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Baby skin complaints & how to deal with them

Are you concerned about a rash that's appeared on your baby's skin? It's normal for babies to develop skin rashes from as early as a few days old, as their sensitive skin adapts to a different environment. Generally most rashes are harmless and go away on their own. However sometimes they do require some form of treatment. And there are a wealth of treatments out there ranging from prescriptive creams to more natural remedies. Here we explore some of the main baby skin complaints and the best way for new parents to tackle them.

One thing worth remembering is that all children's skin is bound to break out in some complaint or another during the first year. This is because it takes roughly a year for a baby's skin to thicken, develop pigment, regulate temperature properly and function effectively. In the meantime your little one will be much more prone to break outs and rashes from time to time. Nothing to worry about sure, but unsettling for you parents nonetheless.

So let's start by looking at some of the main complaints...

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7 Baby Acne

Neonatal acne, also known as baby acne, is a skin condition that affects newborns (usually peaking around the 2 month mark). Although baby acne is not serious and usually clears up on it's own in time, it can be a stressful thing for a mother to witness her beautiful new baby's face (and occasionally body) break out in these white or red bumps and pimples. Your baby's acne can become more pronounced when he is hot or fussy. Or if their skin is irritated by saliva, milk residue,

or fabric that feels rough or has been washed in strong detergent. For many the most natural way to fight baby acne is to do very little. Stop moisturising the area that has been affected, only bath the baby every other day and simply use some cotton wool soaked in water to clean the child. Stop using fabric conditioner and switch to the most natural, chemical free and organic laundry detergent you can find. Sometimes it is as simple as taking away anything that may have unnatural components in it that could be affecting your child's skin and given time, you should start to see your baby's skin complaint clear up on it's own. Baby acne will almost always go away on it's own, but it can take several months.

  • pimples tend to develop on the baby's cheeks, nose and forehead within one month of birth
  • tends to get worse before clearing up completely after a few weeks or months
  • washing your baby's face with mild soap and water can help improve the appearance of their skin
  • always avoid acne medications intended for older children and adults
  • pimples of blackheads that develop after three months of age are known as infantile acne and often need medical treatment so in this circumstance advice from a healthcare professional should be sought

6 Baby eczema

Many babies and small children develop eczema which shows up in patches of dry, red, leathery skin. The look of eczema can be a great concern for parents however symptoms can be treated and most babies do outgrow their newborn eczema. At the time though it can be stressful as the baby's skin will be tender, itchy, rough and uncomfortable for your little one. Eczema can appear almost anywhere on a child's body although most commonly it is found on the cheeks, scalp, forehead and at the joints of their limbs. This immune system reaction can be triggered by a range of things from soaps and creams to stress and heat. More often though eczema is down to genetics and if a parent has suffered from the skin condition then the child will be much more likely to get it themselves.

  • eczema is common in babies (affecting roughly one in eight) and often starts between the ages of 2 and 4 months
  • the symptoms are patches of red, dry and itchy skin found on the face, neck, knees and elbows
  • eczema can be very itchy which will cause your baby to scratch and in some cases can lead to infection
  • you should always speak to a healthcare professional if you suspect your baby is suffering from eczema

There are lots of different remedies these days for treating eczema. Applying an un-perfumed emollient a few times a day can stop the area from getting too dry and an aqueous cream can be used for washing instead of soap. Always remember to keep your child cool as the heat can make eczema worse and if you are using a cream then ensure you only apply it in downward strokes as rubbing can make the problem worse. Try to avoid anything that might irritate the skin further like nylon or wool or harsh soap powder or cigarette smoke. Finally soap and bubble bath can often make the problem worse so do without them if you can.

5 Diaper rash

Probably the most common baby skin complaint out there - most babies will get diaper rash at some point during the first 18 months. This can be caused by leaving a wet diaper on too long, sensitive skin, rubbing or chafing, soap, detergent, baby wipes or diarrhoea. It may appear in patches on the baby's bottom or it might affect the whole area. Sometimes the skin might look sore and feel hot to the touch. There may also be spots, pimples or blisters. If treating diaper rash, then a bath a day at most should be enough. Make sure you add a mild baby cleanser or emollient to the water, but be careful as a baby bath emollient will make your little one slippery to handle in that water! You could switch to a super absorbent disposable diaper to try to restrict the level of moisture that your baby's skin is exposed to. But bare in mind that there is no solid evidence to say that disposable diapers are better than cloth ones for treating or preventing diaper rash. When it comes to diaper rash, prevention is most definitely better than cure and there are many ways you can stop your little on from developing this skin complaint.

  • change wet or soiled diapers as quickly as possible as prolonged skin contact with urine or stools is always the most likely culprit in diaper rash
  • clean the whole diaper area thoroughly, wiping from front to back and use sensitive baby wipes or simply just plain water
  • let fresh air get to your baby's skin by allowing them diaper free time as often as possible
  • use a barrier cream such as a zinc or barrier oil

You can treat diaper rash with a diaper rash cream. These are available from all good pharmacists and they can usually advise you on buying the best one. 

4 Cradle Cap

This skin complaint is extremely common in newborns and can show up as a red area on your baby's scalp covered with greasy looking, yellow tinged, scaly patches. Cradle cap usually appears in babies during the first 2 months of their lives and tends to eventually clear up of it's own accord. It's a common and harmless condition that doesn't cause any itchiness or distress to your baby. Over time the scales can start to become flaky so that they rub off easily. You can treat your baby's cradle cap at home by washing their hair regularly and using a soft brush to loosen the flakes. It is still not completely clear what causes cradle cap although many believe it to be down to over active sebaceous glands in the skin that produce an oily substance called sebum. It's thought that sometimes babies retain some of their mother's hormones in their systems for a few weeks after birth, which makes the babies glands produce more of this sebum.

