Caring for your new baby’s skin

by Kaiser Permanente |
LotionBeingAppliedToInfantAfterBath

Every infant’s skin is different, and it’s not uncommon for them to develop skin conditions. It’s important to remember that most are harmless and will likely go away on their own.

Common infant skin conditions

Baby acne

Hormones from your body may cause your baby to have acne after birth. Don’t use acne treatments or lotions on your baby. No treatment is required — it will go away on its own after a week or two.

Birthmarks

Birthmarks are common among newborns. Your baby may have reddish marks around their eyes, forehead, or the back of their neck.

In some cases, babies are born with congenital dermal melanocytosis, often called a “Mongolian spot.” This is a dark blue mark on the lower back or buttocks. For most children, it fades away by their teen years, although some have this mark throughout their life.

Bumps

Small bumps, called milia, may develop on your baby’s face. These tiny, white, pearly bumps might be most noticeable on your infant’s nose. These are normal, so don’t squeeze or scrub them. They usually go away within a few weeks.

Cradle cap

Scaly, crusty skin may appear on the top of your baby’s head. Also called seborrheic dermatitis, this condition occurs when skin oils, dead skin cells, and scales build up. Cradle cap should go away permanently by the time your baby is a year old, and it doesn’t need to be treated. You can try using baby shampoo every day and gently using a soft brush to loosen the scales.

Dry skin

Dry skin is another common issue in the few weeks after birth. Because your baby’s skin is very sensitive, only use baby lotion, not any creams or lotions made for adults.

Red, blotchy skin

Many babies have red, blotchy skin for a few weeks after they’re born. The blotches might come and go, but they’ll eventually disappear on their own.

Red dots

Tiny red dots known as petechiae may appear on your baby’s skin. These dots are actually specks of blood that entered your baby’s skin during the birth process. In most cases, they go away in a couple weeks. If these dots continue to form of your baby’s skin, contact the baby’s clinician.

Common infant rashes

It’s also normal for newborns to have one or more types of rashes.

Diaper rash

Wearing a wet diaper for a long period of time can cause diaper rash. This is because urine and stool irritate your baby’s skin. Diaper rash can also be caused by bacterial or yeast infections.

This rash appears as red, sore skin on your baby’s genitals or buttocks.

Eczema

Also called atopic dermatitis, eczema may show up during your baby’s first year. The rash usually looks like red, swollen patches on your baby’s face, neck, or chin.

Eczema tends to run in families, and it may be linked to certain allergies like hay fever. This condition may be life-long, but many babies outgrow it.

Heat rash

This itchy red or pink rash develops on areas of your baby’s body that are usually covered by clothing. It can happen any time, but it’s more likely to occur if your baby is dressed too warmly.

Mottling

Mottling is a blotchy, lace-like rash that only appears when your baby is cold. It should go away when your baby is warmed. Mottling usually doesn’t happen after your baby is 6 months old.

Pustular melanosis

This type of rash is more common among Black infants. It’s a rash with pus-filled pimples that usually goes away in the first few days after birth. For most babies, this rash is harmless and doesn’t require treatment.

Rash around the chin or mouth

Consistent drooling may cause a rash around your baby’s mouth or chin.

Skin care for your baby

There are several steps you can take to help care for your baby’s skin:

  • Only use gentle soaps.
  • Don’t let your baby’s skin dry out too much.
  • Dress your baby in cotton clothes.
  • Leave any rashes open to the air, if possible.
  • Wash your baby’s clothes with mild soap.

If your baby has heat rash, try to keep their skin cool and dry. You should also avoid dressing them too warmly in hot weather.

To help treat diaper rash, be sure to change your baby’s diapers as soon as they are dirty. Air out your baby’s diaper area for a few minutes before putting on a new diaper. Diaper creams can help protect your baby’s skin, but don’t use baby powder on a baby with diaper rash. This can encourage bacteria to grow, which can make the rash worse.

When to call your clinician

If you notice your baby’s birthmark changing in color or size, let your clinician. If your baby’s skin mottles even when they’re warmed up, your clinician should check it out.

You should also call your clinician if you notice:

  • A fever.
  • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness around the rash.
  • Pus draining from the rash.
  • Red streaks leading away from the rash.
  • New petechiae (tiny red dots) forming on your baby’s skin.

Call your clinician if your baby has blisters, open sores, or scabs near or on the rash. These could be signs of infection. If your baby’s rash gets worse or they become very fussy, let their clinician know quickly.

This article has been created by a national group of Kaiser Permanente ob-gyns, certified nurse-midwives, pediatricians, lactation consultants and other specialists who came together to provide you with the best pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and newborn information.

Some of the content is used and adapted with permission of The Permanente Medical Group.

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