It seems like every baby I know, at some point or another, has experienced that dreaded torture device eczema. 1 in 5 children under the age of 2 experience eczema in Australia.
To varying degrees, eczema is a scourge upon adorable tiny children usually present at the least convenient time, or when it would be most unpleasant to deal with. Hot weather seems to cause flare ups. Equally, in our dry, cold area of Australia Winter seems to make things worse.
Our daughter started getting patchy of rough, red and flaky skin at about 8 months. A visit to the doctor confirmed it was eczema, and advised to treat it ongoing with any number of creams Googleable, and if it got really bad or our daughter was really suffering, to apply small doses of a cortizone steroid cream to calm it down. Our GP advised us to look closely at what foods, drinks and skin products we were introducing to our daughter to see if we could find the catalyst for her suddenly irritable, sad looking skin. With no new foods introduced to her diet and being a soap-averse family (more on that later) it really seemed like it was more of an environmental thing than a result of diet or detergent.
So how did we handle it?
I’m a strong believer that children should have a varied diet from early on. Removing foods from our daughter’s diet all together didn’t seem like a wise idea, and certainly most sources advise against that. We did, however, notice on days when she had lactose free milk that her skin improved. For a week, we had only lactose free milk, and the improvement was quite visible. Many sources agree that eczema in children under 2 usually is linked (but not caused) by food allergies. We considered the possibility that our daughter might be lactose intolerant, but in the absence of any other evidence suggesting that, we chose to limit her lactose intake, and not remove it all together.
From the moment she was born, we’ve been a soap free house. During times of sickness we use antibacterial hand wash, and we do use detergent in our washing but choose, when bathing, to use warm water for cleaning and coconut oil for comfort. Plain, cold pressed coconut oil. At about $10 for a giant dish, it’s very economical and we love the peace of mind of reducing potential exposure to alcohol in skin products, petrochemicals and other unpronounceable, unknowable chemicals.
Caring for skin during a flare up
Our routine developed quickly, and very efficiently. A warm (not too hot, which seemed to make it worse) bath, patting skin dry and then nude time to let her skin dry properly. Any area likely to be rubbed by clothing we applied a thin layer of Lansinoh ointment (yep, the same stuff you use for breastfeeding) as a gentle and effective barrier cream. This also seemed to be somewhat comforting, as we noticed she would not scratch or bother areas covered in Lansinoh, such as behind her knees or inside her elbows.
After lots of research and discussion with our local pharmacist, we trusted Moogoo Eczema and Psoriasis Cream for use with our daughter and the results were great! I know lots of Mamas who swear by Moogoo, and a quick look at their website is enough to put your mind at rest.
We noticed less irritation when our daughter wore loose cotton clothing which is great advice, unless like us you live in a Winter wonderland. Cotton or bamboo rich loose body suits under warmer layers of fleece or suits was enough to protect her skin while also keeping her warm.
And that’s about it. There have been times where we’ve had to apply steroid creams for a few days at a time to calm things down, but broadly this system has worked excellently for us. For new Mamas just discovering the sensitivity of their little person’s skin, I’d recommend the following:
- Try, wherever possible, to dress your baby in natural fibres.
- Although it’s lovely holding a sweet smelling, recently washed and massaged baby, your baby is sweet enough already: limit the use of perfumed products on your child’s incredibly fragile skin.
- Lots of people will say lots of things about your baby’s diet as he or she begins to wean to solids. In the absence of a clear allergic reaction, it’s best not to completely remove a specific food or ingredient from your child’s diet. Instead, try smaller quantities in an effort to help your baby build a tolerance. If, however, you can see a clear reaction to a particular food it’s best to seek medical advice.
- Hang in there. Lots of babies experience eczema, but by the time your child is 2 – 5 years of age you’ll most likely notice it subsides dramatically. Try to focus on finding a management system that works for you.
Read more about eczema and allergies here.