Skin care and jaundice
Your baby’s skin might be virginal and pure, untouched by the harsh sun and environmental pollutants, but don’t expect it to look so angelic as a newborn:
- Newborn acne is very common and, just like their future bouts as teenagers, is caused by hormones – your hormones, that is. Don’t worry; this is no indication of future problems to come, and it should clear up in the first few weeks. The best way to treat these clogged oil glands is to do nothing – don’t pick, scrub or treat them.
- Dry and peeling skin is also common in the first week and is due to the traumatic transition from amniotic fluid to air. If this is the case, the first layer of skin will naturally shed whether you put lotions on or not. If you feel the need to moisturize your baby’s skin, make sure you use an unscented baby lotion.
- Diaper rash is largely preventable. Change your baby’s diaper as soon as possible after it’s soiled. After wiping the area clean, use a warm wet washcloth to clean the area and apply diaper rash cream. There’s not much more you can do. If disposable diapers are giving your baby bad diaper rash, try switching to cloth and vice-versa.
- Erythema Toxicum is a scary sounding name for a simple and short-lived skin condition: Blotchy red patches with pale centers. Before you know it, the marks will simply disappear.
- Birthmarks are another common skin imperfection that comes in all shapes and colors, and even the most alarming looking marks might fade with time. Check with your doctor if you have any concerns.
Cradle Cap is the reason your baby’s scalp might be shedding what looks like dandruff or even have yellow or brown crusty patches. There’s no reason to freak out – not only is it fairly common in babies’ early months, but it’s completely harmless. While no one really knows what causes it, cradle cap (actually seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp) usually goes away in 6 to 12 months, isn’t contagious, and doesn’t require any treatment. If it bothers you, try gently massaging the scalp with oil (like olive or mineral) and gently combing the flakes out. Then make sure to shampoo so the excess oil doesn’t clog your baby’s pores, only making the problem worse. For more serious cases, talk to your doctor about a prescription seborrhea shampoo or cortisone cream. Sometimes the seborrheic rash will spread onto the face or ears, which can be treated with a topical cream.
Jaundice: Wonder why your baby is looking a little oompa-ish? That yellow glow on your child’s skin might not look normal, but it’s actually quite common in newborn babies. Here’s the deal on jaundice:
- Your baby’s body has more red blood cells than needed in reserve for the birthing process, and those extra blood cells break down into a chemical called bilirubin.
- If the liver isn’t completely up and running quite yet, the excess bilirubin is stored in the skin until the liver can break it down – usually within the first week – giving the skin an almost orange hue. If you or your doctor recognizes the onset of jaundice (which occurs in 50 to 60 percent of newborns), the baby’s bilirubin levels have to be carefully monitored.
- Jaundice is more likely in babies who have diabetic mothers, have a sibling who had jaundice, were induced during labor, or who lose a lot of weight after delivery.
- In mild to moderate physiologic jaundice, the baby’s jaundice should diminish by the end of this week without any treatment. Premature babies usually have a longer bout of jaundice – lasting up to 2 weeks – because their livers aren’t as developed.
- In some cases, breastfeeding can cause jaundice in two ways: If the baby isn’t getting enough fluid, it can be hard to get rid of the excess bilirubin, or something in your breast milk can keep your baby’s liver from adequately eliminating the chemical. If the latter is the case, keep in mind that while it’s most likely harmless, your doctor might advise formula-feeding for a couple of days, while you pump to maintain your milk supply.
- If a baby has high physiological jaundice, he or she will have to stay in the hospital for a few days under fluorescent lights known as bililights, which help the liver get rid of the bilirubin. The baby will wear shades to protect his or her eyes from the light and be given extra fluid because of the water lost through the skin. The baby might be confined to the nursery except for feeding and act more sluggish than normal.
- If the baby develops a rare case of nonphysiologic jaundice, where the bilirubin levels increase rapidly, a blood transfusion, phototherapy or surgery might be necessary. Untreated, bilirubin could build up in the brain – known as kernicterus – and cause brain damage or death.