Can we agree? Babies are beautiful. The tiniest humans have no need of the kind of primping, spritzing, and outright camouflage many adults require to look their best. But even the most gorgeous babies (yes, yours) require some upkeep in the hair, nail, and skin departments. In fact, paying attention to your infant's appearance encourages you to care for her in ways that help her stay healthy and comfortable. Bonus: You're instilling good grooming habits from day one!
Take to the Tub
Plenty of babies are happy to splish-splash, but trying to maneuver a squirming body in slippery suds may leave youcompletely soaked. Make it easier with these tubby tips:
- Follow the 10-minute rule. Babies under a year shouldn't be in the bath more than 10 minutes. A longer soak can dry out their skin because it leaves it more porous. And limit baths to once a day at most. Even every two to three days is sufficient. Your cutie's not out digging in the dirt like the big kids yet.
- Swap bubbles for boats. Playing in the foam is fun, but the substances that make the water bubbly are drying. "Bath toys are just as fun for babies and pose no skin dangers," says Vicky Barrio, M.D., a pediatric dermatologist in San Diego and mom
of a 1- and 3-year-old.
- Lotion up right afterward. "Postbath is the best time to use an ointment or cream on your baby because it puts a barrier between the air and skin," says Bernard Cohen, M.D., director of pediatric dermatology at Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore.
Two words best describe trimming a baby's nails: moving target. Unless you do it while your angel is asleep, the procedure requires the steady hand and laser focus of an Olympic archer. But keeping nails short is best; it reduces the chances of her scratching herself. Try these pointers to neaten digits without the nicks.
- Snip during a nap or after a bath. Clipping is easiest when Baby isn't moving at all, but nails are softer and much easier to shorten postsoak.
- Nursing is a good distraction. Have Dad work the clipper while you feed her. Or if she chows while propped on a nursing pillow, try it yourself.
- Get a file. Filing takes longer than clipping, but there's no chance of cutting your cutie. "I filed a few of my daughter's nails each night while nursing her. It was easier than doing them all at once," says Betsy McNab, a mom in Alameda, California.
- Don't bite. Just don't! Your mouth is one of the germiest parts of your body, says Mona Gohara, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Yale University and mother of a 3- and 5-year-old. You could transfer bacteria to her skin or, if there's a mishap, into her bloodstream.
Manage That Mop
You've had your own hair drama, but nothing prepares you for the conditions of your infant's head.
- Is he flaky? Cradle cap makes an infant's scalp both oily and peeling. Yucky, yes, but it doesn't bother Baby a bit. Resist the urge to pick at it. Use a cradle-cap treatment or just let it clear up on its own.
- Losing it? "Many dark-haired babies part with their newborn hair later because the growing pattern changes," Dr. Cohen says. "It's totally normal." Babies with light hair at birth have already gone through this shedding process in the womb, which is why they enter the world with less hair.
- Bald spots? Sometimes there's less hair where your baby's head hits the mattress or car seat. "It's cosmetic," Dr. Barrio says. "Tummy time helps."
Originally published in the September 2012 issue of American Baby magazine.
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