When your baby is born, they are making the transition from intra-uterine life (inside you) to extra-uterine life (into the outside world). Your baby is coming from a dark, sterile, closed environment where they were surrounded by water, into a brightly lit, spacious, dry environment where your baby's skin will encounter many different bacteria. As a result of this and the exposure to chemicals and irritants in our modern world, up to 50% of babies will develop nappy rash at least once.
Your baby’s skin
The skin is the largest and most important organ of the human body, as it provides a protective barrier for the body and its internal organs. Babies often have rashes and spots in their first few weeks of life as their delicate skin adapts to the outside world. Most of these are harmless and will disappear after a short time as their immune system develops and their skin colonises “good” bacteria to use as protection. You can access a visual guide to baby skin conditions here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/nappy-rash/
How to care for your baby’s skin
Bathing your newborn baby infrequently will help maintain healthy skin, by not stripping their body of the natural oils and good bacteria on their skin surface. Usually, bathing 1 or 2 times a week is adequate, along side keeping your baby’s face and bottom clean throughout the day (often referred to as top and tailing).
For the first few weeks, it is advised to keep things very simple by using as few products as possible on their skin, such as creams and baby bath products, as these can contain perfumes and chemicals that can disturb the pH balance and remove healthy and protective oils and bacteria that are naturally produced by your baby. As your baby adapts to the outside world, they will develop resistance and be able to tolerate their environment and a wider range of products.
Nappy rash is a very commonplace in babies and is a reaction to their skin coming into contact with certain things that cause irritations. Your baby is unique and as such may be more or less prone to developing nappy rash and skin problems.
How your baby might develop nappy rash:
- Extended contact with their own urine and poo. Urine contains ammonia and poo contains digestive enzymes, both of which can irritate your baby’s skin if they have prolonged contact.
- An ill-fitting nappy or a nappy that just doesn’t suit your baby’s shape or skin. Nappies can chafe and rub on your baby’s skin which will weaken its integrity.
- Prolonged use of the same nappy. Even highly absorbent nappies will still keep urine and poo close to your baby’s skin.
- The use of strongly scented soaps and detergents on your baby, these products include baby wipes, baby moisturisers and baby bath products.
- Using baby wipes which contain alcohol during your baby’s skin care routine, as these will strip natural skin oils from your baby’s bottom.
- If your baby has received any antibiotics, they are more prone to thrush which can irritate their skin and result in nappy rash.
Fortunately, with some simple steps and attention to a regular baby skin care routine, you can reduce the chance of nappy rash developing or help to soothe any soreness or redness that appears. If, after following these steps, your baby’s skin shows no improvement or becomes more inflamed, contact your health visitor or GP for further assessment and advice.
How to care for and soothe your baby’s bottom:
- Make sure you change your baby’s nappy regularly to prevent prolonged contact for your baby’s skin with urine and poo.
- Avoid bathing your baby daily as this will dry out the natural oils that your baby’s skin produces.
- Make sure you wash your hands before and after nappy changes to help prevent the spread of infections.
- During nappy changes make sure the area is cleaned and dried thoroughly without using excessive rubbing.
- To clean your baby’s bottom and genitals use water or unscented, alcohol-free baby wipes.
- Always wipe from the front to the back during your baby’s nappy change.
- Let your baby have nappy-free time every day to encourage healing, by laying your baby on a towel on their changing mat. This will help air to circulate around and provide a dry and absorbent area in case there are any accidents.
- Using a smooth and easy to apply barrier cream or balm which does not drag your baby’s skin when you apply it such as, will help to prevent any further skin damage.
Your baby’s skin is a delicate but important barrier to infections. Learning what might cause your baby’s skin to become sore and how you can protect it against the irritants that cause nappy rash can prevent problems in the future.
Click here for more information on baby skin rashes