Shortly after Christmas, both of my sweet babies started to develop severe eczema. To say I was unprepared to treat baby eczema would be a wild understatement. I am from the humid planet of Ontario, where I don’t think eczema is nearly as common. At least I had absolutely zero exposure to it. Struggling through the newborn phase with twins is challenging enough, throw in some very high-maintenance skin conditions you know nothing about and it can feel unbearable. We’re 5 months into our eczema battle and I thought it could be helpful to share what has worked for us.
Throughout this journey I’ve learned a lot of people have a lot of advice on what worked for them, so this is based on our experience with severe eczema paired with highly sensitive skin.
Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. This is purely based on my experience. Always seek medication attention from licensed care providers in your area. Plus, you’ll likely need prescription medicated creams anyway.
We had caught some little patches at the twins’ 10-week doctor appointment. We started using the Aveeno eczema night balm, but soon realized it wasn’t going to be enough.
A couple of weeks had passed and Milo’s skin was so incredibly inflamed he would wake up hysterical. One Friday night around midnight, Milo woke up screaming in pain. We took one look at our flaming red tomato baby and said enough enduring. To the emergency room, we went!
Before you come at me about using the emergency room for non-emergent things, a lot went into our decision:
Okay, with that out of the way, the actual trip to the hospital went pretty well. It was the first time we had split the babies up. My amazing sister came over to stay with Mila while she slept, and my partner and I took Milo in. The ER doctor was really good and reassured our decision to bring him in. He sent off a referral to a pediatric dermatologist, prescribed us a 2.5% hydrocortisone cream, gave us a double-sided info sheet on managing baby eczema, and sent us on our way.
A month went by, and we were following the care sheet, applying the creams, and eliminating a lot of irritants like all fabric softeners and laundry detergent, since both detergents that were recommended (tide free & gentle or sunlight free & gentle) each irritated one of the twins. We did start using soap-free cleansers in the bath on the advice of the ER doctor.
But, we weren’t seeing much improvement.
Both babies had fallen off their growth curve and were not gaining the weight they should be. That same day, our family doctor canceled their 4-month checkup that was supposed to happen later in the week. If you want to send an exhausted, overwhelmed sleep-deprived twin mama over the edge – this was the way to do it.
Enough was enough. No more waiting. My babies needed some answers and needed to see some improvements. I was well out of my element trying to treat baby eczema. Thankfully we had received the referral from the dermatologist but the appointment was 2 months in the future. We didn’t have two months. I called and said, “Hey look, I’m a frantic twin mom, my babies aren’t growing anymore, I can be there in 40 minutes, if you ever have a cancellation can you please please please call me?” Coincidentally, they had a cancellation 4 days later.
Yes please, we’ll be there!
(I also at this point frantically called the pediatrician who was on-call when they were born, and we were so very lucky she would take us on as patients, but even that appointment was a month later.)
4 days pass, and we make it to the dermatologist and do the twin parent thing where we bring both babies, even though only one had the referral.
The team was wonderful. They confirm both babies have very severe eczema, and provide us with 4 different medications depending on body location and severity, plus two anti-histamines to help with the itching; one for daytime and one for bedtime. Finally, some sort of path forward to start treating our baby’s eczema. The dermatologist confirmed they were likely not growing because their bodies were too busy trying to deal with their skin.
After all is said and done, we’ve finally got a handle on our babies’ eczema, learned how to treat it effectively, and it’s at a manageable level. We have a very intense skincare routine, but it’s worth it to have the babies calm again. Their entire demeanours have changed now that their eczema is under control! We couldn’t be happier.
It goes without saying, that when it gets severe you need the strong stuff. I firmly believe the people against steroid creams have not endured an infant screaming in pain due to a flare-up. Our pediatrician reassured me and my anxiety that I wasn’t damaging their skin by saying, “Steroid creams can damage healthy skin. Your babies have a thick layer of eczema that needs treating. The steroids are not touching healthy skin.”
That makes sense to me.
It is amazing how fast their skin can calm down with the right treatment. Book the doctor’s appointment. Get the medicated creams. It really makes a huge different when treating severe baby eczema.
Look, I get it, some people aren’t a fan of petroleum products. Trust me when I say we spent hundreds of dollars trying every possible recommended cream or ointment to treat baby eczema (and not just the ‘baby’ creams – which, by the way, NEVER use those).
Nothing worked. Everything caused more inflammation.
However, eczema skin needs to be moisturized frequently to help rebuild the moisture barrier. The only thing that didn’t cause more issues was Vaseline. But don’t get the baby version, for some stupid reason, they put scent in it. It has to be scent-free.
We go through a tub a week, applying it anywhere from one to three times a day.
Before you recommend natural products like coconut oil or olive oil, yes, we tried them. No, they didn’t work for us. Further, the dermatologist explained eczema skin is like a dashed line, instead of a solid line like healthy skin. Using food products could trigger an immune response if it gets too deep into the cracks and then develop food allergies. So best to stay away.
