It is common for a newborn's lips to appear more dry and red than an older baby's, but this is unlikely to cause any signs of pain or discomfort. It may occasionally seem that chapped lips are uncomfortable for a newborn, but this symptom is not usually a cause for concern.
If a baby has chapped lips but seems comfortable and is feeding well, caregivers may choose to monitor them for other symptoms and mention it to their pediatrician at the next visit. If chapped lips seem to bother a baby, caregivers can try out a range of gentle, effective home remedies to relieve this symptom.
If other symptoms are also present, chapped lips can suggest an underlying condition, such as an infection or dehydration. If a newborn baby has chronic chapped lips or other symptoms, it is best to see a doctor to rule out any serious causes.
Treating chapped lips in newborns
Chapped lips in newborns may feel dry to the touch, look sore, and have cracks on the surface.
It is possible to treat a newborn's chapped lips using home remedies. However, if the problem gets worse or becomes chronic, caregivers should make an appointment with a doctor.
Signs of chapped lips in newborns include:
- lips that look sore, red, or dry
- lips that feel dry to the touch
- cracks appearing on the surface of the lips and becoming deeper over time
- cracks that bleed
- skin darkening around the lips
To treat these symptoms and moisturize the newborn's lips, people can try the following methods:
1. Rub lanolin on their lips
When breastfeeding, many people use lanolin creams to help soothe cracked nipples. Lanolin occurs naturally in sheep's wool. This cream is safe to use on a newborn's dry lips and can help soothe and hydrate them.
2. Dab breast milk on their lips
Breast milk is full of antibodies that can help fight off disease. In the first days after giving birth, a mother's breast milk contains colostrum, which can protect newborns from bacteria and viruses.
Applying a few drops of breast milk to dry, cracked lips can help soothe and moisturize them. In addition, it might lower the risk of infection.
3. Apply oils or petroleum jelly
Natural oils, such as olive oil and coconut oil, have moisturizing properties. Applying a very small amount of one of these oils to a newborn's lips may soften the skin and reduce dryness.
Petroleum jelly can help lock in moisture. Applying a thin layer of petroleum jelly before bedtime will protect the lips against drool that could dry them out overnight.
People should use petroleum jelly with caution, as it can cause diarrhea, stomach pain, or coughing if the baby swallows it.
4. Use baby-safe lip balm
Caregivers should avoid using adult lip balms on newborns and only use products that have passed safety tests for babies.
Lip balms that are suitable for babies and infants usually contain natural ingredients, and they should not include the same chemicals as adult lip balms.
However, before using a new product on a newborn, people should talk to their doctor or pediatrician about any possible risks.
5. Wrap up well in cold weather
Weather extremes can quickly dry out a newborn's sensitive lips. Wind, cold, and sun can all cause dry or cracked lips. Protecting a newborn's skin from harsh weather, including hot and cold temperatures, may help keep chapped lips at bay.
Caregivers should apply a layer of baby-safe lip balm to protect a newborn's lips before going outside, particularly if it is unusually hot, cold, or windy.
6. Use a humidifier
Keeping the air moist can help prevent a newborn's skin from drying out. A humidifier will help increase the moisture level in the atmosphere, and using one in the baby's room could help keep their skin and lips hydrated.
7. Feed them more regularly
Newborn babies can quickly become dehydrated unless they feed at regular intervals, and chapped lips can be a sign of dehydration in a baby who is feeding poorly or is ill or vomiting.
Every baby has a different feeding schedule. During the first few weeks to months of life, breastfed infants will usually want milk every 1–3 hours, or about eight to 12 times over 24 hours.
If a baby with chapped lips seems to be eating less than usual or has fewer wet nappies, they may be dehydrated.
If a person suspects that their baby is dehydrated, they should seek immediate medical attention.
What causes chapped lips in newborns?
While chapped lips in babies should rarely be cause for concern, if a baby has chronic chapped lips or is very young, it is important to rule out any underlying conditions.
Newborns may have chapped lips for many reasons, including:
Newborns can have chapped lips due to dehydration.
Newborns can become dehydrated if they do not get enough breast milk or formula milk. On particularly hot days, babies may require additional feeds to prevent dehydration.
The number of wet nappies that a baby should have in a 24-hour period depends on how old they are. Newborns tend to produce around four or more stools per day in the early weeks. This number is likely to decrease after 6 weeks.
Other signs of dehydration in babies include:
- a sunken fontanel, which is the "soft spot" on a baby's head
- sunken eyes
- crying with no tears
- dry skin
- cold, blotchy hands or feet
- a fast heartbeat
Newborns will typically shed some skin layers after birth, as their skin adjusts to the outside world. This is a normal process, and it can cause both peeling skin and dry lips.
Sucking or licking the lips
Newborns have a strong sucking instinct, so they may continue to suck or lick their lips even when they are not feeding. This can cause the lips to become dry because the saliva on them evaporates and leaves them more dehydrated than before.
A newborn with sensitive skin may develop chapped lips as a reaction to an irritant. Some newborns are sensitive to cosmetics, for example, so kissing a baby while wearing makeup could trigger a rash and cause cracks to appear on the lips. Cloths, wipes, lotions, and creams could also trigger a reaction in some infants.
Chapped lips can develop as a side effect of certain medications. Caregivers should discuss the possible side effects of any medication with a doctor or pediatrician before giving it to a newborn.
Changes in the weather
Heat, cold, and wind can all result in chapped lips in newborns. Fluctuating weather can draw moisture from the skin and could leave a baby's lips dry and cracked.
Rarely, chapped lips could be a sign that a newborn is deficient in certain nutrients. Without the right balance of nutrients, the lips may not stay looking healthy. People who suspect that their newborn has any nutritional deficiencies should speak to a doctor.
Kawasaki disease is an uncommon condition that affects babies and children. It causes prolonged fever and inflammation of the blood vessels. The disease usually appears between the ages of 6 months and 2 years, and the incidence is very low in infants under 3 months old.
As well as red, chapped lips, Kawasaki disease can cause fever, a red rash, and swollen arms and legs.
When to see a doctor
While many cases of chapped lips in a newborn will resolve without treatment or with use of the home remedies above, this symptom may also require a trip to the doctor.
If someone is concerned that their newborn has an underlying health condition or is dehydrated, they should make an appointment with a doctor as soon as possible.
It is vital to keep watching for any additional symptoms and to tell a doctor about any changes that cause concern.
A humidifier can prevent the air from becoming too dry.
People can take certain precautions to lower the risk of a newborn developing chapped lips, including:
- Keeping the house at a consistent, ambient temperature and using a humidifier if necessary, can help prevent the air from becoming too dry.
- Ensuring that the baby is wearing weather-appropriate clothing when outdoors can protect them from the cold, sun, and wind.
- Being mindful that a baby's skin is thinner and more sensitive than adult skin and avoiding the use of any lotions or creams unless they are baby-safe can reduce the risk of dry lips.
- Feeding a newborn regularly and increasing feeds in hot weather can help keep a baby adequately hydrated.
It is common for newborns to develop chapped lips, and it is rarely a cause for concern. Taking appropriate prevention methods and seeking quick treatment when a newborn's lips do start to become chapped can help relieve symptoms.
Lanolin, coconut oil, and breast milk can all help moisturize a newborn's lips.
People should speak to a doctor if home remedies do not help, or if the newborn baby shows any other symptoms.