Water Only



Newborn Skincare Regime

By Sharon Trotter

Reproduced with kind permission.



Babies 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 for caution.

 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 products?


 New guidelines:

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 recommendations include:

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 © 2006



 National Institute for Clinical Excellence (2006). Routine postnatal care of women and their babies. Quick reference guide. London: NICE.

Trotter S (2002). Skincare for the newborn: exploring the potential harm of manufactured products. RCM Midwives Journal, 5(11): 376-8.

Trotter S (2003). Management of the umbilical cord - a guide to best care. RCM Midwives, Journal, 6(7): 308-11.

 Trotter S (2004) Care of the newborn: Proposed new guidelines. British Journal of Midwifery, 12(3): 152-7.

 Trotter S (2006). Neonatal skincare: why change is vital. RCM Midwives Journal, 9(4):134-8.

World 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.


Sharon 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 




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