Is your little one suffering from eczema? As with children, eczema in babies is a multi-factorial condition. By identifying the contributing factors and making some simple changes, you can help to relieve their eczema symptoms naturally.
Watch the video below or keep reading to learn more about natural remedies for eczema in babies.
Eczema presents as a dry, red itchy rash. In some cases, the rash can become infected and require antibiotics. For babies, eczema often starts on the face, scalp and behind the ears, moving down to the arms and legs. It may also be seen in the creases of the joints, but this is more common as they get older.
Over recent decades, the incidence of eczema has risen significantly. 1 in 4 kids in Australia will develop eczema. It is also the 3rd most common reason that children are sent to see a paediatrician. Some severe cases are even referred to a dermatologist.
Unfortunately, conventional medicine doesn’t have much to offer for eczema treatment. The medical ‘solution’ for eczema in babies is cortisone cream. This reduces inflammation in the skin and relieves the symptoms. But it doesn’t address the underlying causes, and often ends in an ongoing cycle of using steroid creams.
The causes of eczema in babies
There is no one cause of eczema in babies. However, there are several factors that affect your baby’s likelihood of developing eczema, as well as maternal factors and environmental factors.
Genetics play a role in eczema. If there are atopic and allergic conditions in the family, your baby is at a higher risk of developing eczema. But this is only one piece of the puzzle – genes still rely on diet, lifestyle and environmental factors to trigger a condition.
Another big contributing factor is food allergies and intolerances. Studies have shown that around 30% of infants with eczema have or develop a food allergy. Once you consider intolerances and sensitivities, food triggers play a role in most cases of eczema.
Many of the root causes of eczema live in the gut. Leaky gut and dysbiosis (bacteria imbalance) are the two most common gut health concerns for babies and young children. Most babies experience digestive symptoms such as reflux, constipation, loose bowels or mucus in their stools. All of these are signs that there is an underlying gut health concern.
There are several key factors to consider when it comes to mum’s health and choices.
Mum’s microbiome is just as important as baby’s when it comes to preventing eczema.
A new mum’s gut health is often affected by antibiotics during pregnancy and labour, as well as her diet throughout pregnancy and even pre-conception. Whenever possible, you want to focus on a wholefood diet with plenty of fibre and fermented foods during pre-conception, pregnancy and after birth to support a healthy gut.
Mum’s vitamin D levels are crucial for a baby’s levels early on.
Vitamin D supports the development and regulation of baby’s immune system. Unfortunately, pregnant and new mums are often deficient in vitamin D. You want to ensure you get your levels up if they are low, particularly if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning on more children.
The mode of birth can play a big role in the development of the gut and immune system.
Babies born via C-section are exposed to fewer microbes, so they are less likely to develop a diverse, healthy gut. If your baby was born via C-section, you may need to take extra steps to support their gut.
Breastfeeding can have a protective effect against eczema.
This is no surprise, as it provides good bacteria, prebiotics and other immune-supportive nutrients. Unfortunately, 90% of mums start out breastfeeding, but only 15% of mums are exclusively breastfeeding at 6 months.
If you’re experiencing feeding issues with your little one, it’s best to seek advice from a breastfeeding specialist. But if breastfeeding isn’t an option, there are ways that you can optimise formula to reduce the risk of eczema.
There are several environmental factors that can influence eczema. The most common for babies is what we refer to as ‘the hygiene hypothesis’.
We know that early exposure to microbes is crucial for a healthy immune system and allergic tolerance. But we have eradicated many microbes through hygiene and sanitisation, so babies and children are no longer exposed to a range of microbes. This is an even greater concern thanks to the ongoing pandemic.
Infants also spend more time indoors. This can lead to vitamin D deficiency, particularly if mum’s levels were already low.
To counteract these concerns, we want to encourage outdoor play and opt for soap and water over ‘sanitising’ products whenever possible.
Natural solutions for eczema in babies
The good news is that a holistic approach offers more solutions and options for managing eczema in babies. These are the steps we take to address eczema in our young clients.
Identify allergies and intolerances
Allergies are easy to test for – you can ask your baby’s GP or paediatrician for testing. However, intolerances and sensitivities are not as easy to identify. Our approach is to trial eliminating potential triggers based on your baby’s symptoms.
The most common allergies and intolerances related to eczema in babies are:
In some cases, it can be a combination of problem foods. So if you eliminate dairy and replace it with soy options, you may not see an improvement in symptoms.
If you are breastfeeding, you need to be eliminating problem foods as well! It can take 3-4 weeks to see some improvements. But it can take up to 3-4 months to see the full impact. That’s why we suggest working with a practitioner to help guide your elimination.
You’ll also need to consider environmental triggers. These sensitivities can be a trigger for the itching and redness. Some of the common triggers include:
- Pet dander
- Dust mites
- Artificial fragrances
Whenever possible, eliminate or at least limit exposure to these potential triggers. This might mean vacuuming and dusting more often, switching scented products for natural alternatives, or making baby’s room a no-pet room.
Improve their allergic intolerance
We don’t just want to remove the triggers for eczema. What is often forgotten is developing the gut so that your baby can better tolerate a variety of foods and environmental factors.
One way we can do this is by using probiotics.
The make-up of the gut microbes is very different for a child under 2 years compared to children or adults. So when it comes to probiotic supplements, you want to use a baby-specific option. These will often use Bifidobacteria strains, as these are the most dominant in an infant’s gut.
There are also some specific strains that help address allergic and atopic conditions. L. rhamonosus LGG is a strain that is well-known for its ability to build allergic intolerance.
Want more information about building gut health? Download our FREE Kids Gut Health Ebook here.
Consider supportive nutrients
There are two main nutrients we look at when it comes to eczema:
- Vitamin D – this nutrient is critical for your baby’s immune development, and helps to develop allergic tolerance.
- Omega-3s – these fatty acids nourish and moisturise the skin from the inside out, support skin integrity and are naturally anti-inflammatory
We often prescribe a cod liver oil for babies, as it combines naturally occurring vitamin D with omega-3s. The right dose depends on your baby’s age, health concerns and other important factors. Your best bet is to seek professional advice before giving a nutrient supplement.
Use a soothing topical balm
As the cause of eczema in babies is usually internal, topical treatments can only go so far. But offering some symptomatic relief can help you and your bub to feel better.
We prefer to use all-natural high-quality options for topical relief. Our top pick is the Bee Relieved Balm by Beetanicals. It contains beeswax and Manuka honey, along with soothing chamomile and calendula.
Another simple home remedy is an oatmeal bath. Blend around 1/3 cup of oats into a fine powder and add it to your baby’s bath. Research has shown that using oatmeal baths can help to alleviate the symptoms of eczema in babies and young children.
Healthy skin starts in the gut.
To get your little one’s gut health on track, make sure you download our FREE Kids Gut Health ebook here.