are born with an alkaline skin surface. Within days, the pH level falls to
become more acid, irrespective of whether the baby is full-term or premature and
as a direct result of the skin’s exposure to air. This is called the ‘acid
mantle’ which gives extra protection in the early weeks of life.
However, the outer layers of newborn skin remain very thin, especially in the
pre-term infant. Consequently
anything placed on in or around a baby has the potential to cause harm and
common sense guidelines during the first few weeks of life are vital.
Over the past thirty years the
use of baby products for newborn skincare have increased year on year. A similar
increase in the development of asthma, eczema and allergies has been observed
over the same period.
There has been a lot of
information in the media about the worrying effects of such ingredients in our
everyday lives. More than ever, parents are becoming aware of the potential
risks of using everyday products on their baby’s skin and the subsequent need
The time has come to
stop and reflect on the need for products that come with dubious promises and
ever more sophisticated marketing. If
we allowed newborn skin a chance to develop its own protective barrier, we would
be giving it a ‘head-start’ to cope with the modern world.
Back in 1996 I read a short
article in a midwifery journal advocating the reduction in use of baby products.
Shortly after this I became pregnant again and decided to follow a water-only
skincare regime on my new baby. Three years later I had another baby who was
also cared for this way.
I had used baby
products with my two older children from birth. Both children had suffered from
the usual (or so I thought at the time) skin conditions including spots, rashes
and cradle cap. Surprisingly, neither of my two younger children suffered from
any of these problems and I realised I had uncovered an interesting phenomenon.
All four children had been exclusively breastfed. The only difference in their
care had been the use of plain water for the first few weeks of life. This
observation raised the following questions:
|Could this really mean that modern baby products
were the cause of childhood skin conditions?|
|Could using water only for the first few weeks of
life reduce the risk of skin conditions developing?|
|Why do parents continue to use so many products?|
|Why do maternity units continue to supply baby
I studied the subject of
skincare and cordcare for the newborn and the resultant articles were published
in the RCM Midwives Journal (Trotter 2002, Trotter 2003 and Trotter 2006). The
British Journal of Midwifery subsequently published proposed guidelines for
newborn care, (Trotter 2004) now backed up by the recent Postnatal Care
guidelines (NICE 2006).
Since 1996 I have
advised parents and friends to follow my guidelines and the overwhelming
reaction has been positive. The condition of newborn skin has been excellent
when using water only for the first month. Rashes, spots and cradle cap are
rare. Once introduced, mild products are tolerated well.
My advice is common
sense and easy to follow. To give your baby the best start in life my key
|Breastfeed to boost your baby’s immune system -
this gives added protection against skin conditions developing. The World
Health Organisation recommends that you exclusively breastfeed your baby for
the first six months of life (WHO 2001)|
|Wash your baby using water only for at least the
first month of life.|
|When washing your baby’s clothes and bedding remember not to overload the
machine to ensure thorough rinsing. Fabric conditioners, if used, should be
mild and free from colours and strong perfumes.|
|Minimise your baby’s exposure to manufactured baby products.|
My skincare leaflet,
‘Babycare: back to basics™’ is now available to
maternity units in the UK and free samples can be ordered online at www.tipslimited.com
If baby products continue to
be overused in the first few weeks of life, it is possible that sensitivity to
such products will increase. Would it not be better for these products to be
introduced gradually, after the first month, when they are more likely to be
tolerated? At the heart of this issue is the protection of newborn skin. There
is no reason why this can’t be achieved by following commonsense guidelines.
Sharon Trotter ©
National Institute for Clinical Excellence (2006). Routine postnatal care
of women and their babies. Quick reference guide. London: NICE.
S (2002). Skincare for the newborn: exploring the potential harm of manufactured
products. RCM Midwives Journal, 5(11): 376-8.
S (2003). Management of the umbilical cord - a guide to best care. RCM Midwives,
Journal, 6(7): 308-11.
S (2004) Care of the newborn: Proposed new guidelines. British Journal of
Midwifery, 12(3): 152-7.
S (2006). Neonatal skincare: why change is vital. RCM Midwives Journal,
Health Organization (2001). As formulated in the conclusions and recommendations
of the expert consultation (Geneva, 28-30th March 2001) that
completed the systematic review of the optimal duration of exclusive
breastfeeding (see document A54/Inf. Doc/4). See also resolution WHA54.2.
Trotter is a midwife, breastfeeding consultant and baby skincare specialist. Her
first book; ‘Breastfeeding: the
essential guide’ was published in 2004 and has remained in the top 10
best-selling breastfeeding books on Amazon.co.uk ever since. For more
information or to read Sharon’s articles go to: www.tipslimited.com