We all expect our babies to have smooth, clear skin.
But for some babies, the smoothness doesn’t last long.
Baby eczema can leave your baby’s silky smooth skin looking sore and dry.
If your baby’s newborn skin appears red, dry and bumpy, and is itchy, eczema is often the culprit.
Eczema is an umbrella term for a group of skin conditions causing redness, bumpiness, dry skin patches, and itchiness. Dermatitis is often caused by allergies and sensitivities.
Although it usually starts around 2 years of age, it can start earlier, sometimes as early as 3 months. if this happens, it will usually clear on its own by 2 years of age. Most children outgrow it.
There are several different types of eczema; the most common types that affect children are atopic dermatitis and contact dermatitis. Seborrheic dermatitis is another common type that we know as cradle cap.
How do I know if my baby has eczema?
In most cases, eczema symptoms are easily identifiable. For children with light skin, infant eczema usually appears as patches of red skin. In babies with darker skin, the dermatitis rash might appear purple, greyish, or brownish.
The patches feel bumpy and dry to the touch, and can cause an itch. If babies are very young, and not able to scratch the itch, they can become irritable and have unexplained crying outbursts.
Older babies might scratch some areas, which then become infected. If a flare-up patch becomes infected, it might look weepy, oozy, or crusty from the inflammation.
Skin infections caused by bacteria usually present with a red, hot, swollen, and tender rash condition that might be accompanied by pus.
Eczema can be more common in certain parts of the body. Usually, it’s found increases, such as the inside of elbows, knees, and armpits. Babies might also have it in other more visible areas.
It can also affect sleep.
Baby eczema around eyes
Eczema around the eyes will appear as red, dry, flaky, or scaly skin. It’s understandable to worry when your baby’s eyes appear red and flaky.
It’s important to make sure it really is dermatitis you’re dealing with, and you’re not confusing it with an eye infection, conjunctivitis, or a blocked duct. Eczema affects the skin, whereas an infection or conjunctivitis affects the whole eye.
If the baby has a blocked duct, the redness in her skin will be around the tear duct (between the inner part of the eye and the nose).
The best treatment for eczema around the eyes is a thorough eyelid cleaning routine. Starting from the inner part of the eye and moving to the outside, use a warm compress with the purpose of gently unblocking the oil glands in the eyelids.
If your doctor or pediatrician suggests steroids are needed, they must be in a mild topical solution, as the skin of the eyelids is much thinner than facial skin.
Baby eczema around mouth
Eczema around the baby’s mouth might be difficult to identify as it’s easily confused with a teething rash or a food allergy.
When it appears on your child’s face it’s rarely in just one area, such as the mouth.
Eczema tends to have the same appearance for a long period of time; a rash caused by teething or an allergic reaction changes and fades much more quickly.
Topical steroids, for the care of facial eczema rashes, are usually prescribed in a very low dose, as facial skin is very sensitive. Always follow your doctor’s instructions and make sure you ask any questions that might arise.
Baby eczema on scalp
Although eczema on the scalp can be sometimes confused with cradle cap there isn’t a direct link between them.
Cradle cap is a type of dermatitis known as seborrheic dermatitis; it won’t bother your child. In older children and adults, it is commonly known as dandruff.
You can find more information in Cradle Cap And Cradle Cap Treatment.
When dermatitis appears in this area, it’s likely there will be similar patches found elsewhere on the body. They cause the typical itching, discomfort, and irritability in your child.
If your child has atopic dermatitis on the scalp it can be moisturized, as the rest of the skin. Massage the cream gently through the hair to make sure it reaches the skin.
What triggers eczema in babies?
It’s difficult to determine what causes or triggers eczema in babies. Unfortunately, there can be more than one reason for it. Most babies who develop eczema have a parent who has asthma, hay fever, or eczema.
It’s important to keep an eye out for signs that atopic dermatitis might be flaring, such as:
- Different colored patches of skin
- Red or angry-looking skin increases such as wrists, eyelids, armpits, or behind the knees
- Your baby is trying to scratch or, if she’s too young, is unusually irritated and crying more.
