Essentials for Newborn Baby Skin Care, Bathing and Grooming

Essentials for Newborn Baby Skin Care, Bathing and Grooming

Aside from those grossest moments, like a spit-up filled feeding followed by a poop-splosion diaper, there is nothing purer than a newborn baby. That said, newborns require a bit of special care to keep that purity. With all that drool, milk/formula splatter, and messy diapers, it is important to know how to properly care for a newborn baby’s body in order to keep them healthy and clean. We’ve got you covered with the tips, tricks, and must-haves to make sure your little bundle of joy is fresh, clean, and cared for in the best possible way. Let’s look at baby skin care and other grooming necessities.

The essentials

Caring for a newborn is not entirely different from caring for our own bodies, however, many of the basic hygiene practices and products differ when concerning the sensitive needs of a newborn’s body. Luckily, there are many products that cater to the care of newborns and infants. Before welcoming baby home, be sure to have a few bathing and grooming essentials on hand:

  • Baby bathtub
  • Soft washcloths and a hooded towel
  • Soft brush or comb
  • Hypo-allergenic and scent-free soap, shampoo, and moisturizer
  • Nail clippers
  • Finger brush

Newborn baby skin care 101

Newborn baby skin care begins from the moment baby leaves the womb. While baby is still in the comfort of your uterus, baby’s skin is protected by a coating called vernix caseosa which prevents baby from losing precious body heat and helps to prevent baby from being too sticky after birth. Vernix caseosa is incredibly important because babies have notoriously sensitive skin.

It’s important that once this coating is gone, you are sure to keep an eye on baby’s skin. You want to avoid dry skin, diaper rash, and other skin irritation. With so many foreign elements around to damage newborn skin, you might be wondering how you can protect them?

baby under a blue umbrella to promote baby skin care in the sun

Baby skin care in the sun

Baby skin care is more than just lotions and soaps. If you plan to take your baby out of the house in the early months of their life, you may be concerned about protecting baby’s skin from sunburn and damage. So, how can you protect baby’s delicate skin from the dangers of the sun?

For starters, keep your baby out of direct sunlight whenever possible. Limiting sun exposure is something we should all be doing anyway, isn’t it? As if sunburn isn’t enough, watch out for heat rash, too!

Before 6 months, the FDA and the AAP both recommend keeping baby out of direct sunlight, as opposed to sunscreen. That is how important it is to protect your baby’s skin from the sun. Even over 6 months, make sure you apply sunscreen properly and even on baby’s scalp. People forget the scalp and your infant’s skin will pay the price for that one.

Baby on his belly with a hooded towel on him

Bath time baby skin care

Newborn babies do not need daily baths, due to the fact that they rarely get sweaty or dirty enough to require them. In fact, too frequent bathing can wreak havoc on their sensitive skin. Experts recommend one to three baths per week through infancy to keep baby skin soft and smooth. In between, give her a sponge bath, as needed.

Before the umbilical cord stump falls off, give baby sponge baths using warm water and a soft washcloth. Lay baby on a towel and work from top to bottom, gently wiping their head, face, neck, arms, and torso. Wipe down their legs and feet before finishing with the diaper area. 

Once the cord stump has fallen off and the area has healed, newborns can enjoy their first real bath. The first step to a safe and enjoyable bath time is having all your supplies within reach. Never leave baby unattended in the bath, even for just a second. If you forget something, wrap baby up and take them with you. Be sure the water is warm, not hot, and always fill the tub and check the temperature before putting baby in the bath.

While cleaning baby, discuss what you’re doing, parts of their body, and how the sensations feel. Talk to them about the baby shampoo and various baby skin care products. It can feel strange at first, chatting up a newborn, but bath time is an excellent bonding activity for newborns and caregivers.

Once baby is cleaned up, lift them from the tub and wrap them in a soft towel. Pat your baby completely dry, paying special attention to the crevices of their neck, thighs, and genital areas where left behind moisture can lead to irritation, diaper rash, and even a yeast infection. Apply baby lotion if desired, dress them in their cutest outfit (or whatever happens to be clean and comfy) and move on to grooming.

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Hair and scalp care

Do you really need to brush your newborn baby’s hair? It is personal preference, but whether your baby has barely a wisp or a full head of hair, it is important to keep the scalp and hair clean and moisturized. During baths, massage a small amount of mild soap or shampoo into baby’s scalp and rinse thoroughly, protecting eyes and ears from suds. Use a towel to pat their hair dry and a soft brush or comb to brush hair and scalp, keeping an eye out for any rashes or cradle cap (more on that below).

