Baby care basics

Baby’s skin

Skincare

  • Baby’s skin is delicate and is susceptible to becoming dry and broken. It needs gentle care.
  • Use fragrance- free bathing gel or just water for a baby bath.
  • The skin of your baby may look dry and will peel off before one month old. This is perfectly normal and you don’t need to put body lotion on your baby.
  • When your baby is already one month old, you may apply body lotion on your baby after bath to prevent loss of moisture in dry weather.
  • Avoid exposing baby under the sun directly when going out. Use an umbrella or put a bonnet on your baby to protect him from the sun. Do not apply sunscreen on your baby to avoid causing skin irritation or allergy.
Mother bear holding up an umbrella for baby bear to prevent direct exposure to the sun

Common skin problems among babies

Showing seborrhoeaic dermatitis over the scalp of a baby

Seborrhoeic Dermatitis
(Commonly known as ‘cradle cap’)

Descriptions

Causes
  • Not completely clear
Symptoms
  • Common among newborns.
  • Appears slightly red
  • Small oily flakes or yellowish thick scales adhering to the scalp or eyebrows, forming a layer of scab
  • Commonly found when baby is 3 weeks to 3 months old.
  • Subside gradually at around 6 months old.

Affected areas

  • Areas with lots of skin glands
  • e.g. head, forehead, cheeks, eyebrows, ears, armpits, belly and the folds between the thighs

Treatment and prevention

  • Keep baby’s skin clean.
  • Rinse the affect areas with water. Do not use soap / bath gel.
  • Apply moisturizing cream after cleaning to keep the skin moist
  • For thick scales on scalp, apply olive oil and leave on the scalp for 20 minutes to soften them. Wipe the scales off gently with cotton swabs.
  • Rinse with baby shampoo. Use a comb to clear away the adhered patches
Do not use soap / bath gel
Showing infantile eczema over the back of knee of a child

Infantile Eczema/Atopic

Descriptions

Causes
  • Unknown
  • Not infectious
  • More likely to appear in babies with family members suffering from allergies (e.g. asthma, allergic rhinitis) or being allergic to certain substances (e.g. pollen, detergents, dust or foods).
Symptoms
  • Commonly found in babies 2-3 months old.
  • Appears red and dry. Sometimes, small blisters appear and scabs are formed when blisters broken.
  • Baby will scratch the affected areas due to itchiness
  • Skin becomes thick and hard after scratching
  • In most cases, it appears before the age of 5 and fades away after 15. Some may persist into adulthood

Affected areas

  • Cheeks, elbows, knees, trunk and folds between thighs.
  • The affected areas will vary with age.
  • Commonly found on neck and folds on limbs when reach the age of 2.

Treatment and prevention

  • Keep skin clean and moist
  • Bathe baby with lukewarm water and non-alkaline bathing gel
  • Pay attention to cleaning the skin folds
  • Apply fragrance-free moisturizer after bath
  • Trim baby’s nails regularly to reduce the chance of skin injury by scratching. May put cotton gloves on baby if the baby scratches a lot
  • Pay attention to the temperature and humidity of the environment. Avoid exposing directly to strong sunlight or cold wind.

    Avoid exposing directly to strong sunlight or cold wind
  • Clean your home with wet cloth or vacuum cleaner to remove dust

    Vacuum cleaner
  • Do not keep furry pets
  • Choose cotton clothes for your baby. Avoid clothes made of wool, nylon or silk to be in direct contact with baby’s skin

    Clothes made of cotton
  • Use mild detergent to wash baby’s clothes. Rinse with water thoroughly.
  • Breastfeeding may prevent eczema.
  • If symptoms persist or get worse, consult your doctor before applying any medications
Showing heat rash over the back of a baby

Heat Rash/Prickly Heat

Descriptions

Causes
  • Usually in hot weather
  • Occurs when wrapped in excessive clothing
  • Caused by sweat staying on skin
Symptoms
  • Small raised red spots

Affected areas

  • Neck, back and chest

Treatment and prevention

  • Clean with a towel and water
  • Dress in appropriate amount of clothing
  • Keep skin dry and cool; reduce sweating
Showing diaper rash over the perineum of a baby

Diaper Rash/Nappy Rash

Descriptions

Causes
  • When skin is irritated by urine and faeces.
Symptoms
  • Begins as red spot, then develops into small raised reddish rash
  • Sometimes spread to all areas covered by diaper

Affected areas

  • Vulva, perineum, buttocks and areas wrapped by diapers.
  • Sometimes may appear on lower abdomen and upper part of the thighs.

Treatment and prevention

  • Keep baby’s bottom clean and dry
  • Clean with damp cotton wool when changing diapers.
  • Allow the bottom to air dry. Apply a thin layer of oil-based moisturizer (Vaseline) or zinc oxide cream to keep the urine and faeces from direct contact with the skin
  • Do not use talcum powder. It will mix with urine or sweat to clog the sweat pores and worsen the condition
Apply a thin layer of oil-based moisturizer (Vaseline) or zinc oxide cream

*If the above symptoms persist, please consult your doctor.

