By Lisa Patulny
Here’s the understatement of the century: babies take a lot of tending. Between feeding, burping, napping, nappying, entertaining and just general looking after, a skincare routine can feel like an unnecessary add on. In reality, it’s more important than you might think. A baby’s skin is three to five times thinner than an adult, and as a result, it loses water five times faster (it's also why they need an extra layer of clothing to keep warm). Dehydration can result in sensitivity and a compromised skin barrier which means ouchy skin for your babe. It can also increase the risk of skin allergies and eczema.
A baby skincare routine can be simple or mad luxurious, depending on what they (and you) enjoy. It can be every day, or once a fortnight. Not only will bub reap the nourishing benefits of a few well-chosen skincare products, they’ll have fun splish-splashing. Even better, a blissful bathtime experience can encourage bonding and attachment, and teach your child a lifelong tool for relaxation. When they're 30 and coming home from a hard day at work, they'll take a bath to help unwind. Keen for the step-by-step? Run the bath, cue up some Enya, and keep on reading.
First thing’s first: run their bath. The optimal water temperature for bub is around 37 degrees which is your body temperature. (Think: lukewarm, not hot.) For safety’s sake, always swirl the water around before you check the temperature – this will ensure you don’t have any hot spots, which is crucial for burns prevention.
Check by dunking your arm in or using a bath thermometer. We like Oricom’s bath and room thermometer, which doubles as a bath toy. (It’s a duckie – cute.) Five to ten minutes is enough time to get them clean and have a play. Keep them in any longer than this, and you run the risk of drying out your baby’s sensitive skin.
Lazy beauty editor tip: If you don’t have time to moisturise baby after a tub, dribble a lightweight oil (into their bathwater for super-soft skin minus the effort. (FYI, oil makes things v slippery, so be extra careful!)
Don’t be intimidated by the idea of massaging your baby – you don’t need to be a pro for them to reap the soothing benefits. Smooth a few drops of body oil over their limbs (Bunjie’s Massage & Bath Oil is packed with lovely ingredients), then start with the soles of their feet. Gentle upward strokes can be very calming and are easy to do, even for novices. Continue with long, smooth strokes up their legs and over their hips. If baby’s tummy feels soft (if it's hard, they might be experiencing digestion issues and it won't feel nice), massage it gently with clockwise, circular movements. Keep the pressure light, especially on the area between baby’s stomach and nipples. Now, back to long, smooth strokes down the arms, from shoulders to wrists. A little ring-around-the-rosie on the palm is nice but try to avoid getting oil on bub’s fingers, especially if they’re all about sticking them in their mouth.
For their face, the aim is to somewhat replicate the massage done during a facial. Use your finger pads to stroke upwards from the middle of baby’s forehead, down the outsides of their face and outwards over cheekbones. You can also oil and massage their scalp in small circles. If your little one is loving their massage, you can turn them over to rub-down the back of their body with the same long strokes from head to toe. (Yep, this counts as tummy time!) If bub gets upset or uncomfy, stop – you can always try again another day.
A must for bubs with dryness or irritation, look for a baby body lotion that sinks in quickly and doesn’t leave stickiness behind (it's not ideal when trying to wrangle wriggly legs into pyjamas afterwards). Bunjie’s Snug As A Bug Moisture Lotion is made with ProbioOat Barrier Complex, a special ingredient that helps to support and strengthen bub’s skin barrier and microbiome. If you’re running over schedule, you can also use a body lotion to massage baby in place of an oil – just remember to keep applying as it’ll absorb into skin a lot faster.
Important for bubs with red bots, a solid nappy cream can help to both heal irritation and prevent future flare-ups. (FYI, nappy rash can be caused by everything from sitting in a wet nappy for too long to soaps, detergents and fragrances left on the skin from bathing.) Choose something with skin-friendly ingredients that’s free from irritants, like Malo Nappy Rash Cream – it’s intended for their most sensitive bits, after all. For bubs that really don't love having their butt touched, or are going through it, the touch-free Malo Nappy Rash Spray.
Brushing bub’s hair regularly can help to ward off cradle cap – a common skin condition characterised by yellowish scales on the scalp – by encouraging skin cells to turn over. Opt for a natural bristled brush, like the Goats Hair Brush by The Casey Co, to exfoliate gently without causing irritation. (For particularly stubborn cases of cradle cap, massage oil into the scalp and gently remove the scales with a fine-tooth comb.)
Brushing baby’s hair can also be a beautiful bonding ritual. Post-bath is the perfect time to do it – their scalp will be soft, and they’ll likely be feeling relaxed. As always, if they’re not into it, raincheck and try again later.
It’s a good idea to trim bub’s nails to prevent them becoming too long or jagged. Left long, they’re a bit of a hazard because babies don’t have much control over their arms. (Ever been scratched by a newborn’s nails? It hurts.) If the thought of using nail clippers freaks you out, opt for a baby nail filing kit instead – they’re a little less intimidating. Haakaa’s Baby Nail Care Set comes with interchangeable trimmer heads that vary in strength for different ages, so it grows with them. Even better, it has adult settings, so you can use it too.