Nail care

The idea of using nail clippers on your brand new human can be terrifying, however, it is absolutely necessary as those tiny fingernails can easily become razor-sharp talons in the first few weeks. It may be tempting to bite baby’s nails but experts caution against this due to the risk of infection. Instead, use baby nail clippers that include a magnifying glass, a soft nail file, or blunt-nosed scissors, gently pulling the tip of the finger down a bit to avoid clipping the skin. Try to clip baby nails after a bath when the nail is softer, or when baby is asleep to minimize accidental injuries.

Oral care

It is never too early to get into the habit of proper oral hygiene. Use a silicone finger brush or soft damp washcloth to gently wipe baby’s gums and tongue after feeding. Avoid using toothpaste until after the first teeth appear and then follow your doctor’s recommendations.

newborn baby with baby acne for baby skin care

Baby acne

Yes, baby acne is a thing. It’s a real thing that comes from hormonal changes following birth. Small white or red bumps may appear on baby’s face. They may spot the baby’s nose, forehead, or cheeks. It may be tempting to throw some over the counter acne cream on them. DON’T do it! baby’s skin isn’t ready for that.

Do your best to keep your baby’s face clean and dry. The delicate skin can’t handle scrubbing or (even worse) popping so leave it be. Also, avoid baby lotion or baby oil on the face unless otherwise instructed by your baby’s doctor.

And don’t worry, about 20% of all newborn experience this and it goes away on its own in just a few weeks, leaving no signs of damage to baby’s skin in the process.

Extra care

You have the basics down and baby is happy, healthy, and smelling sweet, but there are some special circumstances that may require more care. 

Caring for the umbilical cord stump

While every newborn is different, there is one thing each and every one has in common – the umbilical cord stump. It usually falls off on its own within two weeks of birth. Until then, keep the area clean and dry, wiping only if needed and patting dry with a soft cloth. When diapering, be sure to fold the front of the diaper down slightly to avoid urine soaking the stump. Although rare, complications can occur; check baby’s abdomen daily for signs of abnormality or infection.  Call your pediatrician if you notice yellow or foul-smelling discharge, redness around the base of the cord, or if baby seems to cry more when you touch the cord or the skin around it. 

a woman holding petroleum jelly open to use for her baby skin care

Caring for your baby’s circumcision

If you choose to have baby circumcised, it is imperative that you know how to properly care for them after the procedure. Always follow your doctor’s instructions, but it is most important that you keep the area clean and monitor for any signs of infection. Wash the area with warm water and apply petroleum jelly during each diaper change.  Fasten the diaper loosely to prevent irritation. If you notice issues with urinating or signs of infection, call your doctor immediately.

Caring for cradle cap

Are you noticing scaly white or yellow patches on baby’s head? You might have a case of cradle cap. Cradle cap, also known as infantile seborrheic dermatitis, is a common and non-contagious rash that typically does not itch or cause discomfort. That said, it can be unsightly and many caregivers want it gone as soon as possible. 

How can you prevent cradle cap? Be sure to keep baby’s scalp as clean and moisturized as possible as sweat and dirt are major contributors. Massage a bit of emollient, such as Vaseline or coconut oil, on baby’s scalp before baths to help retain moisture. 

While cradle cap can clear up on its own, there are ways to help it along. For treatment, apply emollient to the scalp, massaging in small circles to loosen the scales, then shampoo and rinse completely. Use a soft brush after bathing to gently remove the scales but never pick at or try to scrape them off. If the rash doesn’t clear up in a few weeks or looks red or irritated, see your pediatrician.

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You can handle baby skin care and grooming

Life can feel overwhelming with all of the big changes that come with a newborn. Keeping them clean and healthy can feel extra daunting given how delicate and squirmy they are. Rest assured, following these tips and tricks for newborn baby care and grooming will have you both feeling happy, healthy, and ready to take on this whole new adventure together.

Essentials for Newborn Baby Skin Care, Bathing and Grooming

Maigen Beaulieu is a Child-Care Provider and freelance writer living in Upstate New York with her husband, 7-year-old identical twin girls, one lazy cat (Willow), and one wild Yorkie (Ella). As a way to cope with anxiety during her twin pregnancy, she began blogging about her journey and discovered a love of writing for, and connecting with, other parents of multiples. While her blog was put to rest years ago (hello, working mom of toddler twins with zero time to write), Maigen is thrilled to join Twiniversity and help other families navigate the journey of parenting multiples. When she isn’t writing about the magic and madness of twins, she can be found reading historical fiction, researching her family history as an amateur genealogist, or sewing cute jackets for her dog. She can be reached on Instagram and Facebook.

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