Welcoming a new baby is extremely exciting, but also a bit nerve racking.
When a snuggly, soft baby starts to experience newborn skin peeling, it’s common for parents to be concerned.
Understanding why newborn skin peeling occurs can help ease your new parent worries.
In adults, any major skin peeling is often indicative of a problem.
Fortunately for your new bundle of joy, skin peeling is rarely a concern.
For a new parent, knowledge is power. To ease your worries, we’ve covered everything you need to know about newborn skin peeling.
What is newborn baby skin peeling?
While in the womb, your baby was covered in vernix and submerged in amniotic fluid. After birth there might also be some blood on your baby’s skin, from the birth process.
As soon as the baby emerges and is placed on your chest, the midwives often quickly wipe away a little of the blood and vernix.
In the past, it was common to bathe a baby immediately after birth and remove all of the vernix. We now know there are benefits to leaving the vernix and even rubbing it into baby’s skin.
Vernix acts as a waterproof barrier to protect your baby’s skin after it has spent months soaking in amniotic fluid in utero. Vernix protects your baby’s skin from becoming dry when exposed to air after birth.
For more information be sure to read 6 Reasons To Delay Your Baby’s First Bath.
It’s not uncommon for newborn skin peeling to start a few days after birth. As the vernix is eventually removed or rubbed in, your baby’s skin begins to shed.
Although peeling skin in children and adults usually means dry skin, this isn’t the case for newborns.
Babies who are born after their due date often have less vernix. Their skin can have more peeling and can occur much sooner after birth.
Newborn skin peeling is simply another part of your baby’s transition from womb to world.
Is newborn dry skin peeling dangerous?
As mentioned above, we associate peeling skin with dry skin. We also think of sunburn, lack of moisture, or even certain infections. Because of these associations, it can be scary to see newborn skin peeling.
The good news is the peeling is usually a normal part of the newborn phase and is of no concern.
Babies with more vernix tend to peel less than babies with less vernix. Most newborns peel at least a little bit in the first days and weeks of their life.
If you have any concerns, reach out to your baby’s nurse or paediatrician, especially if you’re not sure whether it falls under normal newborn skin peeling.
When is newborn peeling skin a medical issue?
Anytime you are unsure of your baby’s health, it’s important to speak to your care provider.
Although peeling newborn skin is very common and rarely a concern, there are some instances when medical attention might be required.
Occasionally, your baby’s sensitive new skin reacts to something that triggers eczema. While eczema isn’t a dangerous condition, it might require extra attention for healing and prevention.
Newborn peeling skin tends to be just peeling, without any redness, inflammation or irritation.
Eczema shows as red, inflamed, irritated skin, sometimes with a bumpy rash, and sores or small blisters. If you see any of these symptoms, it’s important to seek medical care.
If your child is diagnosed with eczema, there are many ways to help the skin heal and stay clear:
- Frequent hypoallergenic moisturising (if baby is under 4 weeks, check with paediatrician)
- If you are breastfeeding, discuss possible dietary changes to eliminate potential allergens (dairy, soy, eggs or other common infant allergens)
- Use only 100% cotton clothing, blankets, swaddlers, etc
- Prevent overheating, to reduce any irritation from sweat
- Avoid or limit the use of soaps and baby wash; warm water is fine for a newborn
- Use unscented and hypoallergenic detergents, soaps, etc.
You will find more tips for healing and preventing eczema breakouts in 6 Tips For Healing Breakouts.
Some babies are born with a genetic condition called ichthyosis. This condition causes skin to appear scaly and dry. Usually there is a family history of this condition.
Ichthyosis is rare, and there is no cure, but there are ways to manage it. Various specialists will work with you and make a plan to avoid infections, dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, and other complications that might occur.
Newborn skin peeling is very normal. Conditions like eczema and ichthyosis aren’t so common. However, at any point, if you’re not sure whether your baby’s skin peeling is normal, see your medical provider.
7 ways to manage and treat newborn peeling skin
Although newborn peeling skin is very typical, some parents feel better if they choose to manage the dry skin.
Your first option is actually quite simple: do nothing. Follow basic newborn hygiene and eventually the skin peeling stops in healthy babies.
Other parents take more proactive approaches, including these 7 tips:
#1: Delay baby’s first bath
Vernix protected your baby’s skin in the womb and can continue to protect baby’s skin after birth.
Rather than bathing baby on the first day of life, delay the first bath for one, two, or even several days. This allows the vernix to continue to protect and moisturise baby’s skin.
A gentle wiping away of amniotic fluid and blood, and rubbing in the vernix is enough to keep baby ‘clean’ in the first few days of life.
Delaying the bath also allows for more uninterrupted skin-to-skin time with parents. The scent helps with baby bonding and feeding, as the scent a baby has from being in the womb matches the scent of the areola glands (on a mother’s nipples).
The benefits of a delayed bath go beyond just the benefits for the skin.
#2: Limit bathing for first few months
Bathing your baby can be a wonderful part of your evening routine. It can soothe a baby who otherwise won’t settle. However, bathing too frequently can dry out baby’s skin and increase the peeling.
If your baby needs more access to water for soothing, or messy nappies, etc., you can reduce dryness by using water only, with no soaps unless really necessary.
#3: Moisturize baby’s skin
Your baby’s skin is delicate but it doesn’t need special treatment. Avoid using any commercial lotions and moisturisers unless specifically recommended by a healthcare provider.
If you choose or need to moisturise, it’s better to avoid scented lotions, even if they are marketed for babies. The fewer additives, the better for delicate skin. Pure oils like coconut and olive can be wonderful, but keep in mind they can stain.
#4: Be aware of baby’s temperature
If your baby is too warm, sweating can trigger extra peeling, heat rash and even eczema.
If baby is exposed to too much cold air it can also cause chapping. Be sure to do your best to keep your baby’s temperature comfortable and it should help the skin.
#5: Avoid harsh chemicals and fragrances
Many products marketed for babies can actually cause skin irritation. Chemicals, fragrances, and even natural essential oils can irritate a little one’s skin.
Choosing soaps and detergents for sensitive skin can help protect baby’s skin. Avoiding fragrances and using only safe essential oils (with the approval of your provider) will protect baby from unnecessary skin irritation.
Although avoiding these things can’t fully prevent normal newborn skin peeling, it makes sure there’s no unnecessary irritation as baby’s skin continues to adjust.
#6: Use a humidifier
If appropriate for your climate, a humidifier can help with eczema, peeling and overall dry skin. Some healthcare providers even recommend using fresh fern plants to help humidify the air.
As long as you make sure your home and climate are appropriate for humidifiers or humidifying plants, this it can be a simple measure to help keep skin from drying out.
#7: Keep baby hydrated
Babies under 6 months should not be given plain water. Breastmilk (or formula) contains plenty of fluids and the right amount of electrolytes to keep baby safely hydrated. Keep an eye on the number of wet nappies, to ensure your baby is properly hydrated.
What do I need to know about newborn skin peeling?
In short, newborn skin peeling is normal. It’s rarely something you need to be concerned about. You can simply wait it out if you choose.
Other parents try some of the things mentioned above. However, you can simply enjoy your newborn and know newborn skin peeling is just a typical part of baby’s transition from womb to world.