Newborns are very cute and squishy, but their skin (among many, many things) can be so unpredictable. The smallest of changes/flakes/bruises is enough to set any parent into a mild panic.
Skin is the body’s largest organ and it acts as a protective barrier to keep out all sorts of nasties such as bacteria. But it takes a little while for babies’ skin to function efficiently. So there are some common skin issues you can expect in their first few weeks and months of life.
Fortunately, we were able to wrangle some time with paediatrician and father of three, Dr Daniel Golshevsky. Here (and in his tremendous new book Your Baby Doesn’t Come With A Book), Dr Golly details how to identify and treat some of the skin issues your baby is likely to experience.
What’s normal to expect when it comes to baby's skin?
“Newborns undergo wild hormone fluctuations in the last few weeks of pregnancy and in the months following birth. Just like adolescents frequently experience acne due to hormone changes, babies can experience a similar change. This ‘newborn acne’ can be alarming for new parents, but it’s common and most of the time, no cause for concern.”
What are some of the most common skin issues babies might experience?
“This newborn acne (erythema toxicum) is by far the most common. It’s not painful, itchy or scarring. The spots are scattered red, with white centres. It does not appear on the palms of the hands or the soles of the feet and seldom happens in premature babies.
If your baby does develop erythema toxicum, it should clear itself reasonably quickly. Be aware that eczema appearing in the first weeks of life can look almost identical to newborn acne. If the surrounding skin is dry and feels like sandpaper - it’s probably eczema, which needs to be treated professionally.”
What are your top tips for protecting and caring for a new baby’s skin?
“With newborns it’s less about skincare and more about establishing a daily rhythm. Treat their skincare rituals like a day-spa experience. The best way to do this is by including a bath in their bedtime wind-down routine.
By incorporating rituals, smells and sensations on a familiar basis, babies will start to associate these with bedtime and subconsciously begin preparing for longer overnight stretches of sleep… What's more relaxing than a nice, warm bath?!
NOTE: There’s no need for bath oil, lotions or creams if your baby has healthy skin. However, dry skin in the newborn phase benefits from additional oil and moisturisers, which can be applied multiple times a day.
HOT TIP: When you run the bath, test it with your inner wrist instead of your fingertips. Your wrist is more sensitive to temperature, and if it’s too hot for your wrist, it’s too hot for your baby. Just warmer than body temperature is recommended (37-38 degrees Celsius).”
How do parents know when they should be alarmed about a rash or skin issue?
“My new book outlines a few of the most common skin conditions new babies are most likely to develop, and what to do next. I’ve also included images to help you distinguish one from the next.”
And what should parents do if they are worried about their kid's skin?
“Honestly, I sound like a broken record saying this but trust your parental instincts. No one knows your baby like you. If parents are worried about ANYTHING, I always encourage having their babies checked out by their chosen healthcare professional. If it turns out to be nothing, at the very least you can leave that appointment with peace of mind.”
Every newborn is different, but every parent can learn to understand their baby, tap into their innate parenting instincts, and thrive (not just survive) on the rollercoaster that is parenting.