When it comes to eczema there’s not much you can do to prevent it.
Since eczema is usually caused by an issue with the immune system or a defect in the skin, the only real way to prevent baby eczema is to establish a good skin care routine for your baby that minimizes their risk of flare-ups and dry skin.
How Skin Care can Prevent Eczema:
While previous studies showed that daily care of the skin with emollients from birth was effective at preventing skin barrier dysfunction and eczema in babies, a new study has recently demonstrated otherwise.
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
- Petroleum Jelly (like Vaseline)
- Commercial creams like CeraVe, Cetaphil Cream, Aquaphor Healing Ointment, Doublebase Gel, and others
Researchers sought to confirm that emollient use reduced a baby’s risk of developing eczema. In a large, randomized trial, 1,394 newborns were randomly assigned to receive emollient and skincare best practices advice, or just best practices advice.
After concluding the study, researchers did not find any evidence to support the idea that regular emollient use during baby’s first year reduced their risk of developing eczema.
This doesn’t mean skincare isn’t important for newborns.
Something every parent can do from birth to reduce the risk of eczema is to establish a healthy skin care practice with your baby. That means:
- avoid soap and bubble bath (just water is fine!), especially those with sodium lauryl sulfate
- use fragrance-free products
- avoid bath oils and additives which are very drying
- avoid using chemical / soap-based baby wipes, if possible
Use fragrance-free soaps.
Maintaining healthy skin means not stripping your baby’s skin of its natural oils and protective layers.
Can Breastfeeding Prevent Eczema?
Exclusive breastfeeding has many benefits but has not been shown to prevent eczema.
A recent study showed that exclusive breastfeeding for the first 3 months seemed to reduce the number and severity of eczema flares by age 6. However, over 20% of children involved in the study still developed eczema at some point by age 6, regardless of whether or not they were exclusively breastfed.
Some mothers swear by covering their baby’s skin with breastmilk to reduce the risk of eczema, but this has not been proven to work.
What About Probiotics?
Experts have determined that there is weak evidence to suggest that probiotics help prevent eczema.
The biggest challenge with probiotics — supplements or food containing live bacteria — is that they are not heavily regulated and the term “probiotic” simply means bacteria - it doesn’t tell you which bacteria, or how much bacteria.
While at least one study has shown that taking the probiotic L rhamnosus during pregnancy and while breastfeeding can reduce the risk of developing eczema, the overall data is mixed.
Furthermore, a meta-analysis of dietary supplements including fish oil, zinc, selenium, vitamin D, vitamin E, B6, buckthorn oil, hemp seed oil, and sunflower oil showed no convincing evidence that they can reduce the risk of eczema.