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Baby Q&As

  1. Expert: Dr. Jennifer Shu
    January 28th, 2008
    My baby's skin is dry, red and irritated-looking - what should I do?

    There are many causes of dry or irritated skin in babies, including: cold or dry air; sensitivity to lotion, soap or clothing; too much bathing; baby acne; and eczema. Here are some general guidelines for dealing with the problem:

    1. Give it a little time. Sometimes dryness will improve if you stop using soap or rough washcloths.

    2. Make it wet. Apply a sticky moisturizer (such as Aquaphor, Eucerin and Vaseline) frequently during the day. Products marketed as "baby eczema creams" may also help. If you've just bathed your baby, apply moisturizer while the skin is still damp. If your baby is prone to dry skin, you may need to apply moisturizer regularly to prevent it from becoming dry again.

    3. Soften rough spots. If a moisturizer isn't doing the trick, you may need something stronger, such as an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream (which comes in 0.5% and 1%). These can be used for a few days to treat the most red or irritated areas, which often clear up within a week of twice-daily applications. After that, applying a moisturizer at least once daily can keep the skin from getting worse. If it doesn't get better, see your doctor so you can try something else before the irritation worsens.

    4. Do some detective work. Is your baby scratching or has he tried a new food or product recently? Certain foods, exposure to some animals, detergents, or fabrics can cause skin problems. If your child's dry skin seems to come and go, keep a diary so you can look back a day or two from when the irritation started. Also, keep your baby's nails clean and short so he'll be less likely to infect any broken skin.

    5. Call for help. It's easier to treat dry, irritated skin when the condition is still mild. As soon as you feel your efforts aren't working, get your doctor's advice.

    Jennifer Shu, M.D., F.A.A.P., is a board-certified pediatrician in Atlanta. Her passion is educating parents on all topics relating to children. Dr. Shu is editor-in-chief of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Baby & Child Health: The Essential Guide from Birth to 11 Years and co-author of the award-winning book Heading Home with Your Newborn and Food Fights, both published by the AAP.

  2. Expert: Alan Greene, M.D.
    January 1st, 2008
    Are cloth diapers more environmentally friendly than disposable?

    Any parent who has tossed a diaper in the trash knows overloading landfills are an ecological issue. But what about the energy, water and chlorine involved in laundering cloth diapers? The truth is, both cloth and disposable diapers have a negative effect on our planet.

    Studies show disposable diapers, home-laundered cloth diapers and commercially laundered cotton diapers have a similar overall environmental impact - but there are things you can do to reduce it.

    For disposable diapers, the most significant impact occurs during manufacturing, so choose brands that focus on green manufacturing methods. And almost all diapers are recyclable, so use the green bin instead of the trash.

    For home-laundered cloth diapers, the primary impact comes from the electricity used in washing and drying, so make sure your machine is marked "Energy Saver" and avoid peak wash times such as 5 to 7 p.m.

    For commercially laundered diapers, the biggest impact comes from use of fuels and electricity. Choose a company that is close by to reduce fuels and emissions during transportation.

    For green-savvy parents, the best choice is hybrid diapers with a washable outer pant and flushable refill. Brands such as gDiapers ( are a good option (Julia Roberts even uses them) and come in fun colors, such as goodwill green and global blue.


    Dr. Alan Greene is a pediatrician at Stanford University's Packard Children's Hospital, author of Raising Baby Green and Chair Elect of The Organic Center.