Some babies have only a faint layer of down on their heads, while others have a full head of hair. In either case, few young infants really need shampooing, It’s usually fine to sponge the scalp with a wet washcloth.
Many babies develop cradle cap, a kind of greasy dandruff that may be accompanied by red bumps on the scalp and face.
Cradle cap is harmless, and it should go away by itself, but you can speed the process by washing the scalp with mild soap and water and a soft-bristled scrub brush. (Some pediatricians also recommend using a mild dandruff shampoo such as Head and Shoulders.) It’s perfectly safe to rub the baby’s scalp briskly as long as you don’t exert too much pressure.
If you shampoo the baby’s hair, use a nonirritating baby shampoo, and take care that no suds get in the eyes.
A newborn’s thin, tiny fingernails are sharp enough to cause some nasty scratches. Keep your baby’s nails short by trimming them with blunt-tipped nail scissors (preferably while the baby sleeps).
Diaper care is the main concern here. (See “Diapering: A clean routine,” below.) In addition, babies may experience skin irritation, allergies, or eczema. Make sure all baby’s clothes are thoroughly rinsed of all traces of detergent, and place only soft, smooth fabrics next to baby’s skin. For other skin symptoms, ask your doctor’s advice.
Don’t forget to give your baby year-round protection against the burning rays of the sun. (Winter sun can burn, too!) As much as possible, keep infants out of direct sunlight. In summer, use a lightweight hat or bonnet to protect the scalp. After six months of age, when you may be taking your baby out in the sun for longer periods, use a specially formulated children’s sunscreen for protection.
Diapering: A Clean Routine
Changing diapers is no one’s favorite part of parenthood, but as the baby becomes more aware of you, it can become a play or social time of sorts. A newborn may go through more than a dozen diapers a day, so you’ll soon be proficient in the mechanics of diaper changing.
Cloth Or Disposable?
If you use cloth diapers, you will probably want to have them delivered by a diaper service. Both cloth and disposable diapers have their pros and cons; it may be a good idea to use a combination of the two, possibly relying on cloth at home and disposables outside the home.
The chief advantage of cloth diapers is that they are generally easier on the baby’s skin except, of course, if they contain detergent residues from inadequate rinsing.
The disadvantages are numerous, particularly if you decide to launder your own diapers, which can seem like a never-ending chore. Diaper services, on the other hand, can be expensive, and they aren’t available everywhere.
You need a soaking pail (which the diaper service may supply), and you may have to fold the diapers yourself unless they can be delivered prefolded. Obviously, cloth diapers are less convenient than disposable diapers, especially when you travel.
Convenience is the main reason parents choose disposable diapers. You don’t have to wash diapers or fuss with pins, and with all the different sizes manufactured, you can find a diaper that fits your baby snugly without having to be folded.
Disposable diapers are even more expensive than diaper services, however, and they tend to promote diaper rash more readily than cloth.
As for which method of diapering is kinder to the environment, it’s clear that disposables contribute to the solid-waste problem at our nation’s landfills.
The detergents used in washing cloth diapers, however, add to the burden of water pollution, which some experts say is also damaging.