soap the bathtime equivalent of basil in pesto? The Situation in the Jersey Shore cast? Nope, says Dr. Witman; it can dry out your baby's skin. Instead, look for soap-free, fragrance-free mild cleansers and use them sparingly.
- Pop the bubbles. Before 6 months, avoid bubble baths. After that, look for mild formulations and stick to just 15 to 20 minutes of bubble time once a week. Sitting in sudsy water breaks down the skin's natural barrier to infection, causing redness and swelling. When the skin around the vaginal area is affected, the irritation can cause burning during urination, or even lead to a urinary-tract infection.
- Slather on the lube. A quick coat of after-bath cream is as important as the bath itself, dermatologists say. Dry skin can make your baby feel itchy and uncomfortable, and lead to inflamed skin that's more susceptible to infections. Follow the three-minute rule: Grease him up within about three minutes after taking him out of the bath -- before all the water on his skin evaporates -- to lock in the moisture.
- Get creamed. If your baby's skin is especially dry, you may want to opt for a cream formulation, which is more protective, and stick with mild, fragrance-free products. Baby oil and even olive oil are fine, too. Apply the cream or oil on your baby's entire body, being careful to avoid the eyes.
Patty Onderko is a contributing editor at Parenting and a mom to 2-year-old twin boys.