Dealing with Baby Eczema - How to Stop the Scratching
Hello! I am documenting what my wife and I have learned regarding baby eczema in hopes that it will help someone else that is going through this.
At maybe three months old, our son started using his hands, and scratching quickly became his favorite thing to do. We figured out that the scratching was caused by something called baby eczema and that it was probably caused by an allergy. So, we focused on trying to figure out what the cause of the Eczema was. We spent weeks changing formulas, soaps, clothes detergents and everything else that we could. At one point we were washing his clothes with only water. Nothing helped and he kept scratching himself bloody. Eventually, while looking at some day one pictures of him, we realized that he was actually scratching in the womb and his eczema was probably genetic. At that point, we stopped searching for the cause and focused entirely on treating the symptoms.
Treating the Symptoms (stop the scratching)
It took a lot of reading, speaking to others and trial and error, but eventually we found a routine that dramatically helped treat the symptoms. Here is what we learned:
1) Moisturizer: Eczema is all about dry skin, and if you moisturize enough, they will stop scratching. Again, because this is the key to all of it, moisturize moisturize moisturize moisturize moisturize!
We would give our son a bath every day before bed and the coat him in either neosporin eczema essentials or aveeno eczema creme. We would literally plaster his whole body in the stuff and then put him in a sleeper. This immediately eliminated most of the scratching.
Remember: Don't just apply a thin coat and rub it in. Cover them in it so that there is a wet layer of cream. It will slowly soak in.
2) Trim the Nails: This is the hard part. You need to keep the nails trimmed way down. Ever see someone who chews their nails? Yeah, they need to be like that. Clip them very close with nail clippers and then take off any additional edge with a file. You can run your finger against the edge and feel which ones are still able to scratch. Take off all the edges and they can only rub which is a lot better than scratching. Don't bother with gloves - they will rub with them and just take them off eventually. They are also choking hazards.
3) Sleepers: Our son wore sleepers exclusively for months because they keep the moisturizer in and they keep the exposed skin to a minimum. Just be sure that they don't get overheated in them. Also, don't use ones that are too big because they will pull their legs in and get all twisted up in them. And, while we're on the topic: Since they're in a sleeper already, you can remove everything else form their crib: blankets, toys, pillows, padded bumpers, etc. See here: SIDS link.
Obviously you can consult a professional and they will give you a great creme that will help a lot. Remember though, that cream will have steroids in it which are bad for babies and will promote the growth of scar tissue.
As I said earlier, buy good stuff and plan on spending $500 on baby eczema cream while treating this. In the end, it's worth it. We tried everything available and the best that we found was neosporin eczema essentials. In second place was the aveeno eczema creme. Remember that no cream is going to work if applied conservatively every other day. Use it liberally and apply daily or more often is necessary. Don't use cheap moisturizers unless you have to. They will only work if you put it on every other hour. Use the good stuff. Both of those moisturizers are pretty pricey but it's worth the investment to stop the scratching. After they are a year old you can start trying the cheeper Aveeno moisturizers.
We also found that Aquaphor Healing Ointment and BabyGanics Non-Petroleum Protective Ointmeny both work really well for healing torn up skin. We would apply a thick coating of it onto his face and by morning it would look a little better.
You can find all of these products at Walgreens, Walmart and Target. The Neosporin cream is not in the baby section so you will have to look around a little bit. Try not to cry when you find out that the neosporin is $14 for a six ounce tube.
More Scratching - but not from eczema
Here is the worst part, and it took a while to figure out. Once we had the eczema under control, we still had to deal with him scratching when he was hungry, constipated, had a stuffy nose, had a fever and when he was teething. So, you are going to have days where your baby has been moisturized but still won't stop scratching. I remember one night where I even covered my son in hydrocortisone cream just to try to stop him from scratching and it didn't make any difference. That night I realized that it was teething that was making him scratch. I gave him some Oragel and he stopped scratching and went to sleep.
The reason: Scratching has become a coping mechanism. Your baby has learned that scratching makes them feel better and that you will come running over to give them attention when they do it. It's just something that you have to deal with and remember that they will outgrow it. At the time of writing, my son is 16 months old and he rarely has any eczema issues but he scratches his face when teething or when he has a stuffy nose. And when he is tired.
One of the most interesting things about baby eczema is the attention that we got from strangers. We would get the ignorant people who made a big deal about it but most of the time we would have strangers come up to us and say that they went through it and offer advice. It's common and you are going to meet a lot of people who have gone through it.