Helping a New Mom’s Hands
Hi Amalah, I so appreciate your thoughtful attention to parenting questions large and small. This one is a small but I thought you would know the answer. I am a new mom to a cute little girl, and she doesn’t really chew on her fingers but she likes to chew on mine! I try to wash my hands a lot, and between that and my newly increased laundry responsibilities, my hands are a mess of cracked skin and ragged cuticles. They scratch her beautiful skin, and they look bad in pictures if I’m holding her– woe! Can you recommend any hand creams that really work and are safe for babies?
Yay! Let’s take a wee break from in-law/holiday dramaz and talk PRODUCTS. Fun and pampering (yet totally essential) products.
All of my babies were hand-chewers and suckers. MY hands. Ike, in particular, never took a pacifier EVER, not even once, and sucked on the tip of my index finger for months (until he got teeth). Noah preferred my ring finger knuckle, while Ezra gummed on whatever finger he could get his hands wrapped around. And since those two were born in the Fall, I spent the following winters fighting really crazy chapped, cracked skin. (Not to mention that most mothers of newborns end up abusing their hands quite a bit, what with laundry and sterilizing various things and rash creams and etc.)
In other words, I’ve gone through a LOT of hand creams and salves and treatments throughout the years. Here are my personal favorites (please to add your own in the comments!):
1) Lanolin. Like what you probably done put on yer bewbs. It does WONDERS for those ragged cuticles you mentioned, as well as cracks from general seasonal dryness. If you’ve got a tube of Lansinoh lying around, dry dabbing a dot of it on your nails, cuticles and knuckles and massaging it in. Plus, it’s safe to go in baby’s mouth!
2) Coconut oil. You can buy this at the grocery store and do all kinds of amazing things with it for your hair and skin. (We also use it as a fatty-rich cooking oil post-stomach-flu onslaught when we’re trying to help our already-skinny kids get their weight back up.) If you stick your jar in the fridge it will solidify — then I just break off a small chunk with a spoon and massage it in my hands to warm it back up into a lotion-y oil treatment. You can also microwave it for two seconds and get it super warm and nice.
3) Rosebud Salve. A great all-purpose salve for lips, cuticles, chapped skin, diaper rash, you name it. I keep tins of this stuff EVERYWHERE in the winter: nightstand, diaper bag, handbag, changing table, etc. It is petrolatum based, if that’s a concern for you. (I’m pretty meh on the topic, as you can pry my Vaseline and Vicks and Rosebud out of my cold dead [yet soft and healthy!] hands.)
4) California Baby Skin Protectant Cream. I admit that I find a LOT of the super heavy-duty dry-skin baby products to simply be too greasy and hard to rub in for my tastes, but this one is very nice. I would pair this with one of the more targeted skin healing/protective treatments mentioned above, then use this throughout the day on an as-needed basis.
5) Kiehl’s Ultimate Strength Hand Salve. A heavy-duty, fragrance-free hand cream that seals in moisture and heals chapped skin and cracks…that also manages to not “feel” thick and greasy. Fragrance free and derived from olive, avocado and sesame seed oils (so potentially take note if you have any sesame seed allergies in the family). Makes a lovely gift, by the way, paired with Kiehl’s Creme de Corps body lotion and lip balm.
6) Lemony Flutter by LUSH: An awesome hand cream that basically combines the best of almost all of the above: Lanolin, shea butter, avocado oil, coconut oil, chamomile, beeswax, etc. It’s designed to especially help dry cuticles and nails, too. There is a tiny, tiny bit of fragrance in it (WHY LUSH WHY?) but as someone who is usually pretty sensitive to fragrance, I have never been bothered by it.
So: it’s UNLIKELY that your baby would get a whole lot of exposure to any one ingredient that’s been absorbed into your skin before she gums on it, and I admit you can easily drive yourself BATTY with all the conflicting advice and information out there regarding what’s safe and what’s suspect. I actually left my all-time absolute favorite hand cream off this list — Helping Hands by LUSH — because it contains both almond oil and honey. (While pure sweet almond oil is a popular massage oil for babies in India, the fears of nut allergies have made it decidedly less popular in the U.S., and some parents and doctors feel more comfortable using the alternative oils, like olive, avocado or coconut.) But as a good rule of thumb when you’re nursing (or offering other body parts up for your baby to suck on), it’s best to use products on yourself that you’d also feel comfortable using directly on them.
To get the most bang for your product buck, I would recommend finding 10 minutes a day to give yourself a quick hand treatment — just until you get some of the worst damage healed up and under control. When your daughter goes down for a nap or bed, COAT your hands in a generous amount of the product(s) of your choice. (Since lanolin can be pricey, reserve that for your problem areas and then also slather on a topcoat of coconut oil, Vaseline or one of the hand creams.) For a really nice spa-like treat, squirt some of the lotion in a dish and microwave for three seconds, or let hot water run over the packaging. Then wrap your hands in plastic wrap and stare into space for five glorious minutes. (You can also put on spa gloves, if you have them. If not, plastic wrap really does the trick very nicely.) Unwrap your hands and massage for another minute or two, then blot off the excess product with a towel. Do this once a day and then apply salves/creams as-needed throughout the day.
And remember! In winter, banish nail polish unless it’s an event-related necessity (TOES TOO), and try to limit your skin’s exposure to super hot water. And go easy on the hand sanitizer — a gentle soap is probably going to do a better job of keeping your hands clean and germ-free without drying you out with all that alcohol. Oh, and watch out for those first teeth. They’re kind of bite-y and sharp.