While Breastfeeding: Establish a Skincare Routine to Prevent Eczema

 

baby on tummy with towel on head

This is the fifth installment in our series on reducing your baby's allergy risk. Jump back to the During Pregnancy or the First 24 Hours installments if you missed them. 

In this lesson, we cover how breastfeeding relates to allergies and why developing a skincare routine for your baby is so important.

Congratulations on your bundle of joy (aka diapers, cries, and cuddles). For most moms, growing a baby only gets more exhausting once they leave your body. 

The first weeks with a new baby are nothing like the peace it looks like on Instagram. In the first month, your baby will rarely be able to make eye contact, smile, or do much of anything but eat and sleep. But you’ll love them anyway.

The first few weeks and months home with mom are especially important for preventing eczema and food allergies for two reasons: breastfeeding and baby skin care. 

 

Breastfeeding

Not every mom can or wants to breastfeed, but for those who can, breastfeeding is an important step in limiting the chances of allergic disease.

In the first month, your baby will exclusively drink breastmilk or formula, which has all the water and nutrients your baby’s body needs. Breastfeeding, if possible, will seed your baby’s gut with lots of helpful bacteria, and give those bacteria the food they want. This is likely why breastfeeding has been associated with a lower rate of eczema and asthma.

On the other hand, what you eat or don’t eat as you’re breastfeeding won’t have a strong effect on your baby’s chance of developing a food allergy. 

To learn more about what has actually been studied between breastfeeding and food allergies read more here.  

 

Baby Skin Care

The skin is your baby’s first line of defense against invaders, especially when she is unable to move or feed herself. Skin barrier dysfunction is now understood to be a leading cause of both eczema and food allergy. 

Skin barrier dysfunction is when the outermost layer of your baby’s skin allows too much moisture to escape, and allows external particles and chemicals into the skin. 

Maintaining healthy skin means not stripping your baby’s skin of its natural oils and protective layers. That is why the European Academy of Dermatology recommends against using any harsh soaps or chemical-heavy wipes, which can be too much for your baby’s skin.  

Something every mom can do from birth to reduce the risk of food allergies, eczema, and asthma, is to establish healthy skin care practices with your baby.

That means:

  1. avoid soap and bubble bath (just water is fine!), especially those with sodium lauryl sulfate
  2. use fragrance-free products
  3. avoid bath oils and additives which are very drying
  4. avoid using chemical / soap-based baby wipes, if possible

Additionally, studies have shown that daily care of the skin with emollients from birth can be incredibly effective at preventing skin barrier dysfunction. In fact, one study showed that daily use of emollients could prevent eczema from starting and thereby limit the chances of food allergy. 

According to the National Eczema Society, “emollients are non-cosmetic moisturizers which come in the form of creams, ointments, lotions and gels. Emollients help skin to feel more comfortable and less itchy. They keep the skin moist and flexible, helping to prevent cracks.” 

Examples of emollients include:

  • Shea butter
  • Cocoa butter
  • Lanolin
  • Petrolatum (like Vaseline)
  • Paraffin
  • Beeswax
  • Commercial creams like CeraVe, Cetaphil Cream, Aquaphor Healing Ointment, Doublebase Gel, and others

Based on the research, you should apply an emollient to your baby's entire body, except the scalp. Emollients can be applied anytime, but definitely after a bath. 

Start applying an emollient daily as soon as possible after birth and continue until your baby is at least 6 months old.

Starting a daily emollient routine is a great opportunity to bond with your baby, especially if you use it as part of a baby massage routine. YouTube has many videos explaining various techniques for baby massage. No matter which you choose, your baby will love the one-on-one time, and you will love that your baby is protected.

 

What is your favorite emollient brand? Mine’s CeraVe! Tell us yours below!