Baby’s sleep

The advantages of having regular routines

When babies start to get used to their surroundings, parents should start establishing regular daily routines for them. Having regular feeding, bathing and sleeping hours can make the environment predictable and add a sense of security to your baby. By having a stable environment, your baby will be less likely to develop behavioural and emotional problems. You will then be easier to understand his/her temperament.

Having regular feeding, bathing and sleeping hours can make the environment predictable and add a sense of security to your baby

Characteristics of babies’ sleep

Just as inside the mother's womb, babies sleep whenever they are tired without taking note of day or night in their first couple of months

While the “job” of babies is eating and sleeping, you need to learn more about the characteristics of your baby’s sleep and establish a regular sleeping routine for her.

Just as inside the mother’s womb, babies sleep whenever they are tired without taking note of day or night in their first couple of months. They have short sleep periods of 3 to 5 hours in length. They also wake up easily as about half of their sleep time is in the light sleep state.

When they are 3 months old, they can sleep for longer hours. Two-third of their sleep takes place at night time. When they reach 6 months old, around 50% of the babies can sleep at night for 6 hours.

The ideal sleep environment

Room temperature and ventilation

  • Room temperature should be comfortable and ventilation good.
  • Do not put on too much clothing or blankets for babies to avoid them being too warm and unable to sleep.
  • Check the baby’s nape of her neck. Feeling just warm means that your baby is comfortable. If there is sweat, it may mean that it is too warm for your baby.
 

Sounds

Babies can fall asleep even if the surroundings are not completely quiet. Playing soft music and humming a lullaby to your baby can help her fall asleep.

 

Beddings

  • Cotton bed sheets and blankets are the best for babies as they reduce the chance of getting allergies
  • Tucking the sides of the blanket underneath the mattress can avoid the blanket being shifted over to cover your baby’s head and prevent suffocation.
     
  • You may swaddle your baby in a blanket to make him/her feel secured. However, swaddling too tightly can affect breathing and will trap body heat. Also make sure your baby’s head and face are not covered.

Learning how to sleep

Differentiating day and night

Babies cannot tell day from night

Babies cannot tell day from night. How to teach babies to stay active during daytime and go to sleep at night seems to be a big challenge for parents. Parents however can start by emphasizing the difference in light and introducing a regular schedule to enable babies to establish their daily routines.

Light

  • There should be difference in the room light. The room should be well-lit in the daytime while lighting should be dimmed when it is time to sleep at night.
  • Some babies may wake up crying for scaring of the darkness. You may switch on a night-light to reassure your baby.
Light

Regular daily routines

Regular daily routines
  • When your baby is awake in the daytime, you may play and talk actively with her to prevent your baby from sleeping too much during the day. When your baby gets tired as shown by having drooping eyelids, rubbing her face against you or yawning, let your baby have some sleep. On the other hand, you have to minimize her activities at night.
  • Try to finish the house chores as soon as possible, feed your baby and let her settle down. You can hum a tune and talk to your baby to calm her down. Then put your baby in bed, let your baby fall asleep on her own.
Then put your baby in bed, let your baby fall asleep on her own
Try to finish the house chores as soon as possible, feed your baby and let her settle down

Establishing bedtime routine

Developing regular sleep routine – English

Heading: Developing regular sleep routine

Scene: Daddy plays with baby.

Mother: Baby, It’s time to sleep.

Daddy: Oh, she is tired now. Let her sleep in my arms.

Mother: It’s not a good idea. Baby will only sleep when you hold her. Actually, I have already helped her develop a regular sleep routine.

Daddy: Regular sleep routine?

Narrator: When your baby reaches 2 to 3 months old, you can help her develop a regular sleep routine. This is about associating your baby’s particular daily activities with going to sleep. In this way, babies learn to fall asleep on their own after the series of activities. Babies have different characteristics. You can help your baby develop sleep routines according to her characteristics and habits. Here are two examples.

Sub-heading: Feed your baby. Burp her and hum a tune to her. When your baby gets sleepy, put her in bed. Turn off the light.

Narrator: Here is another example.

Sub-heading: Bathe your baby. Feed your baby. Burp her. Have a little chat with your baby. Put your baby in bed when she gets sleepy. Play soft music and dim the light. Let her fall asleep on her own. Developing regular sleep routine for your baby makes baby care easier for you.

 
  • When babies reach 2 to 3 months old, parents can try to set up a regular bedtime routine for them, i.e., helping babies to learn to associate particular activities with going to sleep and let them fall asleep on their own.
  • When babies have got used to fall asleep in their bed, it is easier for them to fall back to sleep even if they wake up in the middle of the night.
  • You can set up a special bedtime routine for your baby according to his/her temperament and daily routines.

