It’s not pretty to look at, but cradle cap is a harmless scalp condition common in newborns. Your baby may have a mild case of flaky, dry skin that looks like dandruff, or a more severe case marked by yellowish, thick, oily, scaling or crusting patches.
Cradle cap can appear anytime between two weeks and three months after birth and usually clears up on its own after several months. It’s usually not a problem after 6 or 7 months of age.
A nurse and mother of four demonstrates the best ways to wash your new baby.
Cradle cap results when oil-producing sebaceous glands produce too much oil, which turns into oily patches that dry and flake off.
Many experts think the extra hormones a mother produces and passes to her child during childbirth cause the oil glands to act up. When the hormones in your baby’s body level out after the early months, the condition will go away.
The best way to remove the scales is to wash your baby’s hair daily with a gentle baby shampoo. Try massaging your baby’s head with your fingers or a soft washcloth first to help loosen the scales. Before you rinse off the shampoo, brush your baby’s hair with a soft baby brush to remove the loose scales.
Some parents use mineral oil or baby oil on the baby’s scalp to loosen scales, but the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says this may not be helpful and can instead make it possible for scales to build up.
Cradle cap will eventually go away on its own, but consult a doctor if the condition persists, gets worse, or spreads. The doctor may prescribe a medicated shampoo or cortisone cream.
Find out more about treating your baby’s cradle cap.
Your baby’s nails may be softer and more pliable than yours, but make no mistake, they’re sharp – and a newborn, who has little control over his flailing limbs, can easily end up scratching his own face (or yours) as he reaches out to explore.
A newborn’s fingernails grow so fast you may have to cut them as often as a few times a week. Toenails require less frequent trimming.
Some parents bite their baby’s nails to trim them, but the AAP warns that this can lead to infection.
Your best strategy is to invest in a pair of baby scissors or clippers, and grab a partner.
One of you can hold the baby and keep him from wiggling too much while the other does the job. (You may want to try this while he’s feeding or sleeping so that he’ll be calmer.)
Press the finger pad away from the nail to avoid nicking the skin, and keep a firm hold on your child’s hand as you clip.
If you’re worried you might accidently clip or snip your baby’s finger, you can use a soft emery board instead.
Bath time can be a fun, special time to share with your baby. It’s also a time for caution, though. Keep these bathing tips in mind so your little one stays safe while he gets squeaky clean:
The first and most important rule is this: Never, ever leave your baby unsupervised, even for a minute.
Children can drown in less than an inch of water. So gather all the supplies (soap, towel, clean diaper, clean clothes, etc.) you’ll need ahead of time, and keep at least one hand on your baby while he’s in the water.
If the doorbell or phone rings and you feel you must answer it, scoop up your baby in a towel and take him with you.
Make sure the bathroom is comfortably warm (around 75 degrees F). Babies can get chilled quickly.
Don’t put your baby into a tub when the water is still running. (The water temperature could change or the water could get too deep.)
Make the family tub safe:
Bathtubs are incredibly slippery, so outfit yours with a rubber bath mat for more secure seating.
A cushioned spout cover can protect your baby’s head from painful bumps. Also, be sure that any sliding glass shower doors are made from safety glass.
Make the bathwater comfortably warm (test it with your wrist or the inside of your elbow to make sure it’s not too hot). Babies and toddlers generally prefer a much cooler tub than you probably do.
Fill the tub with only 2 to 4 inches of water for babies.
For kids who can sit up, a bath ring may provide you with an extra “hand.” But don’t let it give you a false sense of security—babies can tip over or get trapped under them, so it’s no substitute for keeping your eye and a hand on your baby at all times.
Teach your baby not to stand in the tub.
Wash your baby in plain water if you want to, as long as you clean the diaper zone and skin folds well.
Soaps and shampoos can dry your baby’s skin and may cause rashes. If you do use soap, choose a mild one designed for babies and use it sparingly.
To avoid having your baby sit too long in soapy water, play at the beginning of the bath and save the soap and shampoo for the end.
Don’t use bubble baths. They may be irritating to the urethra, which in turn might increase the risk of urinary tract infections.
Set your water heater to 120 degrees F. It takes just three seconds for a child to get third-degree burns from water that is 140 degrees F – the default setting on many hot water heaters when they leave the factory.
Don’t allow your child to touch the faucet handles. Even if he can’t move them now, he’ll be strong enough to do so eventually – and that could lead to serious injury.
(You might try putting your baby in the tub with his back to the faucets.)
Keep electric appliances (like hair dryers and curling irons) away from the