If you notice signs of a flare, check for any of these triggering factors:
- New soaps or detergents
- Heat or stress
- Changes to your diet, if you’re breastfeeding, or baby’s, if she is eating solids
- Pollens or dust mites
- A new pet or contact with a new animal.
What foods trigger eczema in babies?
Approximately 30% of babies with eczema have food allergies. It’s important to understand food allergies and dermatitis are two different conditions, but children with dermatitis are more likely to develop food allergies.
The most common food allergens are:
- Cow’s milk
- Tree nuts
If you’re breastfeeding, or if your child is eating solids, and you’re concerned about a possible food allergy, it’s worth talking to your child’s doctor or pediatrician.
This doesn’t mean you should stop breastfeeding; you should see your healthcare provider to work out a management plan.
Can you prevent your baby from getting eczema?
New research suggests women who take probiotics during the last trimester of pregnancy can reduce their children’s risk of atopic dermatitis by 29%.
Women who take probiotics while breastfeeding could reduce the risk of atopic dermatitis by 40%. Young children who are given probiotics directly might also have a 20% reduced risk of eczema.
Probiotics are ‘good’ bacteria, and are essential for gut and immune system health. Having a good balance of healthy bacteria helps the body to function at its best.
Although probiotics can’t guarantee your child will be dermatitis-free, they can reduce the risk, as bacteria are very important for maintaining a healthy skin barrier.
Probiotics don’t have worrying side effects, so they might be a safe option to help reduce your infant’s chance of dermatitis. If your little one has dermatitis, probiotics might also help control breakouts.
Prevention is great, but it doesn’t always work. Some infants have very sensitive systems. They might simply be prone to eczema, no matter what preventative steps were taken during pregnancy.
Fortunately for these sensitive little ones, there are many options to help treat and eliminate atopic dermatitis symptoms and flares.
Does breast milk help eczema?
You might have heard applying breast milk to your baby’s skin is a good solution. The reason for this is breast milk has millions of live bacteria to help babies fight infections.
Should babies with eczema bathe daily?
Recent research advises against bathing babies frequently, especially those with dermatitis or other skin conditions. The skin produces and retains its own moisture. Every time we wash it, this protective film is removed.
Will infant eczema go away?
In most cases, eczema often goes away by itself by the time children start school. Although it’s rare, some children will have eczema into adulthood.
7 ways to heal baby eczema breakouts
Here are 7 tips for reducing and healing eczema flare-ups:
#1: Steer clear of dyes, fragrances, and chemicals
Avoiding dyes, fragrances, perfumes, and chemicals can help reduce eczema flare-ups. Fragrances, even natural ones, can be a trigger for many with eczema.
Commercial dyes in detergents, soaps, and shampoos often contain many chemicals. Chemicals can be very harsh on anyone’s skin, but especially those with eczema. Use dye-free products whenever possible.
Try to use natural soaps, detergents, and oils. Even commercial lotions labeled for babies can contain a lot of chemicals.
Some infants with eczema do well with natural oils like coconut and even olive oil. You could also try making your own breast milk soap.
For more information check out 8 Awesome ‘No-Nasties’ Products I Totally Love.
#2: Test for food allergies and avoid triggers
Many children with eczema also have food allergies or sensitivities.
Around 2-8% of babies are allergic to cow’s milk; this can sometimes be incorrectly diagnosed as lactose intolerance. Among exclusively breastfed babies, around 0.5% are allergic to cow’s milk.
Soy and wheat are also common sensitivities in children.
It’s common to assume fussing breastfed babies are sensitive to something in their mother’s diet, but often fussing and a bit of gas are part of normal newborn adjustment. If your baby is spitting up, has chronic nappy/diaper rash, cries in pain, and has eczema, it’s worth looking into food triggers.
Any food can be an allergen. It’s a good idea to talk over these possibilities with your pediatrician, allergist, dermatologist, or other health care provider.
Some try elimination diets to find the culprit, especially if other family members suffer from sensitivities or if there is a family history. It’s wise to have the guidance of a qualified health professional, however, especially if you’re breastfeeding.
