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At birth, the top layer of your baby's skin is very thin and easily damaged. Over the first month (or longer in premature babies), your baby's skin matures and develops its own natural protective barrier. Vernix (the white sticky substance that covers your baby's skin in the womb) should always be left to absorb naturally. This is a natural moisturiser, and it protects against infection in the first few days.
Premature babies' skin is even more delicate. Staff in the neonatal unit will advise you on skincare.
If your baby is overdue, their skin may be dry and cracked. This is because all the protective vernix has been absorbed. Do not use any creams or lotions as they may do more harm than good. The top layer of your baby's skin will peel off over the next few days, leaving perfect skin underneath. Wash your baby with plain water only for at least the first month.