Caring for baby's sensitive skin

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by Melissa Jaramillo

Sensitive SkinYou've probably heard something described as "smooth as a baby's bottom."

Baby skin can be so soft you can hardly resist stroking it.

Unfortunately, not all baby skin stays smooth. Some infants are born with sensitive skin. Others develop it in the first few month of life.

Parents of little ones with skin sensitivities will attest that it leaves baby itchy, irritable, and uncomfortable. They can also share whenever baby is miserable, you're bound to be, too. These tips can help end the discomfort -- for both of you!

Caring for your baby's sensitive skin

Baby products

Baby soaps and lotions smells so irresistible and sound so reassuring with phrases like "calming," "soothing," and "refreshing" that you're sure your pj-clad baby will be drifting off into a peaceful dreamland.

For some kids with sensitive, these products wreak havoc. Instead of calm and happy, you're faced with an upset baby covered with dry skin and rashes. It's such a common problem that many midwives and pediatricians advise against using any baby products -- soaps, lotions, powders or oils -- during the first four to six weeks of baby's life.

As you chose products and clothing that will touch your baby's skin, look for those that are:

• Cleansers and soaps fragrance-free and mild
• Clothes and bedding made of natural fibers

Tip: Things that don't bother adults like the chemicals in new clothes or detergent residue can irritate a newborn's skin. You can minimize that problem by washing garments thoroughly before your baby wears them. Double rinse anything that will contact your baby's skin.

Limit bathing

For most babies, three bath a week is plenty. Keep the water lukewarm or cooler. The warmer the bath water, the greater amount of moisture your baby's skin loses. Use the mildest cleaner you can find or simply rinse with water. Apply a baby-friendly, fragrance-free lotion after the bath.

Eczema

Some children inherit a tendency to develop eczema (atopic eczema, which is often linked to hay fever and asthma), while some children develop it as a reaction or sensitivity to a particular substance.

It usually shows up when your baby hit the three-month mark. You may notice dry, red cheeks or irritation in the fold of the neck, arms and legs. Once your baby starts crawling, the friction between skin and carpet can set it off on the knees and elbows.

Recent studies show that up to 40 percent of babies with eczema have a genetic mutation in the skin protein that keeps moisture locked in and allergens locked out. Eczema may put your baby at a higher risk of developing allergies, but it's rare for a baby's eczema to be cause by a particular allergen according to Dr. Lawrence Eichenfield of Children's Hospital in San Diego.

Eczema tends to be worst in the winter when your baby's skin is driest. These tips may make skin less itchy and cut back on scratching.

✓ Keep fingernails trimmed to prevent skin infections.
✓ Keep baby's skins moisturized by applying a non-allergenic lotion daily.
✓ Drool and messy feedings can irritate the skin. Dab on a bit of petroleum jelly or other barrier before meals and at bedtime.
✓ Give your baby an oatmeal bath. You can find colloidal oatmeal in the drug store. It calms itchy skin.
✓ Dress your child in natural, breathable fabrics such as cotton.
✓ Talk with your pediatrician if your baby's eczema is severe. They may recommend steroid cream daily for 3 to 4 days for the reddened area. Apply it sparingly.

Is your baby's skin dry or sensitive? What have you found helps?

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.