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How I Kept My Baby from Scratching His Itchy Head

Last updated: January 2023

I’d already had one baby with eczema, so I wasn’t surprised when my second kid also had the tell-tale patches in his first few weeks of life.

How were my two kids' eczema different?

I did all the things right this time. I got it pretty well under control, though, of course, his skin behaved differently than hers, and we had to experiment with lotions and products. His skin got too sweaty with petroleum products and lanolin didn’t seem to do much. Most lotions made it worse or did nothing. Some lotions, even ones that made others in the family feel better, made him scream, poor little dude.

How did we combat it?

The best thing for him was to keep him in cotton, as dry as possible, and to use the prescription-strength cream on spots as they came up. I found one lotion that seemed to soothe him, and we were strict about detergents and soaps. Even other people’s clothes would set him off, so I had to warn grandparents and babysitters to put a blanket as a barrier between his face and their sweaters or shirts.

I thought I had it all figured out until he was a few months old.

How was he sleeping?

He’d never been a good sleeper but was in a particularly bad regression. He was screaming himself hoarse every night. When I went in to pick him up, I noticed he was scratching at his head, which was worse than his sad little cries. Unlike his sister, he didn’t have significant cradle cap, and he didn’t have any eczema patches that I could see.

Why was he waking up in the night?

We cut his nails as short as possible without hurting him. He was always too big for the tiny newborn jammies with the hand covers so we hoped for the best. But no, night after night, my poor kid would wake up covered in head scratches. He looked like a cat got at him. I was worried he’d get his eyes.

How did we try to stop him from scratching?

We put knee socks on his hands and rolled them up to his elbows. Then we put on his PJs. Still, I worried he’d bite off the socks and asphyxiate himself. Now I was the one not sleeping. Oh, and also, he still wasn’t sleeping.

Were his ears itchy too?

I took him to the pediatrician to have the doctor look at his ears. I thought maybe he wasn’t coordinated to scratch or pull at his ears and that they were bothering him.

His ears were clear.

“I think he’s itchy,” the doctor said.

I sighed. “Is it eczema even if he isn’t having patches?”

What was our plan of attack?

Our best guess was that I was successfully keeping big patches at bay but that the pre-patch itch was still coming through. So we made a plan. Before bed, we’d put lotion on his head and try to put a cap on him. He did not abide hats. We put a humidifier in his room, and that helped a bit. He’d later be diagnosed with asthma, so I’m sure it was a good idea to keep him moisturized in this way as well. Basically, we kept his skin as balanced as we could and dealt with the oily sheets.

How is he now?

Eventually, like most kids, he grew out of the constant battle, and now we only need to keep an eye on seasonal flare-ups. I still look back on those sleepless nights and feel bad for him, but I’m glad we’re past it.

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