In cases where the cause is hard to pinpoint, allergy testing might be ordered, especially when there’s a skin condition like contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, redness, or eczema rash.
If baby is formula-fed, your doctor might recommend trying a dairy-free formula, a formula with broken down soy and dairy proteins, or an elemental formula.
#3: Stick with natural fabrics
Synthetic, as well as animal-based fibers, can trigger eczema in sensitive individuals. Dermatologists often recommend 100% natural fibers like cotton, linen, bamboo, or hemp for baby’s clothing, blankets, and even diapers, to help prevent baby’s skin condition.
Be sure to wash all new items in a low or no chemical detergent before letting it come into contact with baby’s skin. Many fabrics are processed with a lot of chemicals so washing is a must. If your baby is very sensitive, it’s a good idea to stick with 100% cotton clothing for yourself as well.
#4: Eat a whole food diet
Unfortunately, many processed foods contain preservatives, dyes, and even chemicals. These products can cause inflammation in sensitive individuals. Avoid giving these items to your baby once she begins solids; if you’re breastfeeding, consider avoiding them yourself.
In our fast-paced world, avoiding all processed food can be difficult. If you’re breastfeeding this isn’t something to stress over. Even if you consume processed food on a regular basis, your breast milk is still an optimal whole food for your little one.
Worried about introducing solids to your baby with eczema? Check out 6 Steps To Introducing Solids… The Simple Way!.
#5: Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize!
Did I mention keeping the baby’s skin moisturized? Keeping the skin moist can help heal baby eczema breakouts, reduce itching, and may help prevent new breakouts.
Some providers recommend moisturizing at every diaper change. This is a simple way to remember to moisturize often, especially if you keep the cream close by on the changing table.
The National Eczema Association recommends the ‘soak and seal’ method to care for eczema. This means giving baby a short bath in lukewarm water, then patting (not rubbing) the skin gently, leaving it damp. Then apply a cream high in oil to seal in moisture.
#6: Baby eczema creams
Avoid creams, ointment, and lotions that have fragrances, dyes, and chemicals. If you need a science degree to understand the ingredients, it’s not a good sign.
The popular all-purpose sorbolene cream and petroleum jelly are often recommended but they are made from petrochemical byproducts. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends parents talk to a dermatologist for product suggestions.
There are many over-the-counter products marketed for eczema. Some parents find these helpful; others find they have a lot of additives.
Pure aloe vera, virgin coconut oil, and some natural oils work well by providing additional moisture. You can use Calendula, which is also soothing and healing. Be aware of additives in these products (always read the labels) and buy organic when possible.
The National Eczema Association says the more oil in a cream, the more effective it will be as a treatment.
If eczema breakouts and flares aren’t clearing with regular moisturizing, sometimes a prescription steroid cream is necessary. You can discuss this with a pediatric dermatologist to decide whether this is necessary.
#7: Avoid overheating and unprotected sun exposure
Overheated skin and sweat can trigger eczema flares. Many infants are adorably chubby but this can trap sweat in crevices causing irritation. Keeping your child in the shade and limiting heat exposure can help keep flares under control.
A few children can have photosensitive eczema, which means direct sunlight can cause a flare. If the baby seems to flare after being in the sun, limit sun exposure. Hats, sunscreen, shade, etc are great for this purpose.
Baby eczema treatment
Dealing with infant eczema can be frustrating and challenging. Figuring out the different triggers and what works to heal it can be a long process. Fortunately, many infants become less sensitive after their triggers are found and avoided.
Once a baby’s eczema appears there are different treatment options. These depend not only on the cause, but on the severity of the eczema and how it affects your baby.
Sometimes a calming oatmeal bath with warm water (no soap) can alleviate the itchiness and stop your baby from scratching. These baths are calm and soothing and make the skin feel soft. Coconut oil is also a very good moisturizer.
If your baby’s eczema becomes very severe, you should seek advice from your doctor about a treatment plan. This might include prescription eczema creams or steroids. Antibiotics might also be needed if there is an infection.