The journey of motherhood is a remarkable one, filled with both challenges and beautiful moments. I'm a mother of two young children, aged 1 and 3 years old, and my own experiences have led me to explore holistic solutions for one of the common challenges parents face: eczema in babies.
My daughter, E, began to show signs of eczema around the age of 6 months. Initially, it was just a few dry patches, but as she reached her first year, the eczema worsened, affecting areas such as her elbows, knees, and the delicate skin beneath her neck. This phase was particularly trying as she would often experience intense discomfort, throwing tantrums, feeling excessively hot, and, in the process, becoming increasingly itchy. It seemed her body struggled to release excess heat, leading to persistent itchiness. As a mother and an acupuncturist, I was determined to find alternatives to the traditional approach involving corticosteroids. My journey led me to explore various lotions, products, and holistic approaches to alleviate her eczema.
Understanding Chinese Medicine and Skin Health:
Chinese medicine provides a unique perspective on skin health. It sees the skin as part of the Lung channel, where issues in the respiratory system and allergies can manifest as skin abnormalities. The Lung channel is closely related to the Large Intestine channel, meaning that digestive problems can also affect the skin. The immature digestive systems of babies make them prone to issues like reflux and irregular bowel movements, which can further impact their skin. Babies are also filled with a lot of 'yang' energy and are prone to heat disorders. All of these contributing factors make babies susceptible to eczema or similar skin conditions.
Eczema in Babies:
Eczema varies from child to child and can be attributed to different factors such as wind, heat, dampness, a combination of these, acute and chronic presentations, heat toxicity, or damp heat. A local acupuncturist will be your best guide to properly diagnose the specific pattern your child's skin is exhibiting; they can also offer herbal supplements to address the root cause of your child's eczema.
E's eczema has a chronic dry and flaky presentation but her acute flare-ups would present differently. Acute flare-ups would be red and extremely itchy; the lesions would sometimes weep and ooze. Occasionally the rashes would present with red prickly bumps as well. The hot and humid Jersey summers did not agree with her skin either, so the weather also plays a factor in flare-ups.
Holistic Approach in Treating Eczema:
While my children were young, needling them was relatively easier since they were not as active, and pediatric treatments involve in-and-out needling where no needle retention is needed. As E got older, she refused to sit still so I had to think of other ways to tackle her eczema flare-ups. I tried to take a look at her diet to see if there was anything I could make changes to. In acupuncture school, we were taught that people with damp or heat conditions should avoid spicy foods and alcohol but my toddler refuses anything spicy and of course, she isn't drinking alcohol so I had to reframe these dietary recommendations for my child. E went through a french fry phase (let's be honest, we're still in it) but fried and oily foods can create more heat and dampness in the body. Sugar also creates dampness in the body so despite her pleas for more cookies, I had to point her towards the healthier option of fruit. But certain fruits tend to be more warming as well such as mangoes and oranges and the consumption of raw cold fruit could also create more dampness in the body.
Instead of taking away these foods completely, I had to be mindful of how often I was offering these foods and I wanted to put more focus on adding additional fiber in her diet to help promote more regular bowel movements. In TCM, bowel movements are a way for our bodies to release heat. When our bowel movements are irregular, that heat can build up in our system and wreak havoc on already existing eczema flare-ups that are caused by heat. I wanted to give chia seeds a try and while I enjoy a good chia seed pudding, E was not a fan of the mushy texture. I started calling chia seeds 'sprinkles' and now she allows me to sprinkle some onto her oatmeal or cereal for breakfast. I understand the difficulty of toddler eating habits so instead of just focusing on her diet, I have tried several products topically throughout the years and am sharing my favorite ones below.
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Aveeno Baby Eczema Therapy Moisturizing Cream:
This cream was the first one that gave E some relief during her chronic dry eczema stage, and we use it liberally day and night. The presence of Vitamin B5 for healing purposes makes this cream stand out. While it may not be as thick as the nighttime balm, it contains Vitamin B5, which we found crucial for effective relief.
2. BioGaia Probiotic Ointment:
I tried this ointment recently, and in addition to the probiotics in E's diet, I believe it's working well. We have only gotten 2 tubes of it, but it did get us through an 'acute' flare-up when her skin was more red and angry. The downside is that the tube is fairly small, making it rather pricey, and I haven't found a larger size yet.
3. Mustela Stelatopia Eczema-Prone Skin Cleansing Oil:
E loves bath time, but the warm water and drying soaps irritate her skin. Finding this cleansing oil was a dream come true. It prevents her skin from drying out in the bath and lets her enjoy bath time more regularly. I even use it as a cleansing oil face wash in the wintertime when I need a gentler moisturizing cleanser for the harsh winter months.
4. Emily Baby and Adult Skin Soother:
E's skin responds occasionally to this balm, but it initially loved it. I appreciate that it's made by an acupuncturist, incorporating herbs to nourish the skin and clear some heat. It's unscented and worth a try on more 'angry' eczema flare-ups.
5. Recovery Derm Shield:
When E's skin gets raw from all her scratching, we cover the large areas with this derm shield to give her skin a little break, especially at night when she's more prone to constant scratching. She loves it and wants us to give her a 'new bandage' every day, making it a win-win. Ensure you put some neosporin or wash any open wounds with soap and water before applying this bandage to avoid any complications.
6. Chia Seeds:
This is the specific brand of chia seeds that I like to use.
7. Yakult Probiotic Drink:
This is E's favorite yogurt juice that has helped her bowel movements become more regular. Sometimes dairy can cause more dampness and aggravate some eczema symptoms, so consider the amount of dairy your child consumes daily. Since E drinks almond milk and does not have any other dairy products, this small amount of probiotics has helped her eczema and increased the regularity of her bowel movements.
I understand that caring for a baby with eczema can be a challenging journey for parents. It is essential to explore holistic solutions and consider the underlying causes of eczema. While every child's experience with eczema is unique, there are various products, dietary adjustments, and methods available to enhance their comfort and well-being.
Please share your own experience and recommendations for managing eczema in your little ones in the comments below! If you are looking for an acupuncturist in New Jersey, my brother Kody and I offer our services throughout the state. We can provide herbal medicine and more personalized recommendations for your little ones suffering from eczema.