If you read my post last week, you know that the saying “soft as a baby’s bottom” isn’t exactly accurate. In fact, I think I’m adding “baby soft skin” to my list of Things People Say About Babies That Aren’t True, right under “they sleep through the night.” Sure Coraline was born with the softest, most delicate skin, but within a week she had a bad case of baby acne. And over the past nine months she has had dry skin, red skin, bumpy skin, and most recently, yeasty skin. Yikes.
Honestly, every time her skin seems off I’m tempted to call the doctor up, worried that it’s something serious like measles or impetigo. Instead I google until I’m satisfied that the lack of fever, red eyes, vomiting, and other signs of sick means it is just a rash, which experts all insist is part of being a baby. But it’s persistent enough that at her nine-month well baby visit last week, I asked her doctor about it, and she told me that what I see as a rash is just really dry skin.
A Saturday visit to the walk-in doctor a couple months ago (when Google could not reel me in) taught me that lotion — which was what I had been using — can actually dry out baby’s skin more. “Use Aquaphor,” she had said. This was one of those moments where my natural-minded self went “Put petroleum product on my baby?! No way!” But the doctor’s confidence appealed to my novice mommy nerves, so I went and bought a big giant tub of Aquaphor… and never used it.
What’s so bad about petroleum products like Aquaphor and Vaseline, you ask? Well, first of all they are derived from petroleum, which is not a renewable resource. Secondly, it has been suggested that petrolatum can cause cancer. Lastly, and most significantly for our purposes, they act more as a barrier than a healing agent (which is why, for decades, moms have used Vaseline to protect against diaper rashes). Clearly the use of Aquaphor will not maim your child, but there are several things out there that are natural, effective, and super safe for baby’s skin, in all its many shades of pink.
If you’re breastfeeding, try taking an Omega-3/DHA supplement like fish oil, flax or hemp oil, or algae. Not only is DHA important for baby’s brain development, but it will help your bodies’ natural lubrication. If baby’s skin is very dry, or if you are no longer breastfeeding, your little one can take a supplement of their own: Nature’s Way and other companies do make infant and child fish oil supplements. And if you’re vegetarian (like us) and don’t want to give baby fish oil, Spectrum makes a non-fish DHA supplement for kids one to three, or you can just use a touch of hemp oil.
Weleda Calendula Lotion didn’t do much for Coraline, but for mild dry skin it may do the trick. California Baby — which makes an awesome unscented, PABA-free, non-chemical sunscreen — just added a calendula cream to their fairly extensive line of natural baby skincare products. They also have a Super Sensitive lotion and a number of oils. You can find their products at Target or Toys ‘R Us.
Simple olive, avocado, or coconut oils are all super-hydrating (and it’s likely you’ll already have them on hand in the kitchen). You just might want to keep baby naked and contained to a towel until the oil is absorbed.
If baby’s skin is dry and irritated a salve will likely do the trick. You can find them at the health food store, or make your own at home. Here’s a quick and easy recipe for a simple, soothing calendula salve:
• Heat one cup of olive oil and one cup of calendula blossoms over medium heat. • Just before it starts to simmer remove from heat and allow to steep for 20-30 minutes. • Fix a cheesecloth over a clean bowl and strain oil-blossom mixture, squeezing as much oil out of the blossoms as you can. • Stir in ¼ cup of shaved beeswax until melted. • Pour salve into a jar and leave uncovered until it has cooled completely.
Whether you’re using a salve, lotion, or oil, remember to do so right after baby gets out of the bath so as best to absorb the moisturizer. And try to reduce the number of baths your little one is taking — once a week (or less) is adequate, and will help combat dry skin.