Bath-time should be a relaxing and fun time when babies can bask in Mum and Dad’s undivided attention before bedtime. However, for eczema babies (and their parents) it can be one of the most stressful times of the day. While it can be tempting to skip the bath, bathing is really important in keeping eczema skin as healthy as possible. Also having a consistent bed-time routine really does help little ones drop off to sleep more easily. And where sleeping is concerned, a baby eczema sufferer needs all the help he can get.
Why bath-time is so important in controlling Baby Eczema
Regular bathing is a really important factor in keeping an eczema baby’s skin healthy. The water washes away the residues of previous treatments and cleans off any loose scales and crusts so that further treatments can sink into the skin effectively. It also removes any allergens that have built upon the skin and reduces bacteria that can lead to infections. But bathing can also dry out eczema prone skin and aggravate the eczema itch.
- Top tip: If your eczema baby is really distressed when his body touches the water, check out our article on eczema friendly laundry as this is a classic symptom of detergent allergies.
A note on bathing frequency for eczema babies
This is one of those areas where different doctors will tell you different things. Current medical thinking is that an eczema baby should be bathed daily to keep skin clean. However, some older doctors are still advising parents to bathe eczema babies less frequently to avoid drying the skin out. As with all things eczema related, it is worth experimenting to find out what works best for your baby. We find that our sweaty little boy does best with daily baths in the summer, but that we can reduce the frequency in the winter.
Our top tips for baby eczema friendly bathing
Here are the things that we used to keep our eczema baby happy and relaxed at bath-time:
- Check water temperature – Use warm water (no higher than 37°C) as hot water will strip the skin’s natural oils faster. Hot water can also aggravate rather than soothe itchy eczema. We find it difficult to judge water temperature accurately so rely on a bath thermometer (which doubles as a bath-toy).
- Keep baths short – Keeping the time your eczema baby is in the water to 5-10 minutes will ensure that they get maximum cleaning benefit while minimising the drying effect. If their skin has gone wrinkly, they’ve been in the water too long!
- Use a prescription bath-oil – these oils will cover your eczema baby with a protective film that stops the bath water stripping the skin of its natural oils. Watch out for ones with added fragrance as these can irritate baby eczema. Be careful to make sure that you have a firm hold of your little one as these oils will make it difficult to get a firm grip. We found that having two adults made oily bath-times a lot easier.
- Avoid toiletries – even gentle baby washes and shampoos often contain common irritants for baby eczema. In particular, watch out for sodium laureth sulphate (SLS or SLES), fragrances, ingredient that ends in –parben and either Methylchloroisothiazolinone or Methylisothiazolinone (MCI or MI). While there are plenty of eczema friendly baby washes about, we find that using plain water and a micro-fibre wash mitt kept our eczema baby clean on all but the grubbiest days. You can emollients as a soap substitute but we much prefer the Weleda baby wash as it doesn’t make for such a greasy baby. To be on the safe side, when we use a baby wash we rinse the kids off with fresh water.
- Try using a tummy tub – When our eczema baby was small, we found that using a Tummy Tub rather than a conventional baby bath worked really well. We think it was because his whole body was in the water so he never really felt that slightly tickly, irritating feeling of water evaporating off wet skin. Also, because he was well supported by the sides of the tub it was easier for us to have a hand free to stop any scratching before it happened. His upright body position also meant that he could see what was going on around him and it didn’t take him long to figure out how to splash!
- Stopping the scratching – An eczema baby will make the most of any opportunity to scratch and bath-time offers just that opportunity. Having two adults to one eczema baby at bath-time can really help (so long as your bathroom is big enough that don’t end up tripping over each other!). We had one person in charge of our eczema baby’s hands and the other doing everything else! As your baby gets older, the distraction of bath toys can keep hands (and minds) from scratching. Our kids are entertained for ages by just holding their hands under the running tap! You can also use a set of ScratchSleeves to keep really determined hands covered up, especially if you have a set that have been all but grown out of as the water will tend to stretch the fabric.
- Gentle drying – We wrapped our eczema baby in a hooded towel and cuddled him dry. The towels with the hoods in the centre of the long side (rather than in the corner) are great for this as you can keep scratchy hands securely wrapped up. We’d pat dry any remaining damp patches. We’re recently discovered that super-absorbent micro-fibre travel towels are fantastic for drying the super sore bits behind our 5 year old’s knees. One gentle pat and they are completely dry.
- Moisturise quickly and generously – stroke on your baby’s moisturiser or emollient as soon as they are dry and the skin has cooled, as this is when the skin has maximum levels of moisture. The emollients will lock in the moisture and replace any natural oils lost in the bath water before the eczema itch can set in.
- Rinse the tub thoroughly after cleaning – bathroom cleaners are strong degreasers and any residues can have a drying effect on baby eczema. Make sure that you rinse the bath tub thoroughly after cleaning. We play it safe by using skin friendly bathroom cleaners like Ecover or Method.
Click here for more articles on avoiding common triggers for baby eczema.
Bath products (especially those containing parbens, methylisothiazolinone or methylchloroisothiazolinone) are a major baby eczema trigger in our family, by avoiding them we can keep our kids’ eczema largely under control. What works for your family?
Here at ScratchSleeves we don’t just share our experiences of bringing up an eczema child (and favourite allergy friendly recipes), we also manufacture and sell our unique stay-on scratch mitts and PJs for itchy babies, toddlers and children. We now stock sizes from 0-16 years in a range of colours. Visit our main website for more information.