Healthy Skin for Babies: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Babies have sensitive skin that is easily irritated. They can get acne, cradle cap, and heat rash, and are easily burned by the sun. Chemicals from clothing or soaps that are used to wash clothes also can cause skin problems for your baby.

With basic care and some precautions, your baby can have healthy skin.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

Bath time

  • Bathe your baby in a tub only after the umbilical cord has fallen off. Until then, use sponge baths.
  • Most babies only need a bath every few days.
  • In between baths, keep your baby's face and bottom clean and dry.
  • Bathe your baby in the morning or late in the day, before a feeding. It is best if the baby can eat and then go to sleep after the bath.
  • If you feed your baby before a bath, wait 30 minutes before the bath to keep the baby from spitting up in the bath.
  • Do not use lotion or talcum powder unless your doctor says it is okay.

Bath safety

  • Never leave a baby alone in or near a tub of water.
  • Make sure you have everything you need, including a towel, before starting the bath.
  • Keep the water warm enough to keep your baby from getting chilled, but cool enough to keep from burning your baby's skin.
  • Use only mild shampoo and soap.
  • Use a washcloth to clean around the face and ears. Do not use soap near the baby's eyes.

Acne and cradle cap

Acne is common in the first few weeks of a baby's life. It usually goes away after a couple of months. Cradle cap is an oily, yellow scaling or crusting on a baby's scalp. It is common in babies and is easily treated. Cradle cap is normal and does not mean that a baby is not being treated well.

  • Keep your baby's face clean.
  • Do not try to pop or squeeze the pimples.
  • Do not use acne creams or any other adult medicine.
  • Wash your baby's scalp with a soft brush and rinse well to prevent cradle cap.
  • If your baby has cradle cap, rub his or her scalp with baby oil, mineral oil, or petroleum jelly about an hour before shampooing. This will help lift the crusts and loosen the scales.
  • After washing your baby's new clothes and blankets, rinse them twice before using them to be sure all soaps and chemicals are gone.

Sunburn and heat rash

Keep babies younger than 6 months out of the sun. If you cannot avoid the sun, use hats and clothing to protect your child's skin.

Heat rash is a red or pink rash with tiny raised bumps that usually is found on body parts that are covered by clothing. It will go away without treatment.

  • Keep your child out of the strong midday sun (from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).
  • Have your child wear a hat with a wide brim and sunglasses with UV protection.
  • Dress your child in loose-fitting, tightly woven clothing that covers the arms and legs.
  • For babies 6 months of age or older, use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher to protect children's very sensitive skin. Apply the sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going in the sun. Reapply sunscreen every 2 to 3 hours.
  • If your baby has heat rash, start by cooling him or her down. Remove or loosen clothing and move your baby to a cool, shady spot. Cool the affected areas directly using cold, wet washcloths or a cool bath.
  • Let the skin air-dry instead of using towels.
  • If your baby's skin is too inflamed to touch, you might use calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream if your doctor says it is okay. Avoid ointments and other lotions, because they can irritate the skin.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your baby has a sunburn with blisters.
  • Your baby has a sunburn and seems very tired or lacks energy.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your baby has cradle cap that does not get better or go away.
  • Your baby has pimples that look like they could be infected. Signs of infection may include swelling, red streaks, or pus draining from the pimples.
  • Your baby has a sunburn that seems to be causing pain.
  • Your baby's rash does not go away.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your baby does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.