There are many common newborn skin problems that you and your new baby may experience shortly after birth. Mostly, those are nothing to worry about, but it’s worth keeping your eyes open. In many cases, your baby may suffer from quite a few of them, or sometimes all!
I start with with jaundice, as amongst all common newborn skin problems, this is the one that does sound the worst when googled, and in all honesty, may lead to severe complications in small percentage of cases, if left untreated.
When my daughter was born, she suffered with quite severe jaundice, but as a first time mum, I didn’t have a clue her yellow skin was a problem that needed solving: “She looks gorgeous! Look at this skin! It takes me hours of sunbathing to look this tanned!” My health visitor explained, that this is not a desired effect. I should have known, considering me and my husband resemble a bottle of watered down milk, when it comes to our skin colour, so no good, olive genes there..
Jaundice is caused by a build up of yellowish / red blood cells called bilirubin. Most commonly happens to babies born prematurely, when their little liver isn’t developed enough to rid these cells from its blood stream. The common symptoms include yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes, usually seen within the first few days after birth.
If you notice that your baby’s skin looks rather yellow, contact your paediatrician / health visitor / community midwife immediately. While mild jaundice often clears up on its own, when baby is exposed to mild sunlight for at least a couple of hours a day, severe jaundice can be dangerous and requires treatment.
- Baby acne
Baby acne can occur anywhere on baby’s face, but usually on the cheeks, nose and forehead. It’s temporary and there is not much you can do about it. It usually clears up within three to four months.
- Cradle cap
It looks like greasy dandruff. Thick, oily, yellowish scales and crusting on your baby’s head may linger for a good few months. It’s not pretty, but it’s harmless.
The cause of it is unknown, but it’s believed that the hormones your baby receives from you at the end of pregnancy overstimulate your baby’s oil producing glands, resulting in cradle cap. Another possible reason is the irritation from a yeast that grows in the sebum. It is not contagious and not caused by poor hygiene or allergies.
You don’t really “need” to do anything in order to treat it, however if it bothers you, there are a few things you can try. Some parents have had success using baby shampoos developed especially for cradle cap. I personally never tried those, but found that good, old method of oiling baby’s head works well. After bath, massage baby’s head with either almond or olive oil, and brush the oil and baby’s hair in various directions with a soft brush. Leave overnight. Brush again before washing the oil off. Every time you brush, try to loosen the scales a bit, but avoid picking. It may take 2-3 attempts before it all clears out. Don’t feel defeated if some of it comes back after a while. It’s all part of the fun.
Can cradle cap get dangerous? I’d suggest visiting your doctor if it spreads beyond your baby’s scalp or if there’s any bleeding.
- Nappy Rash
Nappy rash is not a disease as such, but an irritation of the skin, but since it’s extremely common, I thought it’s worth mentioning.
A wet or dirty nappy, which has been left touching the skin for too long, is the most common cause of nappy rash, this is especially true when your baby suffers from diarrhoea a lot.
human waste products can turn into ammonia if the nappy isn’t changed for a long time. Ammonia irritates your baby’s skin, which then starts to sting.
Another reason for a nappy rash is a fungal infection, made worse in damp conditions. Everybody has a mix of fungi on their skin, but moist conditions only make it worse. It has nothing to do with poor hygiene. In fact, I found my daughter suffered with nappy rash most often after a bath, if I rushed drying her off, and did not make sure her bum was 100% dry before putting her nappy on.
Your baby can also get a bacterial infection in the area, where the nappy is, when their skin is already weakened by a rash. Nappy rash creates perfect environment for the bacteria to grow.
The best way to treat ordinary nappy rash or nappy rash caused by a fungal infection, is to let it get some air. Leave your baby’s nappy off for about an hour a few times a day if you can. It also helps to change baby’s nappy often, when the rash is at it’s worse, and dry baby’s bottom thoroughly, before applying any ointments.
If the rash gets worse, drop baby wipes as they can sting, and dry the skin out. Use warm water and a cotton disc to wash the urine off. Dried on poo can be removed by using a bit of olive oil on a cotton wool. When washing your baby, make sure you remove any baby soaps thoroughly, especially from the private areas.
To protect their delicate skin, use barrier cream on the red areas, or any anti-fungal ointment, but these should not be used without consulting your doctor.
If your baby’s temperature goes up, contact your doctor immediately, as this may be a sign of bacterial infection.
- Baby eczema
About one in eight babies will suffer from some degree of baby eczema, which appears as red patches of itchy, rough, dry skin, mostly seen on baby’s cheeks, leg and arm joints. The factors causing skin to erupt like that are said to be hereditary, but in most cases irritants, heat, sweat and food allergies also play a part.
Personally I am a great believer that harsh products (for example anything made by Johnson and Johnson, sorry guys) can inflame your baby’s eczema further, so to get it under control, moisturise baby’s skin daily with a gentle lotion, such as Aveeno Eczema therapy (I found it to be really helpful), or Aquaphor healing ointment (equally brilliant).
Give your baby baths in lukewarm water to ease the itching, and keep their nails short to avoid scratching the skin, when they are not wearing their cotton mittens.
Choose fragrance free laundry detergents and baby products, designed for sensitive skin.
If you are breastfeeding, avoid using perfume, as those may get in contact with baby’s skin, when sprayed on your own skin.
Birthmarks can show up in form of skin discolouration within a few months after delivery. Most babies have some kind of birthmark. Some last for life, while others fade away over time.
Most birthmarks fall into one of two categories: pigmented and vascular. Pigmented birthmarks are usually brown, black or bluish, resulting from an abnormal development of pigmented cells. Vascular birthmarks are caused by blood vessels below the surface of the skin, and range from pink to reddish/blueish, depending on the depth of blood vessels.
Birthmarks are amongst the most common newborn skin problems, and there are quite a few types:
– Stork bites / angel kisses: flat, usually pink in colour, formed by dilated capillaries. Up to 70% of babies have one or more of those. They become more pronounced when babies cry (especially the ones on forehead the eyelids). They usually disappear fully be the age 2.
– Café au lait spots: light brown or tan in colour, flat patches, that usually fade or get smaller as your baby grows, although they may darken with sun exposure and in some cases stay permanently (this is not something that should cause concern though).
– Port-wine stains: vascular birthmarks ranging from pale pink to dark purple. They can appear anywhere on your baby’s body, although most often on their face of head. If they are light in colour, they are likely to fade, but if they are darker, they tend to get even darker (not always though), and bigger as the child grows. They can thicken with age and become raised.
– Mongolian spots: Large, flat areas of bluish or grayish pigmentation on the lower back or bum, most common in babies with dark skin. They usually fade by school age, although in some cases they stay for good.
- Heat rash
As I am writing this, I can almost hear my mum screaming at me for not putting enough layers of clothing on my daughter, just in case she gets cold. This usually happens when we have around 18 degrees Celsius outside. Whilst she’s wearing long sleeves, and a cardigan already, being wrapped in a blanket. I come from Poland, the land of snow. We do those things for centuries. Dressing babies like mini Eskimos is almost our favourite past time. It’s also one of the reasons babies get hear rash.
It shows as fine, clear or red spots on their skin, and is generally caused by overdressing baby in hot, humid weather, or piling on too many layers during cooler months.
Heat rush is only a very common newborn skin problem and disappears as quickly as it appears, when the baby has cooled off. If, like my mum, you are adamant to overdress your baby, make sure you dress them in layers so you can monitor their temperature at all times.