Confessions of a guilty new mother: My daughter got sunburned when she was 2 weeks old. We were only out on the lawn under a leafy tree for a short time, but her delicate baby skin reddened and later flaked a bit. Needless to say, I felt awful, especially as I'd purposely placed our rug in the shade, but it seems you can never be too careful where wee ones are concerned.
Being more sensible than me is a good starting point!
Parents of babies may well wonder what cleansing products to use on their precious new arrivals. Should you choose a familiar name that may have been a family favourite of an earlier generation or seek out an organic alternative? Words such as "pure" and "natural" have the right ring, but used as marketing terms they guarantee very little.
Then there's those well-meaning baby gifts to size up, with washes, lotions, balms and massage oils being popular presents.
When cleansing skin and hair, experts recommend less is more. A gentle wipedown with water may be all your little one needs initially. Where it gets tricky is on reddened skin, which may call for calming, and on areas where waterproofing wouldn't go amiss. Seek out specialist advice, especially if your baby is showing signs of eczema and other breakouts that can cause distress.
As a general rule, however, simple formulas are best and added fragrances can irritate. Most commercially available baby products are made with mild ingredients suited to sensitive skins, so these are unlikely to cause reactions in most children. Don't get in too much of a tizz about indiscriminate internet chatter about so-called chemical nasties. The likes of preservatives can offer benefits in product stability and safety, and, increasingly a number of the more questionable or potentially irritating ingredients - including foaming agents - are being substituted.
But your approach to baby and toddler skincare will spring from your own value system. Working out what is best for you and your family can be a process of trial and error. Here's a few selections to make it simpler.
Nature Baby Pure Baby 100ml Massage Oil $19.95
Baby massage has a long history in many cultures and is a nice way to bond while keeping the small one's skin supple. Almond oil is the gentle massage base in this New Zealand-made botanical blend. Lavender has been added for its calming qualities. Also in a 50ml bottle for $12.95. For stores see naturebaby.com.
Weleda White Mallow Facial Cream $19.90
Face cream may sound a bit grown-up, but this has been designed in conjunction with midwives, for babies with hypersensitive or eczema susceptible skin. Anti-irritant White Mallow with beeswax and plant oils help soothe and fortify. From selected health stores and pharmacies, see www.weleda.co.nz.
Joanna Lewton Baby Balm $22.50
Handmade by a Devonport woman, this all-natural balm contains effective ingredients, including beeswax, plant oil and calendula extract, but without extra chemicals. It uses a vegetarian version of lanolin, which adds to its barrier function. From the founder's Takapuna market stall and at joannalewton.com.
Billie Baby Bath Soak $19.95
To deal with her son's eczema, a country mother turned to making her own soap, using goat's milk. The milk is rich in lactic acid which has a mild exfoliating effect found to help some sensitive skin conditions. A cottage industry grew by word of mouth and Billie Goat is now a sizeable Australian enterprise with more than 20 products, including this soak with colloidal oatmeal and a Billie Baby gift pack. From selected pharmacies. For stockists ph 0800 224 427
Aveeno Baby Soothing Relief Creamy Wash $12.99
From a readily accessible, paediatrician-endorsed range developed for sensitive skin. As well as this fragrance-free wash, there is a same-priced moisture cream also with colloidal oatmeal, that can be used on babies with eczema. From selected supermarkets, pharmacies and department stores.
Comvita Medihoney Antibacterial Wound Gel $19.95
This manuka honey-infused gel is used in hospitals to support healing of broken skin. It is part of an expanded Medihoney range for home use which includes washes and lotions promoted for natural eczema care. The range is also suitable for children: try the wound gel on their cuts and grazes. For where to buy see comvita.co.nz.
Therapy Baby 500ml Hair & Body Wash $19.99
Make bath-time soothing for skin and spirit with this gentle wash infused with the relaxing smell of lavender essential oil, in a bottle sized to last. The range includes soap, lotion, massage oil and balms plus a gift set in a wooden box. For stockists see thearomatherapycompany.co.nz.