Can You Put Lotion on a Newborn Baby?

By Natalie Smith
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Many newborns have dry skin that appears to flake or peel. Although your natural instinct may be to apply lotion to your baby's dry skin, there is no need to do so because the skin underneath may be perfectly moisturized, according to WebMD.com.

Newborn Skin

When a baby is in the womb, his skin is covered with a waxy substance called "vernix." This protects the baby's skin from absorbing too much moisture from the amniotic fluid. After your baby is born, the vernix begins to rub off and the skin may need time to adjust. During his first few weeks, your baby's skin may appear dry and begin to peel or flake off. Flaking skin is normal after birth, and once the dry skin is shed, his skin will appear to be normal.

Risks of Using Lotions

Pediatricians are often cautious about recommending that their patients use baby lotions. This is because every baby care product introduces chemicals into the baby's system, and some of these chemicals may be harmful. A 2008 study conducted by researchers at the University of Washington and the University of Rochester, reported in the "Los Angeles Times," suggests that many baby lotions contain chemicals called "phthalates." Phthalates have been linked to developmental problems in male babies, such as lower levels of testosterone. This study raised concerns that these chemicals may alter the baby's normal sexual development as he grows. Phthalates do not appear on the ingredient list in lotions, so there's no way to know whether or not the lotion contains them.

Alleviating Dry Skin

In some cases, a baby's skin may be so dry that it begins to crack or split. In these cases, the use of a little lotion may be justified. Some pediatricians recommend natural moisturizers, such as a dab of olive oil. Others may recommend a lotion that is free from additives, or they may have a particular brand of lotion that they feel comfortable recommending. Always consult a pediatrician before you use any new baby product, including skin care products. In addition, bathing your infant only as often as your pediatrician recommends and limiting the amount of soap that you use may also help to prevent dryness.

Skin Conditions That Require Lotions

If you believe that your baby's flaking or red skin may be more than just dry skin, contact a pediatrician to have your baby evaluated. Some babies are prone to eczema, a condition in which the baby develops an itchy, dry, red rash in response to an environmental trigger, such as heat or a detergent or fragrance. Alternatively, your baby may have cradle cap or another skin rash caused by illness or an inherited condition.

About the Author

Natalie Smith is a technical writing professor specializing in medical writing localization and food writing. Her work has been published in technical journals, on several prominent cooking and nutrition websites, as well as books and conference proceedings. Smith has won two international research awards for her scholarship in intercultural medical writing, and holds a PhD in technical communication and rhetoric.