You may be concerned seeing your newborn's skin peeling. But it's usually no cause for alarm. Here's why it happens and what you can do.
Medically reviewed by Angela Holliday-Bell, MD, CCSH
If you’re dreaming of taking beautiful portraits of your newborn right after birth, we feel it’s our duty to warn you: newborn skin can be a hot mess. Bruising from a rough delivery, baby acne, random bumps, rashes, and splotches—you name it, and your sweet baby’s skin might be covered in it in the first few weeks after they’re born.
Another thing your newborn’s skin might do? Peel. That’s right—newborn skin peeling is totally normal a few days after delivery, especially on their feet, legs, wrists, and hands, says Amanda Stovall, MD, pediatrician with Springfield Clinic in Illinois.
Here’s why newborn skin peeling is so common, and how you can care for your baby during this phase.
Why Does Newborn Skin Peel?
When babies are born, they go from a wet environment (your uterus) to a very dry environment, a transition that Norma Perez, MD, pediatrician at AltaMed Health Services in Los Angeles, says can cause a baby’s skin to become rough and dry in response. Combine this with the fact that newborn skin is not fully developed yet at birth, and you have a recipe for skin peeling.
In fact, the more exposure your baby has to amniotic fluid and vernix in utero, the more likely their skin is to peel, says Dr. Stovall, who adds that it’s commonly seen in babies born at term or post-term. Premature babies, on the other hand, spend less time exposed to the moisturizing elements of your uterus and typically don’t have as much skin peeling.
Symptoms of Newborn Skin Peeling
Peeling is a fairly obvious and straightforward symptom, so it’s easy to spot. If your newborn’s skin becomes dry or flaky, rubbing off in tiny balls or lifting away in small pieces, then they are most likely going through the normal newborn peeling phase.
Again, you’ll see this most commonly on your baby’s feet, hands, wrists, and legs, but it can happen anywhere. Dr. Perez says some areas may also appear mildly red, irritated, or cracked with minimal bleeding.
How To Manage Your Newborn's Peeling Skin
Your baby’s skin will peel, flake off, and recover on its own, so you don’t have to do anything to treat the peeling or speed the process along. In fact, says Dr. Stovall, you should try not to pick at the peeling skin (it’s tempting, we know!). You could damage healthy skin, or even introduce your baby’s skin to bacteria, which is why Dr. Perez says keeping your hands clean is also an important part of caring for peeling newborn skin.
As far as bathing and skincare, both Drs. Stovall and Perez recommend:
Keeping baths minimal. Only give your newborn a bath two to three times per week in lukewarm (not hot) water to prevent their skin from drying out even more. Also, keep the baths short at no more than 10 minutes.
Limiting the use of products. Don’t overload your newborn’s skin with lotions to counteract the peeling, but after bathing them, you can apply a fragrance-free and hypoallergenic lotion to rehydrate their skin.
You may also want to use hypoallergenic laundry detergent for your baby’s clothes and bedding, or run a humidifier in their room to increase the amount of moisture in the air.
How Long Does Peeling Skin Last?
Don't worry; peeling skin won't last forever. The peeling typically starts a few days after delivery and can last up to a couple of weeks, says Dr. Stovall.
When To Seek Professional Help
You probably won’t need to contact your baby’s pediatrician about their peeling skin; just be gentle with their skin during this phase, and limit baths and harsh products. In a few weeks, the peeling should stop.
However, if at any point your baby’s skin looks very red or raw, is swollen, or has a discharge or bad smell, both Drs. Stovall and Perez advise calling your baby’s pediatrician. This could be a sign of a skin infection, allergy, or rash, or even a skin condition such as infant eczema.
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Read the original article on Parents.