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Looking after a newborn can be exhilarating, exhausting and also quite stressful, especially if you are a first-time mom and don’t know what to expect.
Of course, you’ve read the books and the internet, and you attended those pre-natal classes, but when anything strays from the normal, you start to panic. One of the common things that often causes new moms to worry is their newborn’s skin peeling.
Here, we will explain why this happens, what you should do and when you should seek help.
A newborn’s skin is extremely fragile and will continue to change its appearance for the first few weeks of life. This might include a small amount of flaking or peeling, which is normal. Peeling can occur on any part of the body, but the wrists, ankles, and soles of the feet are most common.
A newborn baby’s skin is covered in vernix, a sticky, white thick coating that protects a baby’s skin in the womb. The vernix should always be left to absorb naturally as it acts as a natural moisturizer and protects against infection in the first few days.
Once the vernix is absorbed, babies will begin to shed the outer layer of their skin within one to three weeks.
NOTE: The amount of peeling varies and often depends on whether your baby was premature, delivered on time or overdue.
The more vernix a baby has on his skin at birth, the less likely his skin may peel. Since premature babies have more vernix, their skin tends to peel less than a baby born at or after 40 weeks. On the other hand, an overdue baby’s skin is more likely to be dry and cracked since the protective vernix has been absorbed in the womb.
Some amount of dryness and peeling after birth is normal as the baby’s skin matures and forms its own protective barrier. However, there are some do’s and don’ts that will help:
If the above points don’t seem to help, or if the dry patches start to spread, crack or seem painful or itchy, consult your pediatrician. There could be a medical condition that’s causing the excessive dry, peeling skin.
In some cases, peeling and dry skin are caused by a skin condition called eczema, or atopic dermatitis. The symptoms include dry, red, itchy patches on your baby’s skin that looks like a rash.
Doctors use the term ‘infant eczema‘ to describe two conditions that usually appear between 2 to 4 months of age:
Once your baby has a flare up, try to treat it as soon as possible. Otherwise, he’ll rub his skin and aggravate it further, making the area extra vulnerable and dry. Follow the same advice as above in the treatment of eczema, and also remember the following points:
This article by the National Eczema Society is a good resource to find out more about the condition
Skin peeling and excessive dryness can also be caused by a genetic condition called ichthyosis. This skin condition causes scaly, itchy skin and skin shedding. Your doctor may diagnose your baby with this condition based on your family’s medical history and a physical examination or blood test. Medicated creams can relieve dryness and improve the condition of your baby’s skin.
So, to summarize, in general dry, peeling skin in babies is not a cause for concern – in fact, it is more common than we think. But as with all things baby-related, keep a look out for anything abnormal and seek help if the condition persists.
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