I have an itchy husband, so I knew there was a good chance I would have an itchy baby. But that is all I thought it would be – a bit of an itch that scratch mitts and a dollop of cream would soon sort out, right? But at three months my little boy, Dougie, developed severe eczema and I’ve been on a steep learning curve ever since.
It started with cradle cap and little sore patches in his creases when he was a few weeks old but none of this was too bothersome. He started sleeping 11 hours at eight weeks, so my husband and I smugly thought “wow – this baby stuff is pretty easy”.
Then Dougie started to get redder and more uncomfortable by the day. He began waking numerous times at night because he was so sore. By three months we had a very distressed baby – and seriously dark circles under our eyes.
He began waking numerous times at night because he was sore.
Initially we didn’t have the best experience with the medical professionals. We kept going back and forth to the GP, who prescribed us one cream after another (seriously, we could open a pharmacy) but nothing seemed to help. As eczema can be a sign of a food allergy in babies and I was breastfeeding, the doctors suggested I cut all dairy and soya products from my diet.
I would do anything for my little boy but the (male…) doctor didn’t seem to understand that it isn’t easy for a breastfeeding mother to further restrict her diet, not least because it impacts upon calcium and calorie intake. I had already gone 9 months without brie and now he wanted to take away my chocolate too!
I cut out these foods for a few weeks but there was no real improvement and in the meantime Dougie’s eczema became infected and he also didn’t put on any weight for several weeks. The situation was out of control; Dougie and I were completely lost in the medical system with no way to turn.
I have spoken to other mummies who have had similar experiences. Eczema is so common in babies nowadays it is quite shocking that there isn’t a better management system in place.
Don’t believe everything that you read on Google!
Eventually we were referred to a specialist, who gave us a long term plan to manage Dougie’s eczema. This does involve putting the dreaded steroid cream on my little man but don’t believe everything that you read on Google! We have been completely reassured that used correctly it really isn’t harmful. And you can’t just leave a baby sore and itchy! We are now a much happier and Dougie is doing really well.
Some days are still tough, though. Dougie’s eczema flares up randomly and it is really difficult to work out the possible cause – the sweet potato he had for lunch? The cold weather? Anything else?! Plus no 6 month old enjoys being pinned down and slathered in cream twice a day!
I think the hardest thing is the uncertainty. I like to have all the answers, so it is totally against my nature not to just have a cure at hand for his eczema. One of the most important things we’ve come to realise is that there is no immediate cure but with a proper management plan it can (and should) continue to get better over time.
Here are a few tips have helped us to cope:
Seek specialist help
Push your GP for a specialist referral if you have concerns about your baby’s skin. There are paediatric allergists and dermatologists who may be much better placed than your GP to deal with baby eczema.
Start a food diary
Eczema and allergies are really closely linked and Dougie is on a dairy, soya and egg free diet. If you are breastfeeding, keep a food diary and make a note of any flare-ups to see if there is a pattern. This isn’t guaranteed to work (I found it really difficult to tell) but it may be clearer for other mums.
If you are in the process of weaning, only introduce a new food every 3-5 days. This way you may be able to work out which food is the culprit if there is a reaction.
These scratch sleeves are fantastic. The mitts are made of silk, so they stop babies from scratching at their skin and thereby limit the risk of infection.
Eczema babies tend to be warmer than other babies, so keep them cool with 100% cotton clothing. We love Frugi, which is a fab British brand that makes organic cotton clothing, and Polarn O. Pyret has some great basics too.
Keep bathtime short and tepid. You can add in some Oilatum (this was prescribed by our GP) or some people try oats wrapped in tights to make the water milky soft.
We invested in the organic wool mattress from Little Green Sheep, which is perfect for babies with eczema, as it limits allergens. They alsomake super soft sheets.