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Use baby wash or very mild soap – the kind that doesn't really lather up – to clean your child for the first 12 months. Skincare products formulated for babies are gentler and less likely to irritate the skin, and babies just don't need the deep lathering effects of regular soap.
"Regular soap is designed to dissolve oily body odor, and babies don't have a problem with that," says Mary Spraker, a pediatric dermatologist at Emory University and spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatology.
She adds that you don't really need to use soap or cleanser at all, except to clean a baby's bottom and the folds of skin around his arms and legs. Until your baby is about 1 year old, use products designed for babies or very mild soap only on the parts of his body that really need it. (Once he's eating solid food, you may have a few more areas to clean.)
Keep in mind that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends bathing babies no more than three times a week for the first year. Frequent baths can dry out a baby's skin, especially during winter. Soaking in a tub of sudsy water can also irritate the urethra, increasing the risk of urinary tract infections (especially in girls).
If your baby has eczema (patches of red, dry, scaly skin, especially on the face and in the bends of the elbows and knees), ask your pediatrician to recommend a bathing and skincare regimen as part of his treatment. Children with eczema can be particularly sensitive to the ingredients in lotion and soap.
But even children who don't have eczema can be sensitive to the ingredients in bath products, so call your baby's doctor if he develops a rash or feels itchy.