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  • Writer's pictureDr. Preethi Nagaraj

How to take care of newborn baby’s skin?

Congratulations! You are expecting your baby! A new mother will have so many questions regarding a newborn’s care. Topping the list of queries is “How to take care of my newborn baby’s skin?”

You may be bombarded with advice from your friends, mother and of course grandmother! To add to this, thanks to Artificial Intelligence, your social media feed will probably filled with ads suggesting different baby care products.

As a paediatric dermatologist practicing in Kochi, I see babies of different ages, ranging from a few weeks up to teenagers. And in almost all the cases, the common questions I get asked is about which soap to use and which moisturiser to use for my baby?

This blog attempts to address how to take care of a newborn baby’s skin. These skin care methods can be continued throughout childhood. This blog is based by the guidelines given by the Indian Association of Pediatrics.

As soon as the baby is born –

The baby is covered with a protective layer called Vernix Caseosa. This is a layer that has moisturizing and anti-bacterial properties. This should not be wiped off completely.

If the baby is covered by faeces(meconium) or blood, it is gently wiped by a wet cloth and is dried completely using a dry cloth. This step is usually done by the neonatologist attending the delivery.

The baby is then swaddled using a dry cloth and is handed to the mother.

First bath of the newborn

  • The first bath should be after 24 hours.

  • Bath should be in a warm room.

  • The baby’s clothes should be removed in the bathroom itself.

  • The bathtub, if being used, should be filled with water up to 5 cms or up to the baby’s hip level.

  • Always check the water temperature before bathing the baby. Ideal temperature is 37 – 37.5-degree Celsius.

  • No bath toys to be used.

  • Bath should be quick, less than 5-10 minutes duration.

How often should we bathe a newborn baby?

Frequency of bathing a baby depends on the climatic conditions and of course the traditional practices.

In a tropical climate like Kerala, we can bathe the baby daily.

The duration of the bath should not exceed 10 minutes.

Which soap should we use to bathe the newborn baby?

  • A synthetic detergent-based cleanser (soap-free cleanser) is preferred over regular soaps.

  • Liquid cleansers are preferred over syndet bars.

  • Cleansers - acidic or neutral pH ,

- mild fragrance or fragrance free

- tear free formula

In case of cost constraints, a mild baby soap can be used.

Scalp care

The same cleanser can be used to wash the scalp as well. Or a mild baby shampoo which has a tear free formula can be used.

If the baby develops cradle cap in the first few weeks, the scales can be gently massaged with warm coconut oil, left for 2 – 3 hours and then shampoo should be used to remove the flakes gently.

Umbilical cord care

Keep the cord stump dry after bath and at all times.

Antiseptic liquids like Dettol should not be used.

The diaper should be tied below the stump.

Should we apply a moisturizer for a newborn baby?

A newborn baby’s skin is very thin and has less fat in the protective layer of the skin. This makes the skin very vulnerable to allergies and bacterial entry.

Also, preterm babies, post term babies, babies who have undergone light treatment for jaundice and babies with a family history of dry skin/ eczema are prone for very dry skin.

Hence applying a moisturizer twice a day is very important in new born skin care.

  • The moisturizer that we use for the baby should be fragrance free and should not contain harsh colours.

  • ‘Natural’ and herbal based moisturizers should be used with caution as there is no scientific data regarding the safety of these products.

Should we use talcum powders for newborn baby?

  • Talcum powders are not routinely recommended in babies.

  • If a mother wishes to use, the powder should be smeared between the palms of the mother and gently patted on the baby’s trunk. Powder puff should not be used.

  • Powder should be avoided in skin folds like neck folds and groin folds as it can lead to maceration.

Oil massage

  • Oil massage can be started after the umbilical cord stump has fallen off.

  • Massage should be done in a quiet and warm room.

  • Massage provider’s hands should be clean with trimmed nails and no sharp jewellery.

  • Coconut oil and sunflower oil have proven benefits.

  • Olive oil and mustard oil have few reports of skin allergies.

  • A massage duration can range from 10-15 minutes.

  • Gentle strokes should be used. Pulling and kneading the baby’s limbs, as done by traditional masseur’s in India should be avoided as it can lead to dislocation.

Hope these guidelines give you a clear picture about bathing your newborn baby and taking care of the baby’s skin! Happy parenting!

Photo credits - vidal balielo jr and kseniachernaya from

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