Newborn Skin Care

The skin of a newborn is different from adult skin. When you choose a topical skin treatment used on an infant’s skin parents must take these differences into consideration. An infant’s skin is about 50% thinner than compared to adult skin and has a more alkaline rather than an acidic pH. It takes about one year for an infant’s skin to mature to adult skin. These differences make it more difficult to keep good things in and bad things out.

Skin plays a role in infection protection, body hydration, electrolyte and water function. When an infant is born, the vernix (vernix caseosa) found on the body of an infant born after 36 weeks of gestation helps the infant stay healthy. It fights infection and has antimicrobial properties that help prevent infection. It is important to leave the vernix on for the immediate period after delivery and not remove it with bathing during the first day of life. It provides a hydrating and naturally moisturizing function.

The top layer of an infant’s skin is low in collagen and the adhesion between the two top layers (epidermis and dermis) of infant skin is less than in adult skin. The skin is also alkaline in pH as opposed to an acidic pH for adult skin. An acidic pH helps protect adult skin from infection.

The large area of skin coverage relative to body mass in an infant compared to an adult is why infants are prone to heat and water loss as well as the passage of substances across the skin barrier. Certain topical exposures are especially dangerous to babies. This is why it is important for parents to read labels to find out the composition of the topical agent. Rashes due to contact can be triggered by these agents.

Topical corticosteroids can lead to skin atrophy, and neomycin can lead to neural deafness. Silvadene can cause kernicterus and providone-iodine can cause hypothyroidism. Surfactants and antiseptics included in these topical agents can cause irritant dermatitis reactions and fragrances, preservatives, surfactants and parabens can cause contact sensitization after multiple exposures. Preservatives are often blamed but are essential to increase shelf life for many of these topical agents.

Some topical agents describe so-called organic or natural agents as being safer and healthier. Not all organic or natural agents are equally safe and the definition of what is organic is often vague. Sunflower oil appears to be better than olive oil, which may cause some disruption in the skin barrier. Botanical oils can cause skin sensitization reactions, and fragrance free products may have a masking agent that makes the product fragrance free, while still having a sensitizing agent present.

Parents must read labels and decide what topical agents are helpful and necessary in the care of their infant. The use of topical agents in infants who have a personal or family history of skin reactions should limited. The general rule in infant skin care is less is best. Early exposure increases an infant’s risk of skin sensitization and reading labels is always the best way to prevent future problems.

Self Esteem

A strong and healthy sense of self is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give to a child. Building strong self-esteem is the first step.  Self-esteem is the name given to the way we perceive ourselves.  Our perception is based on our own thoughts and feelings as well as how we perceive others think and feel about us. Our own perception of our ability to achieve also affects our self-esteem.  When our perception matches our ideal self, we have a higher sense of self-esteem.

Developing self-esteem takes time and effort.  An infant or child must experience secure attachment and a strong sense of security. At the same time the infant and young child must feel she is loved and accepted by others. This starts within your family and extends to friends and acquaintances. Involvement in and acceptance by groups such as school, church, a sport team and community organizations are also important. Without such involvement children feel lonely and isolated.

Children must have a sense of purpose.  Identifying and pursuing goals based on interest and ability is also essential. This allows every child to engage with others and channel energy towards achievement and self-expression. This prevents children from becoming resentful and bored or being excessively influenced by the desires of another.  These activities allow a child to develop not only competence but also a sense of pride that prepares a child to meet the challenges ahead.  This ability to have the personal power and interest to solve problems and set appropriate personal expectations is essential for life long success.

Trust in oneself and in those you love is essential if opportunities for success are to be realized and achieved. One of the components of trust is an understanding of both making and keeping promises. Children must be given the opportunity to keep promises and tell the truth even when the truth is difficult. This builds honesty, responsibility and a respect for the feelings and rights of others. Trust leads to a sense of faith in others and the ability to “let go” and rely on those you trust.

As your child’s ability to pursue a goal matures a sense of commitment develops. A child needs to feel they are able to contribute and participate in meaningful activities. This type of involvement must be authentic and lead to real choices and real decisions. These decisions are age and ability dependent and must be reasonable from a developmental perspective.

Throughout this process children and teens require honest and meaningful encouragement, support and rewards for a job well done even when mistakes or failure occur. Every child will make mistakes.  Perseverance and resiliency uncover within your child the ability not to feel defeated or embarrassed. Such feedback is essential if shame, guilt and anger are to be avoided.  Positively-directed feedback encourages lifelong improvement and motivation as well as the realization of healthy self-esteem.

A New Year’s Resolution

The eyes of so many parents tell the tale of fatigue, confusion and love. There is so much to do but so little time. Here is my resolution for this year. I hope it helps you.

The goal of every parent must be to encourage independence while discouraging both dependence and co-dependence. Dependence leads to low self-esteem, limited assertive communication, devalued feelings, poor boundary and limit setting behaviors and a lack of resilience. When independence is not supported problem solving, free expression, equality and healthy communication all suffer.

Signs of a healthy life balance include contentment, a zest for life, flexibility, resilience, a tolerance for stress, a sense of purpose and a healthy attitude at both work and play. When parents do not support the mutual sharing of feelings, thoughts and values, balance is difficult to achieve. The foundation of a healthy balance is an ability to discuss and accept your child’s feelings while also respecting your child’s boundaries. By nurturing resilience and setting reasonable rules a parent fosters independence, responsibility and decision making.

The first step in maintaining balance is to recognize, understand and respond to stress. Without this capability parents and children are prone to withdrawal, depression, anger and isolative behavior. When stress is managed effectively skills can be developed to allow both parent and child to trust their feelings and retain their own perspective while continuing to support one another.

The second step is to explore and clarify your own feelings. This allows you to respond to your own needs by understanding your own thoughts and actions. Once your personal needs have been met you are ready to support another. Focus on support that is kind, factual and optimistic. Non-judgmental support allows you to maintain your viewpoint while allowing the person you help to retain their own perspective and independence.

The final step to a healthy life balance is the ability to express gratitude and personal emotion while continuing to dream.