Skin, Eye, and Body Care

Umbilical Cord Care

  • While the cord is still attached, keep it clean and dry.
  • Fold the diaper down so as not to cover the cord. This will help the cord dry and allow it to fall off, usually by three weeks of age.
  • You may see some slight bleeding or mucousy discharge for several days before and after the cord falls off.
  • Call the doctor if you have to hold pressure to get the bleeding to stop, or if the navel area becomes red, appears infected, or develops a foul odor.

Care of the Genitals and Circumcision

  • Most male infants born in this country are circumcised in the newborn period.
  • Newborn circumcision is a rapid and generally safe procedure when done by an experienced operator.
  • The most common complications are local infection and bleeding.
  • Benefits of circumcision include improved hygiene, decreased incidence of cancer of the penis and decreased chance of urinary tract infection.
  • If you desire circumcision, let your obstetrician know and (s)he will do the procedure on the second or third day.
  • For several days after circumcision the penis may be irritated and stick to the diaper. For that reason, cleanse the area with warm water and lubricate the whole end of the penis with Vaseline at each diaper change for five or six days after the circumcision.
  • As long as your child is in diapers we recommend putting a thin layer of vaseline between the head of the penis and the foreskin of a circumcised penis. This will help prevent the foreskin from sticking to the head of the penis.
  • If uncircumcised, gently pull back the foreskin to wash the area with a warm washcloth. Always return the skin to its natural position when done.

The foreskin will not be fully retractable until the age of about 7 years old, but this varies widely between children.

For girls, separate the labia gently and wash the area with a warm washcloth. There is often a slight mucus or bloody vaginal discharge in the first week of life. It is due to the hormone changes and is of no concern.

Diaper Area

  • To help avoid diaper rash, change the baby frequently and wash thoroughly but gently after each change. It is preferable to simply use soap and water on a washcloth.
  • Be certain to use a dry cloth to dry the area.
  • Baby wipes are convenient when away from home but sometimes cause irritation.
  • If a rash develops, try to keep it exposed to the air as much as possible during the day. The best barrier creams are those with a high zinc oxide content (e.g. 40% zinc oxide in Maximum Strength Desitin).
  • If the rash continues to get worse or develops sores, consult the doctor.
  • Baby powder, while sometimes helpful in the diaper area, must be used carefully as it can be inhaled and irritate the lungs.

Skin Care and Bathing

  • Until the cord falls off (one to three weeks), sponge bathe the baby using a mild (dye-free, fragrance-free) soap.
  • The face, hands and bottom need the most attention.
  • After the chord falls off, and the site is healed, regular tub baths are okay.
  • Wash the hair and scalp with a mild shampoo but not on a daily basis.
  • Don’t be afraid to wash over the “soft spot” on the head.
  • Rinse well and avoid using oils on the scalp.
  • You should use plain water on the face, avoiding creams, lotions, soaps or oils. It is not unusual for there to be a red, pimply rash on the face off and on for up to three months of age. Lotions and creams may make this worse; just continue to use plain water and keep the skin dry.
  • If the baby has dry skin in other areas other than the face, mild fragrance-free skin lotions are okay to use.

Eyecare for Babies

  • Your baby may appear to be cross-eyed or to have a lazy eye. This is common and usually resolves in the first four months of life.
  • You may notice some increased tearing from one or both eyes as well as some dried mucus in the eyes in the morning. This is often due to a blocked tear duct, preventing tears from draining normally into the nose. To help relieve this, keep the nose clear using the nasal aspirator bulb. Wipe the mucus from the eyes with a warm washcloth and massage the inner corner of the eyes with your finger several times a day to help loosen the tear duct and improve the drainage. This problem may develop off and on in the first few months of life.
  • In contrast, eye infections usually cause the eye to be red (bloodshot) and produce a yellowish thick drainage all through the day. If this occurs, contact the doctor.