Vaseline is great because it sits on the skin and creates a barrier over those cracks.
Now that we’re into eating solids, we also use Vaseline to protect their faces when introducing new common allergens to them. We want them to digest the allergens, not have them trigger an immune response through the skin.
I am hopeful we’ll be able to use other recommended creams in the future like Cera Ve or La Roche Posay, but for now, as we treat their baby eczema, their skin is too sensitive to risk switching just yet.
You read that right. Every day for 15 minutes. Our info sheet on treating baby eczema says, “Showers cleanse the skin; baths moisture the skin.”
The babies gotta soak!
To help repair the moisture barrier, the babies’ bodies need to be submerged as much as possible. This means bath time is a huge ordeal in our house. You can’t just put an infant in neck-deep water. So every night, my partner and I are in the bath with the babies, holding them for safety and ensuring as much of their body is soaking in the water as possible.
These are our favourite bath toys since we spend so long in the tub. The fact they come apart means no trapped moisture, which means no mold!
The next half of this point probably sent you for a loop, too.
No soap or cleaners? How do you clean their skin?
Babies are not that dirty! Haha. They don’t sweat and muck around like adults do. Water has been more than sufficient for us. We could use a soap-free non-baby cleaner like CeraVe if we felt we need to, but honestly, in the four months we’ve been doing daily baths, we haven’t needed it. I believe cutting the soaps has done wonders to help us treat baby eczema.
Now that their skin is a bit more manageable, there are nights when I just don’t have it in me to do the whole bath routine, especially if I have to do it solo. So everyone once in a while, we will skip the bath. But it’s maybe once every two or three weeks.
Wait, what? Yes. Regular household bleach. Possibly the best thing we’ve implemented to treat severe baby eczema aside from the medicated creams.
We put it in their bath! At first, I was very skeptical, but honestly, it has helped so much. When their skin is particularly flared up we add a small amount of bleach to their bath every other day. When their skin is good, we add a small amount every week.
Bleach is a natural anti-bacterial agent which cleans out any bad stuff in the skin. The way the dermatologist explained it to us, normal skin is a solid line. Eczema skin is a dashed line, and crap gets into the gaps and can trigger a flare-up. Having a bleach bath cleans out those gaps!
Bleach is also a natural anti-inflammatory, which helps bring down the swelling and inflammation when their skin is particularly flared up.
The directions we were given were:
We were also assured the bleach will not cause any harm if small amounts of water are ingested during the bath or if it gets in their eyes. We try to avoid this as much as possible and don’t let them chew on any washcloths in the bath, much to their dismay.
This has been such a crucial step in our journey to treat our babies’ severe eczema, especially when it is very flared up. For more information on bleach baths, you can check out the American Academy of Dermatology.
Wet pajamas are exactly what it sounds like, and also a very effective step to treat baby eczema when it is severe and covers a lot of the body.
You bathe the baby, put on their medicated cream, layer them in Vaseline, then get their sleeper damp with warm water and put it on. Then put on a second layer of dry pajamas, a size up usually can help to accommodate the extra bulk of having two sleepers on. We would keep it on them for at least 2 hours, then change them into fresh pjs!
It’s amazing how quickly we were able to treat their baby eczema, and get their skin healed when we threw all of the healing techniques at it; the wet pjs we did every third day until their flare-up calmed down. Since then, we haven’t needed to use them again.
It’s a shame we weren’t able to use many of the clothes that were gifted to us, but we learned pretty quickly anything synthetic sends the babies’ skin into a fit. For the longest time, we would only let cotton touch their skin. This included my clothing too since they spent so much time on me. I also started washing my clothes just in water, with no detergent.
We’ve recently introduced some Kyte Baby products and the bamboo seems to cooperate with their skin! We have been using their sleep sacks the entire time, and we love their footless rompers now that the twins are pulling themselves up to stand and walking with help.
One of the best ways to treat baby eczema is to prevent it from flaring up as much as possible.
We got these silk fold-over mittens on a recommendation from a friend of a friend whose kid also had eczema. They were very expensive since I had to order from Amazon.com, pay in USD, and pay duty, but they were worth every penny. The twins slept with these daily for 2-3 months.
We did have a bunch of sleepers with sleeves that fold over but the cotton was too abrasive against their skin with how hard they were trying to itch themselves. We did stop using these the babies started rolling since they would get caught under their bodies as they tried to roll.
Overall, it has been an intense journey. In the five months that have followed since our initial flare-up, we’ve been to the pediatrician three times and the dermatologist three times. We’ve added an allergist to our care team since babies with severe eczema are at a higher risk of developing allergies, which our sweet girl has.
I am so incredibly grateful for the incredible care we’ve received and the team we have for our babies.
My main lesson in all of this is to trust your mama instinct, and keep searching until you have a team you’re happy with. It has made a world of difference for our twins, and for me and my anxiety too! I feel so much more equipped to handle any flare-ups that come our way!
Do you or your kiddos struggle with eczema flare-ups? What are your must-haves for your care?
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