There’s nothing like a newborn’s velvety soft skin. But don’t expect your baby’s complexion to be perfect straight away. In fact he’ll probably come out looking blotchy and may peel after a few days as his skin dries out. Not that that will stop you from wanting to stroke him every 10 seconds. Which is as it should be, since studies show babies thrive on physical contact – not only do they find it comforting, it causes their brains to release growth hormones and helps strengthen their immune systems.
One study of 73 premature babies found those who received kangaroo care (constant skin-to-skin contact with their parents) had better cognitive and motor development than a control group. Not only that: parents who provided skin-to-skin care reported having less depression and a stronger bond with their babies.
That said, newborn skin tends to be very sensitive, so you’ll need to take good care of it.
- Resist the urge to bath your new baby every day. Over-washing can cause dryness and flaking. A few dabs with warm water and cotton wool is often all that’s necessary.
- In the first few days of life, babies commonly get different kinds of spots, like neonatal urticaria, which is a red rash on different parts of their body, and milk spots (milia), tiny white dots on their face and elsewhere. These are completely normal and clear up by themselves.
- Your baby may get acne, especially on her face, caused by exposure to maternal hormones and the fact that her pores aren’t fully developed yet, so often clog with dirt and gunk. This is a temporary condition that appears about a month after birth and will resolve itself in a matter of weeks or a few months. The only treatment is to wash his skin with warm water (and mild soap if you wish). Whatever you do, do not scrub your newborn’s face or squeeze any spots.
- Always read the ingredients of any products you use on your baby’s skin and choose ones with natural, preferably organic, ingredients. Avoid using detergents and other harsh chemicals, which can irritate sensitive skin.
- Rather than use sunscreen, which can irritate newborn skin, it’s best to keep your baby out of the sun, covering him with light, protective clothing and a sun hat.