The golden rule is, look for baby formulated especially for babies.
Baby’s skin is delicate and prone to dry up easily. Perfume, harsh soap and alcohol can damage it or and cause rashes.
What to check on the label?
pH balanced/ neutral means the pH is around seven or less. Baby’s skin has a pH around 5.5 Adult soaps, shampoos and bubble baths are alkaline, so their pH content is not suitable for babies. Choose fragrance-free, antibacterial-free, alcohol-free products. You may do a “path test” (apply the new product on a small area on the arm and observe for 24 hours for a rash. If patch test is negative, use that product for the baby.)
Check the label for “period after opening”, expiry date on the shelf (best before date). Any drug or food allergy. Check a green or red dot on food products for vegetarian or non-vegetarian respectively. Hypoallergenic or for “sensitive skin” means this a milder product. Organic label for cosmetics means “The Soil Association” certifies the product contains more than 95 per cent organically produced ingredients. Organic products can also cause an allergic reaction in a sensitive individual.
There is no legal definition of organic cosmetics. The Soil Association certifies products as organic if they contain more than 95 per cent of organically produced ingredients. “Natural” on the label means sourced from nature. It may still contain some harmful substances like nicotine or arsenic.
Choose bland, fragrance-free, soap-free, bath emollients, emollient creams and ointments, which will help to restore your baby’s skin barrier and prevent dry skin. If your baby has especially dry skin or atopic eczema, consult your doctor.
Baby should be bathed in a warm room. The ideal temperature for bathwater is around 37 degrees centigrade. The water should be at least 5 cm (2 inches) above the hip of the baby. Bath duration should be about five minutes for infants. A daily bath is advised. Use Liquid cleansers or pH neutral/acidic mild soaps for babies. After giving a bath, emollients can be used on the skin to prevent drying of the skin. Emollients usually contain mineral oils, petroleum, paraffin etc.
Touch is essential for the baby’s growth and development. Systematic application of touch is called “Massage”. Massage results in better mother, father or grandparents. No oil should be put in the eyes, ears or nose. Coconut oil, sunflower oil, mineral oil can be used for massage. Mustard oil is recently discouraged as it may cause irritation. Do not use chana atta, haldi, malai etc. as it can promote skin infection. Massage should be given one to two hours after feeding; in a warm room for no more than 15 minutes. There should be gentle strokes from head to foot. It is a comfortable massage only if the baby is enjoying it.
Baby’s hair wash can be twice a week. Use tear-free shampoo. Check the labels and match the pH with that of baby tears. Cradle cap is crusting seen on the scalp of a newborn. Apply any mineral oil and remove the crusts after two or three hours. The powder should be used only below the neck. Mother should apply the powder on her palms and gently apply on baby’s skin. Avoid the use of puffs to prevent it from inhalation. The diaper area is exposed to excessive hydration, occlusion, friction and maceration. Ammonia increases the pH of the skin surface. Water and wet cloth are the gold standards for cleaning the diaper area. After defecation cotton balls soaked in warm water should be used. Cloth napkins to be cleaned in warm water and mild detergents. Antiseptics to be avoided.
Diapers should be well fitting; age and weight recommendation should be checked. The diaper should be checked every few hours and changed as soon as wet. There are diapers with colour indicators also available. Use a barrier cream containing zinc oxide before using a diaper. The cream needs to be applied and not rubbed; it needs to be reapplied with every change. In the case of redness, please stop using diapers and consult the doctor.
Use age appropriates soft toys for the baby. Avoid sharp points or cutting edges. Toys should be washable. Until three years of age get large toys, they should have no small parts. Do not buy balloons, cords longer than 12 inches and small magnets. Check for the “non-toxic paint” label on the toys.
Toys for under two months should be bright and colourful. Babies who are 2 to 4 months old enjoy sound producing and rotating toys. While those from 4 to 6 months like handheld toys like rattles and squeaky toys. Once they can sit; drums, stuffed toys and books with pictures can be used. Once they are ambulatory, push toys (walkers are accident prone and are best avoided)
Place the baby on his or her back on a firm sleep surface such as a crib or bassinet with a tight-fitting sheet. Avoid the use of soft bedding, including crib bumpers, blankets, pillows and soft toys. The crib should be bare. Avoid having pillows under the head for young infants. Share a bedroom with parents, but not the same sleeping surface, preferably until the baby turns one but at least for the first six months. Room –sharing decrease the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant death Syndrome) by as much as 50 per cent. Avoid baby’s exposure to smoke.
Indian Academy of Pediatrics prescribes some “Golden Rules” for complementary feeding, which should be followed. Breastfeeding is advisable for the first six months. It should be continued when you start with weaning (complimentary) food. You can begin with well cooked and mashed rice/Dalia/ragi/khichari add fruits after a week. During complementary feeding: Get the order right; carbohydrates first, followed by proteins and fast are the last to be introduced. Don’t mix flavours. Encourage self-feeding. Increase fluid intake. Do not overfeed. Eat with them. Avoid salt and sugar in early complementary food. From sin months; 12 months onwards finely chopped or hand mixed.
Homemade foods are the best. In case you must use ready to use baby foods, check the label for recommended age, food preservatives, methods to prepare and the shelf life (before and after preparing). Organic foods are good. Check the expiry date and the source, in case of all packaged food products.
The more meticulous you are in caregiving, your baby will be healthier and happier and you too will remain stress-free.
Dr Tushar Maniar