  • cradle cap is easy to recognise by the large, greasy, yellow or brown scales on your baby's scalp
  • cradle cap isn't contagious and is not an allergy
  • most cases of cradle cap will clear up in their own time
  • there is usually no need to see a healthcare professional unless the scalp becomes inflamed or the cradle cap spreads to other parts of the body
  • it's important not to pick at the scales as this can cause infection

Gently washing your baby's hair with baby shampoo can help prevent a build up of scales however you can buy special shampoos for treating directly cradle cap directly from most pharmacists. If you do use one of these then always follow the instructions enclosed and be sure to keep it out of the baby's eyes. As a general rule, don't use shampoos that contain groundnut or peanut oil on children under the age of five.

So we have covered four of the main baby skin complaints but what about how to treat them? Most parents these days prefer more natural and organic forms of treatment. Especially when dealing with children so little. So let's explore some of the safest ways to treat these pesky skin complaints...

3 Coconut Oil

Already renowned as a fabulously hydrating formula for your baby's skin, many mothers swear by the amazing powers of coconut oil for baby acne. Stick to the organic, unrefined stuff and you only need a little bit at a time as this stuff goes a long way. All you need to do is rub a small amount of extra virgin coconut oil onto the affected area a few times a day. Coconut oil is 100% natural and chemical free and many mothers claim to see a difference in their baby's skin after just a few applications. 

Virgin (unprocessed) coconut oil is also considered a wonderful treatment for cradle cap as it is such an excellent conditioner for baby's scalp and hair and for flaky, newborn skin. A wonderful natural emollient for dry skin, coconut oil has also been known to be helpful for a whole heap of skin complaints including baby eczema. In fact, coconut oil has so many rich healing properties on a baby's skin that it's uses are endless...

  • as there are no chemicals in it and it is 100% organic, you can use coconut oil to treat diaper rash
  • coconut oil can also be used to treat yeast infections in babies and does not stain cloth diapers
  • coconut oil prevents dryness and irritation and can be used a simple body lotion on babies who do not require a heavy moisturising cream
  • massaging coconut oil onto baby's scalp loosens the flakes caused by cradle cap while moisturising the dry areas at the same time
  • applying coconut oil on skin rashes and insect bites soothes the skin, preventing it from itching and speeding up healing

2 Try the kitchen

The solution to your baby's skin problem might be found in your kitchen cupboards. It has been suggested by many that cornstarch simply mixed with a little water is a great way of treating baby acne. Cornstarch has natural drying properties and many believe that this is the reason it is such a great way of combating this increased sensitivity in your little one's sebaceous glands. Just mix a small amount with some room temperature water then apply a thin layer onto the child's skin. Leave for an hour or so then wash off with warm water. As cornstarch is be so drying it is suggested that you only need to do this once a day in order to start seeing some results. 

Some Moms swear by applying egg white to areas of diaper rash. Just apply the separated egg mixture to the affected area after each diaper change and leave to dry before putting on the next diaper. One of the most popular home remedies for baby eczema if an oatmeal and baking soda bath. You can do this by putting oatmeal powder in an old stocking and running it under the tap as you fill up your little one's tub. Add two tablespoons of baking soda which will work as a cleanser. You can make the oatmeal powder by grinding the oatmeal in a food processor or coffee grinder and many parents swear they see a definite improvement in their babies skin by giving them regular baths like these. Another great little home remedy on baby skin complaints is the use of honey to treat inflamed or irritated skin. Manuka honey in particular which is full of anti-bacterial and anti-viral compounds. Another great home remedy for curing cradle cap is the use of olive oil which can be left on for 15 minutes and then rinsed off. Oil will soak the dry scales, which can then easily be removed with a dry tooth comb.

  • USE: cornstarch for baby acne. Apply a thin layer mixed with water then rinse off after an hour
  • USE: egg whites for nappy rash. Just apply after you have cleaned the nappy area and allow to dry before putting on a new diaper
  • USE: oatmeal for eczema. Simply grind your oats to a powder and add to your baby's bath along with some baking soda
  • USE: olive oil for cradle cap. Apply, leave for 15 minutes minutes then wipe off with a clean soft wash cloth

1 Breast milk & feeding

Tried, tested and a sworn fixer according to many a mother, that 'natural elixir of life' breast milk is a popular choice for many Mom's trying to help their baby's condition. Considered the most natural way to treat a multitude of skin conditions in your littl eone, simply soak a cotton pad in some of your breast milk then gently wipe over the baby's skin a few times a day. 

Many mom's profess to seeing a difference almost immediately. And if you are a nursing mom, then a simple change in your diet could be all it takes to clear up your little one's skin. For some ladies, drinking dandelion tea seems to have a great impact on fixing their baby's skin complaint. Other women swear by cutting sugar or dairy out of their diet. It's widely thought that eating a lot of citrus fruits can be a common cause of acne in a nursing baby's skin, so if you do like fruit, try cutting out anything too acidic for a while to see if that helps. 

If your little one does have some kind of skin complaint then there are a few diet tips out there for nursing mamas that might help you to see some improvement and they are most definitely worth giving a shot!

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