Grooming Baby: Keeping Your Little One Clean and Comfortable

Caring for Baby's Skin

Q: Babies have a reputation for silky-smooth skin, but in reality their skin is often rough, bumpy and dry. What do parents need to know about skin care for their infant?

A: First, they should know that when babies are first born, they go through a very natural process of peeling skin. Many parents get concerned because they think the skin is peeling because it's dry. It's not. I tell parents to try to imagine what would happen to their skin if they sat in a bathtub full of water for nine months and then had to adapt to the dry air. Skin peeling right after birth is a natural process, and it doesn't need any special treatment. In terms of washing, it's best to use a very mild soap. Even though there are a lot of products advertised, I find that unscented Dove soap works best. It is very mild, which is good because some children have reactions to the perfumes and dyes used in some soap. This will help keep their skin from getting irritated.

Q: While we're talking about skin, what about baby acne? If baby has pimples, is it time to break out the Clearasil?

A: Baby acne - little pimples, usually on the face - usually shows up within a few days of life and goes away without treatment. These pimples may come and go for the first month or so, but they're nothing to worry about. Some babies also get eczema, which is a dry skin condition that usually runs in the family. The best way to treat that is to keep the skin moisturized, using a very mild, unscented lotion such as Vaseline or baby lotion. But if your baby has very sensitive skin, you may have to use a special lotion like Lubriderm or Cetaphil. If that doesn't help, have your pediatrician check it out to make sure it isn't something else.

Q: Do you recommend using baby powder or talcum powder?

A: Nowadays, we're trying to get away from using powder altogether because if it is inhaled it can cause lung damage. So we try to discourage the use of baby, or talcum, powder. But if you choose to use it, don't sprinkle the powder directly on the baby, because the risk of breathing it in is very high. Stand away from baby and put some in your hand and then rub it on baby, keeping it away from the face.