Must-Know Baby Grooming Tips for Skin, Hair, and Nails

Your baby is stunning even when she has spit-up on her face, but a bit of grooming never hurt anyone. We'll show you how to pamper your little one from head to toe.

We can all likely agree that babies are beautiful. But even the tiniest babies require some upkeep in the hair, nail, and skin departments. In fact, paying attention to your infant's appearance encourages you to care for them in ways that help them stay healthy and comfortable. Bonus: You're instilling good grooming habits from day one.

Not sure where to start? Here are some grooming basics to keep in mind when it comes to cleaning your baby, trimming their nails, and hair care.

Master the Bath

Plenty of babies are happy to splish-splash, but trying to maneuver a squirming body in slippery suds may leave you completely soaked. Make it easier with the below tubby tips.

  • Follow the 10-minute rule. Babies under a year shouldn't be in the bath for 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. Every two to three days is sufficient, too. After all, 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 dermatologist at Rady Children's Hospital-San Diego and a professor of dermatology and pediatrics at UC San Diego.
  • Lotion up right afterward. "Post-bath 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 the Johns Hopkins University Pediatric Dermatology and Cutaneous Laser Center.

Trim Baby's Nails

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 your baby scratching themselves. Try these pointers to neaten digits without the nicks.

  • Snip during a nap or after a bath. Clipping is easiest when your baby isn't moving at all, but their nails are softer and much easier to shorten post-soak.
  • Nursing is a good distraction. Have your partner work the clipper while you feed the baby. Or, if your baby 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 baby. "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. Your mouth is one of the germiest parts of your body, says Mona Gohara, M.D., an associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale University and a mother. You could transfer bacteria to your baby's skin or, if there's a mishap, into their bloodstream.

Manage That Mop

You've had your own hair drama, but nothing prepares you for the conditions of your infant's head. Here's how to take care of baby hair.

  • Know how to handle cradle cap. Cradle cap makes an infant's scalp both oily and peeling. Yucky, yes, but (good news!) it doesn't bother your baby a bit. Resist the urge to pick at it. Use a cradle-cap treatment or just let it clear up on its own.
  • Don't worry about hair loss. "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.
  • Consider tummy time. 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."
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