From the beginning of life, skin provides our special connection to the world while also protecting us from external influences. Immediately after a baby is born, the waxy substance that coats the fetus in the uterus prevents a baby’s skin from cooling down and becoming irritated. Shortly after birth, however, the skin absorbs this optimal form of protection. After that, a baby’s skin remains highly vulnerable until the age of 4, when the child’s skin begins to develop its own protective layer similar to that of an adult’s. Before a baby’s natural barrier function has formed, the skin’s shield must come from high-quality skin care products.
Since an infant’s skin is about five times thinner than an adult’s, skin care products are more quickly and thoroughly absorbed. In addition, a child has three times the amount of skin surface in relation to body weight than an adult. A baby can’t yet fully regulate its own body temperature. This means warmth is easily lost.
What care does your child need?
Although keeping an infant’s skin clean is important, bathing a baby every two or three days is sufficient, since daily bathing can disrupt or even destroy the skin’s natural pH level. An infant’s hands and face should be washed daily with plain, clean water. When it comes to bath time, bubble baths should be avoided, as their foaming agents tend to dry out the skin. Instead, use rehydrating bath products made of vegetable oils, which keep an infant’s soft skin smooth.
For most babies, a bath is relaxing because it reminds the child of being in the womb. Most ideal is a water temperature of 98 degrees Fahrenheit, which closely matches the temperature of a baby’s body and the secure environment in a mother’s belly. After bathing, it is important to dry the skin well to prevent irritation in the skin’s sensitive folds.
Not just any oil will do every day, a baby absorbs countless valuable pieces of information about the world through its soft skin. Caring for the largest sensory organ, the skin, is therefore vital to physical and emotional health.
Skin care products must be specially developed for a baby’s unique skin, using only a few natural ingredients that provide the skin with everything it needs. Mineral oils are not among these. As fossils, they are nonliving material, foreign to the human skin—just like synthetic silicon oils or paraffin. They coat the skin’s surface like a sealant, disturbing moisture and oxygen regulation. In some cases, they can even interfere with healthy skin function. The frequent use of mineral oils can dissolve the skin’s natural lipids, causing the skin to dry out too easily.
In contrast, a baby’s skin responds best to fatty acid structures that are related to the natural biology of the skin. These can be found in natural plant oils such as sweet almond or sesame seed oil, which can be better absorbed by the skin and integrated into the body’s lipid mantle.
Synthetic fragrances make many products more pleasing, but their effect on people’s health remains highly unknown. Over the course of time, some of these fragrances have been shown to be harmful. For example, synthetic musk compounds impair the human hormone system. The alternatives to these are essential oils—valuable plant essences. As part of nature, plants symbolize development, growth and metabolism—in other words, life. The same can’t be said for synthetic fragrances.
The special needs of the diaper area:
Diaper-area skin requires special, intensive care. Because the protective lipid mantle is not yet completely developed, this area is particularly sensitive in humid temperatures. Bacteria and fungi can easily set in and damage the skin, causing it to become reddened and irritated. Sometimes it even breaks open and remains moist.
In most cases, a diaper rash results from wet diapers. The development of the baby teeth or the onset of a cold can also lead to skin irritations in the diaper area.
That’s why attention must be devoted to a gentle, thorough diaper-area cleansing. It is best to use warm water and mild plant oils. In addition, because a lot of fresh air helps a red bottom, an infant should be allowed to crawl or walk around without diapers as much as possible. Moisture-binding, gentle zinc oxide creams and ointments help treat reddened or irritated skin and promote the development of a new, healthy layer of skin. As a natural,
vital micronutrient, zinc can be found in almost every cell of the human organism. It is part of many metabolic processes in the body and plays an important role in all growth and healing processes.
The significance of an infant massage:
Healthy skin plays a key role in your infant’s world because your child directly connects with his or her environment through the skin. Lovingly caressing your infant is just as much a part of skin care as the products you are using. Touch, eye contact, your voice and your body language are key factors that affect your child’s development.
A loving infant massage helps cultivate a trusting, protective environment in which your child feels secure and at ease. The first months of your infant’s life are an especially good time to provide a soothing massage. By doing so, your child learns to relax more easily. Planning a regular infant massage into your child’s daily routine particularly helps him or her discover a natural rhythm. A nice, quiet atmosphere and a warm room contribute to a harmonious massage.
Soothing, nourishing and warming skin care products—applied to your baby with a gentle, loving touch—give birth to health and happiness. This natural caring brings development and growth that you and your baby can share.
About the author:
Midwife, author and teacher Birgit Laue has helped deliver more than 2,000 children. When Weleda developed its Baby Calendula Care line, it had good reason to listen carefully to the expert. She knows from experience what’s good for a baby’s skin.