Take a deep breath, mumma. While it looks strange and unusual, newborn skin peeling is actually completely normal. In fact, flaky newborn skin is very common in babies that have ‘cooked’ past 40 weeks gestation because the coating that protects the skin from amniotic fluid begins to lessen as pregnancy stretches on.
Common reasons for newborn skin peeling
- Being born after 40 weeks
- Cold weather
- Bathing too often
- Using soap
- Other skin conditions like eczema or infection
Mum’s Grapevine spoke to Senior Neonatologist at Sydney’s Mater Hospital Dr Tushar Bhuta to find out how to help newborns with peeling skin.
“A newborn’s appearance changes a lot within the first few weeks,” Dr Bhuta explains. “The skin peels usually because newborns are born covered in vernix. This is the coating that protects a baby’s skin from amniotic fluid inside the mother’s uterus. Once the vernix disappears, the baby will shed its outer layer of skin.
“Another possible cause of peeling skin among newborns is dryness of skin or infection. Importantly, if your baby has patches of dry skin that become increasingly red in colour, you should consult your GP or paediatrician.”
How long does newborn skin peeling last?
According to Dr Bhuta, the shedding, flaking or peeling of newborn skin can last up to three weeks.
“Usually the more vernix a baby has at birth, the less their skin will peel. If your baby is born premature, he or she is likely to have more vernix and so will peel less.”
How to treat newborn skin peeling
Flaky and peeling newborn skin usually corrects itself in a couple of weeks, but Dr Bhuta says there are a few things you can do to help ease any discomfort bub might be feeling:
- Reduce the length of bath times and use warm water instead of hot water. Long baths tend to strip away the oils from your baby’s skin and may make the peeling worse.
- Apply moisturisers after bath time.
- Choose hypoallergenic cleansers and moisturisers without any harsh chemicals or scents.
- Try to shield your baby from cold air. This includes using blankets if your baby is sleeping in air-conditioning or when outside, especially during winter.
- Use a humidifier to help increase moisture levels in the air if your house is too dry.
Dr Bhuta says if the dry skin does not disappear after a few weeks, it’s best to seek advice from your GP.
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