Basic baby health care can present some unique challenges that you may not know how to tackle; here experts handle some of the questions to help you understand baby care, bathing, and grooming. From treating baby acne to clipping nails, we've found some answers to help give your babies excellent care. Pediatrician Lynn Smitherman, M.D., recently about basic baby care. Here is what the assistant professor of pediatrics at Detroit's Wayne State University had to say:
Q: Because many parents — especially first timers — are obsessed with germs and cleanliness, bath time might seem like a crucial part of baby's hygiene. But how often does a baby really need to be bathed?
A: Infants don't really need to be bathed more than two to three times per week. Parents should always wash their baby's face and diaper area really well, but the rest of the body —arms, legs, tummy and back — doesn't really get that dirty. Once babies start crawling or toddling, it is important that their hands are kept clean, and if they are going barefoot, that their feet are clean. That means bathing baby more frequently — maybe every other day. Be careful, especially in the winter, not to overdo the washing because the soap and water can dry out their skin. By 1 year of age, they will need to be bathed even more frequently, perhaps daily, because they can get really messy.
Q: When it comes to baby's first bath, a lot of parents head for the kitchen sink, which is at a comfortable height and is small enough to seem manageable. Do you need to do anything special if you're going to use the sink?
A: You do want to wash out the sink really well. Just make sure there is no food or dirt left over from the last time you washed dishes. And, if you use harsh cleansers on your sink, be sure to wash it really well with soap and water and then rinse it one last time with hot water to get rid of any residue. If there's residue left over, it can cause irritation to baby's skin. Another option is bathing baby in an infant bathtub. Most keep baby at an angle so they're not lying flat, helping to keep water from pooling up in the diaper area, which is where you need to concentrate your cleaning anyhow.
Q: What about temperature? How do you know if it's too hot or too cold?
A: The best way to check the temperature of the water is with your elbow or forearm, since those are more sensitive than your fingers. You want the water to be a little warmer than lukewarm — just warm enough to feel comfortable. And keep in mind that the naval cord has to be completely off and healed — this happens around week three — before you submerse baby entirely. Until then, you can make do with a sponge bath.
Q: Babies have a reputation for silky-smooth skin, but in reality their skin is often rough, bumpy and dry. What do parents need to know about skin care for their infant?
A: First, they should know that when babies are first born, they go through a very natural process of peeling skin. Many parents get concerned because they think the skin is peeling because it's dry. It's not. I tell parents to try to imagine what would happen to their skin if they sat in a bathtub full of water for nine months and then had to adapt to the dry air. Skin peeling right after birth is a natural process, and it doesn't need any special treatment. In terms of washing, it's best to use a very mild soap. Even though there are a lot of products advertised, I find that unscented Dove soap works best. It is very mild, which is good because some children have reactions to the perfumes and dyes used in some soap. This will help keep their skin from getting irritated.
Q: While we're talking about skin, what about baby acne? If baby has pimples, is it time to break out the Clearasil?
A: Baby acne — little pimples, usually on the face — usually shows up within a few days of life and goes away without treatment. These pimples may come and go for the first month or so, but they're nothing to worry about. Some babies also get eczema, which is a dry skin condition that usually runs in the family. The best way to treat that is to keep the skin moisturized, using a very mild, unscented lotion such as Vaseline or baby lotion. But if your baby has very sensitive skin, you may have to use a special lotion like Lubriderm or Cetaphil. If that doesn't help, have your pediatrician check it out to make sure it isn't something else.
Q: Do you recommend using baby powder or talcum powder?
A: Nowadays, we're trying to get away from using powder altogether because if it is inhaled it can cause lung damage. So we try to discourage the use of baby, or talcum, powder. But if you choose to use it, don't sprinkle the powder directly on the baby, because the risk of breathing it in is very high. Stand away from baby and put some in your hand and then rub it on baby, keeping it away from the face.
Will continue in (Part two)