Thursday, May 21, 2009

5 tips for keeping your baby smelling fresh.

Not too long after you bring your baby home, you will be confronted with one of the basic aspects of having a baby, the smell. I'm not talking about the sweet fresh skin smell, or the baby-lotion and scented wipe smell, I'm talking about the sour-milk in skin folds, waste particles that you can't figure out where they are hiding, pungent crib-cap build up and a combination of sweat and dead skin cells that leaves an unmistakeably "ripe" smell behind. Most babies are not able to be bathed for the first few weeks that they are home because of the healing belly-button and some babies have sensitive skin issues that effectively restrict how often they can be bathed, but that doesn't mean there is nothing you can do to help your little one stay fresh. The issue of baby hygiene is a sensitive one, since no one wants to think that they are the one with the stinky baby, but with a few easy tips you should be able to be sure that your little love blossom actually smells like one.

1. Use a squirt-bottle solution and a cloth to refresh your baby's neck after naps.

In a squirt bottle combine 2.5 cups of sterile water, 1 teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide, 2-3 drops of lavender oil (other oils can be substituted) and 1 tablespoon of chamomile tea. This solution is gentle and effective at neutralizing odor-causing bacteria, and soothing for your baby. If you'd like to go completely natural, you could just use water as well, but the odor-fighting properties are greatly reduced. A trick for getting your baby to let you wipe their ticklish neck is to drape the cloth around their neck from the back like a shawl, then hold onto the two corners in front and rotate the cloth around so that it is hanging in the front like a bib.

2. To reduce the unsightliness and smell of crib-cap, apply a couple drops of oil.
2-3 drops of mineral oil combined with a scented oil of your choice (like rose or lavender) applied with a gentle sponge to your baby's scalp will moisten the skin cell build up, and mask the unpleasant smell. An organic baby safe lotion can be substituted if you are unable to find an oil that you like (though it doesn't tend to last as long or be quite as effective). Be extremely gently around your baby's soft spot in the center of the top of the skull. Since the oil can make your baby's hair look wet and greasy, I recommend that you wash your baby's hair with a warm washcloth and a small amount of baby safe shampoo directly after application of the oil. Since the oil will have been absorbed into the skin-cell buildup, you will still be able to enjoy the pleasant scent without the greasy looking hair.

3. Keep your baby's clothes and linens fresh.
In the summer heat especially, your baby's clothes will accumulate dead skin cells, drool, spit-up and sweat very quickly. If you are able to keep up with the laundry I recommend changing your baby's clothing at least twice a day. If that much laundry is intimidating, or you practice water conservation, you could try leaving your baby in just a diaper or just an undershirt (if it is warm enough) for the first half of the day, or the second half, depending on when (and if) you are able to get out of the house that day. Then change into the cute outfit for when you go out. Also change your baby's bedding regularly, at least once or twice a week. Not only can old sheets be stinky, they can also attract biting insects.

4. Wipe out your baby's mouth after feedings.
The solution I used with my son was 1/4 teaspoon baking soda to 1 & 1/2 cup warm water. I would dip a clean cotton washcloth into the water and just gently wipe the inside of his cheeks off. Simply using water is fine as well, though the hint of baking soda seemed to help the freshness last much longer. Just introducing the practice of cleaning your baby's mouth after feedings is beneficial as well, since it helps to prevent thrush and when you transition to a tooth brush, the routine will already be familiar, and less likely to be a struggle.

5. Keep your baby's nails trimmed, and filed.
One of the scariest jobs a new parent has is to cut their baby's fingernails. When clipping baby's nails, hold the baby in your lap until it is asleep, then hold their hand in the position that you would hold your own hand to clip the nails. Make sure there is plenty of light and that you have sharp nail clippers or nail scissors, since dull ones can end up ripping your baby's nail into the nail bed. If you just can't bring yourself to risk cutting the tip of your baby's finger, another method that you could try is to nibble your baby's nails. Your teeth and tongue are very sensitive and gentle, and you can often do a much better more accurate job of nail-nibbling than you could have with the clippers or scissors. I do not recommend that parents use emery boards to trim baby nails, because the amount of friction required to effectively trim a baby's nails can be a lot more painful for your baby than a little nip-o'-the-tip by clippers (think of how it would feel to have rug burn on the tip of your fingers). You could use an emery board to do some light smoothing of rough edges or sharp corners though, since you need to use much less friction against your baby's skin to do this. I know baby nails don't particularly smell bad, but they can be havens for all kinds of bacteria that could prove harmful if not cleaned and trimmed regularly.

These tips don't necessarily need to be used every day, but it's good to know that you can do something if your punkin' gets a little ripe. If you find these tips and tricks helpful please pass them on to any new parents you know, and don't hesitate to leave questions or comments. If you have any tips that you are looking for, just let me know and I will pass on anything I know to help you out. Happy parenting!

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