Poor Sleeping Habits

Never let your baby develop poor sleeping habits. For instance, some babies can only fall asleep when being taken in their parents’ bed or arms, being rocked or fed. Once if these undesirable patterns have developed into routines in your baby, it means that your baby would depend totally on your attention and company to fall asleep every night; moreover, your baby could hardly fall back to sleep without your warm embrace or comfort derived from suckling/sucking on the teat.

What happen if your baby falls asleep during feeding?

  • It is common for babies to fall asleep during feeding, especially those under 1 month old who need to be fed frequently.
  • If your baby falls asleep during feeding, you can stop feeding her. Burp your baby and put her on bed. You can feed her a bit earlier next time so that your baby won’t be too tired at feeding time.
    Poor Sleeping Habits
  • As your baby needs less frequent night feeding when she grows, it would be a good time for you to establish sleep routine for your baby to help your baby sleep on her own.
  • If your baby wakes up and cries at night, you need to find out what she needs such as changing a wet nappy, company or feeding. You should not feed your baby if she is not hungry to avoid your baby depending on sucking or suckling to fall back to sleep.

Note: Establishing a successful sleep routine for your baby includes steps of having the baby fed, nappy changed and your baby starts to show signs of tiredness before you put her in bed. There is no quick fix to baby’s sleeping problems.

Therefore, in developing a sleep routine for your baby, you need to be patient and persistent and pay attention to factors that may affect your baby’s sleep.

Baby’s safe sleeping position and environment

Baby’s safe sleeping position and environment

Title: Baby’s safe sleeping position and environment

Narrator: Let babies sleep on their backs

Sleep in their own cot

Dress them in light and comfortable wear

They do not need pillows

Leave their arms uncovered

Don’t place any soft and fluffy objects in the cot

Leave no gaps between the mattress and the cot

Distance between the vertical bars of the cot should be less than 6 cm

Place the baby cot next to the parents’ bed

If you need to share a bed with your baby for some reason, give him a separate blanket; for a baby aged less than 3 months old, you may place him in a basket

Don’t take alcohol or drugs if you are to sleep with babies.

Keep good ventilation and a comfortable temperature. There should not be any smokers in the family

Don’t leave babies alone on a bed or sofa without guards

Lastly, breastfeeding can protect against SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome in subtitle), after feeding and burping the babies, put them in the cot when they look sleepy. That helps them build a good sleeping habit.

Please visit www.fhs.gov.hk

 

Preventing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

SIDS or cot death refers to sudden death of a baby while sleeping during the first year, most commonly around 2-3 months old, with an unknown cause. This syndrome is unpredictable though is rare in Hong Kong (1 to 3 out of every 10,000 babies may die of this syndrome). You can prevent it by using effective preventive practices for your baby. Safe sleeping positions can reduce the risk of SIDS. Having your baby sleep on his back is 6 times safer than sleeping on his front, twice as safe as sleeping on his side.

In addition, a smoke-free environment, vaccinations and breast-feeding can also reduce the risk in your baby.

safe sleeping position for baby

How to create a safe sleep environment?

Ensuring the safety of your baby’s sleep environment is of paramount importance. An unsafe sleep environment can be fatal to your baby.

Here is a checklist of a safe sleep environment for babies. How many of these are you doing?

  • Sleeping with your baby in the same room in separate beds

    Sleeping with your baby in the same room in separate beds

  • The distance between the bars of the crib should be less than 6cm (2.5″)

  • Remember to pull up and lock the rail of the crib when you leave your baby alone in crib

    Lock the rail of the crib

  • The size of the mattress should be fitted in the crib to prevent baby from rolling into the gap

  • Make sure baby’s face and head are exposed above the blanket to prevent smothering and overheating

  • Let your baby wear light and comfortable clothing at bedtime

  • Keep the room well-ventilated with comfortable temperature for your baby

The following 4 situations may threaten your baby’s sleep safety. ‘Watch out’ and ‘Don’t do’ these:

  • Mattress too soft and thick will make baby easily roll over to a face- down position which may lead to suffocation.

  • Use baby pillow or let baby sleep on big, soft and fluffy beddings or other objects. These include light, soft blankets or duvets, sheep skin, bean bag chair, bumper, pillows or stuffed toys. Your baby could be smothered easily when the objects cover the baby.

  • Place things other than beddings (e.g. toys and clothing) in baby’s bed.

  • Too much clothing or too many blankets can make the baby too hot.

Feeding

When babies reach about 6 months old, feeding on milk alone can no longer meet their nutritional needs. In particular, iron and zinc requirements to cater for their growth can only be acquired from solid food. This is the time to introduce solid food into your baby’s diet so to provide adequate nutrients for him as well as to help him learn chewing and swallowing food of different textures.