Infant dry skin: Clinical practice and the evidence to support it
Parental concern over infant dry skin is a common challenge that midwives and other maternity professionals frequently address in the early postnatal period. Although infant dry skin is a normal process of adaptation to extra-uterine life, parents often wish to treat it, and there is uncertainty among health professionals about what is safe and best practice. For decades, health professionals have recommended the use of topical natural oils to prevent or treat infant dry skin, but more recently, there has been increasing concern that use of these oils on the skin may be a contributory factor in the rising prevalence of childhood atopic eczema. This article will consider how infant skin may be affected by topical products, the role of the health professional giving infant skin care advice and current evidence to support clinical practice.
Many midwives would agree that the priorities in maternity care mostly centre around intrapartum and antenatal care, and that postnatal care has long been the ‘Cinderella’ of the maternity service (Drife, 1995). However, due to a rising prevalence of childhood atopic eczema in the UK (Taylor et al, 1984; Gupta et al, 2004), parents may be concerned about infant dry skin and midwives may be regularly asked how to treat it. Skincare advice given to parents by health professionals may be contributing to the increase in childhood atopic eczema due to the uncertainty about evidence-based practices (Cooke et al, 2018). In view of the potential effects of using harmful treatments for infant dry skin on the development of childhood atopic eczema, it is important that health professionals who provide this information only recommend treatments that are safe, as shown by robust evidence.
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