A few things we did with Rosey that may help new parents with their newborn, especially in the first month where the last thing you want is to panic about skin allergies:
Hand washing clothes & the detergents to use
Hand washing the clothes wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. We hand washed every new item of clothing in hot water before placing it on Rosey. Most packages say “wash before first use” and we could see the logic behind that (factories, like most places, are not bug free). Unfortunately the day I didn’t go along with my instincts (as I fell into the pressure of putting a new item of clothing on Rosey straight away) was the day she got taken into A&E with a huge red rash all over her body! I never made that mistake again and washed every item in very hot water and no detergent. I found I did this for the first few months and then after that most of her under layers (body vests, sleep suits) were already clean from before so any new dresses which went over the under layer wouldn’t need to be washed in hot water.
After the initial hot wash, any clothes dirtied later were hand washed using a pure vegetable based soap which had no bleach or chemicals in it. We bought the soap from a local Asian shop though I believe it can also be bought from any health store.
I did this for a couple of months and then switched to a non-biological detergent once we had moved house and had a new washing machine to play with. I’m not saying everyone move house and get a new washing machine before you switch to a non-biological detergent! Though I would advise people to be wary that there is often some residue left from detergents in the washing machine so it may be best to either switch completely to a non-biological detergent for the whole family rather than just for baby OR continue to hand wash babies clothes in non-biological detergent whilst you use the biological detergent in the washing machine for the rest of the family. I have no clue if research would support my claim but I’m using common sense in this matter… every parent wants their child to be safe from harmful chemicals. Yes, non-biological detergents have chemicals in them too but apparently it’s far less than biological detergents and they are better suited for those with sensitive skin. An alternative, which is my favourite, is to use Eco-Balls for adult clothing and a baby cycle wash with the non-bio detergent for the baby clothes. At least this way you know the only detergent being placed in the washing machine is the non-biological washing powder.
Bathing Rosey – mornings/evenings; once or twice a day; daily or rarely?!
For the first month of Rosey’s life we were bathing her only once in the mornings every other day…. many Asian “aunties” told me off (and still tell me off) for doing this but our reasons were clear and I’m glad we stuck to it.
In regards to bathing her in the morning, we found bathing her at night time (as we were constantly being advised to do by elders) just stimulated Rosey instead of soothing her down to sleep. As a result, instead of us all peacefully sleeping The Hubby and I were either fighting through our need to sleep so we could entertain Rosey or taking it in turns to sleep for an hour here and there. Instead of pulling our hair out, we decided to read up on sleep patterns for babies and realised there are some babies who do get stimulated by baths at night time! We abandoned the night time bath and started to bath her in the mornings … surprisingly she went to sleep straight after it, which meant I could get a nap with her too!
The logic behind only bathing her once during the day (i.e. just in the morning) wasn’t just based on knowing she would get stimulated if bathed in the evening but also knowing that our baby didn’t need another bath during the day if she wasn’t dirty or very sweaty (Rosey was born in August time and there wasn’t much sun about then).
Finally our biggest hurdle with the elders was our decision to not bath Rosey on a daily basis. From experience of seeing other babies being bathed on a daily basis and having dry skin as a result, we decided we would bath Rosey every other day. We didn’t even attempt bathing her daily within her first month… I think I started bathing her daily when the sun surprised us in the Summer (i.e. when Rosey was around 5 months of age) and even then I would deliberately miss a day out here and there so that she wasn’t being bathed every day of the week. Thankfully our midwife and Health Visitor supported us in our theory… In their experience, they found babies washed on a daily basis would have dry skin whereas babies washed every other day didn’t tend to have this problem.
Lotions and Potions
I remember laughing when a community elder told me to bath Rosey in a popular branded shampoo which says its for sensitive skin and has a “no tears” formula just so she would smell like other babies. I laughed because the same shampoo can be used to wipe paint off the wall and clean make up brushes(!) Also on a side point, I found it funny that Rosey, at such a tender age, was being subjected to social pressure and I was being told to conform to a particular brand just for the smell of it. We didn’t tell this aunty that in Rosey’s first two months of life we bathed her in plain water – no shampoo, no bath wash, no soap – just good warm water! After the second month we started to use a shampoo with natural ingredients inside it, recommended to us by our health visitor.
We didn’t follow up Rosey’s bath with a moisturising cream filled with chemicals but instead massaged her with olive oil and also put some olive oil into her hair. When she had cradle cap (which my friend calls “every babies ugly stage”) we massaged her head in mustard seed oil and found it worked wonders to eliminate the problem quicker (got to say thanks to my sister in law for giving us this tip as before that point we were finding olive oil wasn’t getting rid of it so quickly).
Thank God, Rosey is coming up to her 13th month of life and we still only use the same shampoo we’ve always used on her as well as natural oils to massage into her skin/scalp.
Do I regret anything that was decided about the above matters?
In all honesty, the only thing I do regret is falling into the pressure of having to put on a new item of clothing when it wasn’t pre-washed in hot water. I seriously believe we could have avoided a trip to the A&E and overnight stay at the Paediatric Ward if I had listened to my instincts and said “not till I’ve washed it in hot water first”. Otherwise, I’m grateful to God for giving us the stamina to stay firm in our decisions and for introducing people to us at the right time to reinforce what we were doing was the right thing for Rosey.
It’s a battle every parent doesn’t need in the first year, especially when you need that time to get to know your baby and quite simply make do with life, but knowing how you want to parent will firm up any decisions you do make and help you to face any criticism that comes your way.
The above is what we did for Rosey and hope to do for any future children we have. If it’s useful to other parents then great and if there are better ways of doing the above then that’s great too – please let me know. It’s all good!