Baby skin, bathing and cord care

Babies are born with very delicate skin and are less able to withstand the sensitising effects of modern detergents

Maintenance of the skin’s natural protective barrier is paramount. In order to do this, you should use water only for your baby’s skincare for at least the first month of life. When carrying out any baby care you should wash your hands before and after. It is currently advised not to overload your washing machine as this will help to avoid a build up of chemical residues on clothing from washing powders. You should use non-biological washing powder and make sure that your baby’s clothes are thoroughly rinsed. If you use a fabric conditioner, try to use products that are free from colours and perfumes. You may be considering using cloth nappies for your baby. These are just as efficient as disposables and do not present a higher risk of nappy rash. They are also kinder to the environment. You may also be concerned about your baby having dry skin. This can be resolved by using vegetable-based oils - not nut - which are free from minerals, perfume and colours.

Your baby’s first bath does not need to take place within the first day after birth, unless there are particular concerns regarding cross infection from you to baby. There is a consensus that until a baby is crawling, there is no need to bath a baby more than twice a week. However you should top and tail your baby daily. Your midwife can advise you further on this.

Your baby’s cord will dry and fall off between five and 10 days after birth.

There are some basic rules to follow to reduce the risk of problems:

  • Hand washing before and after all baby care
  • Leave the cord open to air or cover with clean, loose clothing
  • Fold nappy down below the cord until it falls off
  • Leave alone unless contaminated by faeces or urine
  • Clean, if necessary with plain water – no other treatment has been shown to be effective

Please note it is normal for the cord stump to look a bit 'mucky' or appear to have pus at the base as it dries up and heals, but this does not mean that it is infected. It is also normal for the cord to smell slightly offensive as it separates. This is because the cord separates by a process of dry gangrene and is effectively dying tissue. Ask your midwife to check your baby's cord stump if you are worried about its appearance or smell.