Both my children suffer from Eczema at this time of year, and it’s something that at My Baba were often asked about. We asked a top expert for a few tips to get us through this cold month. The following information outlines three steps you can take to quickly reduce symptoms and increase your baby’s comfort, and includes introducing solids at the appropriate age.
Step 1: Minimise the itch instantly
- Put a few ice cubes into a small plastic bag and cover with a tissue (so it’s not too cold for your baby), and very briefly hold it next to the itchy skin.
- Give your baby a bath in lukewarm (or warm) water that has some Bicarb soda added to it. Immediately after bathing, pat the skin until semi-dry then apply eczema-friendly moisturiser and, if necessary, sparingly apply a plain ointment over the itchy areas. If you’re using a skin care product that causes redness or irritation after use, try a different brand.
TIP: Have your doctor formally diagnose your baby’s skin condition to check it is eczema.
Step 2: Avoid common eczema triggers
- Avoid using teething gels as they are rich in salicylates and can cause severe eczema flare-ups in sensitive children. If you have a baby with eczema who is teething, you have a couple of other options: Use teething toys such as a freezable teething ring, which can be placed in the freezer and given to your child to chew on when the ring is cold. If your child needs pain relief, you can talk to your doctor about using colour- free baby paracetamol or other baby-safe pain relief that is completely free of sailcylates.
- Avoid wearing perfume near your baby as it’s a common eczema trigger.
- Avoid using chemicals in the home and ventilate the house daily, by opening the windows, to reduce chemical exposure.
- Avoid commercial clothes washing powders and cleaning products and use ‘sensitive’ formulas.
Did you know? While eczema can occur at any age, it typically appears shortly after birth, between two and six months of age, and more than half of all eczema sufferers show signs of eczema before their first birthday.
Step 3: Feed your baby eczema-friendly
- If you are breastfeeding follow The Eczema Diet as nutrients pass through the breast milk and eczema-friendly recipes can be helpful during this important period.
- If your baby is drinking infant formula, speak to your paediatrician or doctor about changing your baby to a specially formulated low-allergy, non-dairy formula.
- Probiotic supplements containing L. rhamnosus can be helpful for children with eczema (must contain this specific strain in the ingredients). Speak to a nutritionist about the dosage suitable for your baby’s age and weight.
- Once eating solids, canned or jar baby foods are generally not recommended as they usually contain ingredients that worsen eczema symptoms. However, if it is a plain eczema-friendly variety (e.g. plain potato or plain stewed pear baby food) then it may be suitable on occasion or as a back-up option.
- Ensure your baby is consuming enough calcium either through non-dairy infant formula or through your breast milk (the mother can take a calcium supplement: if breastfeeding you need about 1300mg of calcium daily).
- Eczema sufferers often have allergies so speak to your doctor about allergy testing.
First food for eczema babies
Continue feeding your baby breast milk or non-dairy infant formula as usual. Then introduce the first food. This is usually plain baby rice cereal. Ensure the baby rice product has added iron as this mineral is vital for growth and development, and a baby’s iron stores begin to wane at about four months of age. Choose plain baby rice, with no fruit or flavours, and follow the packet instructions. In the past decade I have only ever had one baby eczema patient who was allergic to rice so rice allergy is very rare but possible. If you note your baby’s eczema symptoms worsen after eating a particular food discontinue use and seek advice on alternatives. Once your child is ready to eat solids, follow the step-by-step Starting Solids information on page 150, and see more tips below.
Best drinks for babies include breast milk, prescribed non-dairy infant formula, and pre-boiled and cooled water (begin with a teaspoon).
5 worst foods for babies with eczema – avoid giving your baby potentially problematic foods such as eggs and products containing eggs, dairy products (cheese, yoghurt, butter, cow’s milk etc.), fish and peanut butter and other nuts and pastes including tahini/sesame seed paste. Fruit juice, cordial and soft drink/sodas are also not recommended for babies.
If your baby is teething you can make homemade rice rusks that are wheat- and dairy-free.
Karen Fischer is a nutritionist and award-winning author. Karen’s daughter suffered from severe eczema as a child, which prompted Karen to specialise in eczema and beautiful skin. She is contactable at www.theeczemadiet.com.
The Eczema Diet is available from www.exislepublishing.co.uk and wherever good books are sold RRP £12.95