My Baby Hates Having Lotion Applied (Why & What To Do!)

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You just finished giving your baby a bath. When you go to apply the lotion, they just aren’t having it and cry or scream. What’s going on?

Babies are very sensitive, and it’s pretty common for them to hate the feeling of having lotion applied, at least at first. If your baby is angry, the problem may be that they’re overwhelmed or it may just be too cold for their liking. However, if you’re hearing cries of pain, the lotion is probably irritating sensitive, dry, or broken skin.

Keep reading to learn what to do if the lotion is hurting or frustrating your baby.

Why does my baby cry when I put lotion on him?

Babies cry a lot, but sometimes it can be hard to tell why. Are they hungry, uncomfortable, tired, or is something hurting them?

If your baby cries when you put lotion on him, it could be because it’s either uncomfortable, or it actually hurts. If it’s discomfort, it may be that he doesn’t like the feeling of lotion, but it’s probably just that it’s too cold and you need to warm it up in your hands some more. If the cry is more like pain, the lotion may sting their skin, either because it’s dry or cracked or because there unpleasant chemicals in the lotion (scents, for example).

Baby’s skin is sensitive and can easily be overstimulated and crying is pretty much their only way of telling you they don’t like it. Depending on the severity of the reaction, it can range from whining to a few tears, but will normally stop after you are done with the lotion.

My baby cries when I put lotion on him

If your baby is just angry, they will cry and squirm, usually stopping after the lotion is taken away or done being applied. Toddlers start more with tantrums and will be more vocal with their feelings, sometimes being able to verbalize a little.

If your baby is actually crying rather than angry-screaming, it probably means that something in the lotion is actually causing him pain and you should stop using it immediately.

Baby hates lotion after bath

It’s not unusual at all for babies to hate having lotion applied directly after their bath.

After a warm bath, your baby’s skin is extra warm and can be very sensitive, no matter how gently you pat them dry, and being rubbed down with lotion can often be overstimulating. It can be even worse if the lotion feels cold against their skin, so be sure to heat it in your hands before applying.

Just like adults, babies have natural oils that keep their skin healthy, but bathing too often (or using too warm water) can dry them out and cause irritation. Instead of depending on lotion, try bathing less often, more quickly, or using slightly cooler water.

Baby cries when putting lotion on

When babies are not in pain, cries are usually just frustration and anger. If they don’t want something, they will let you know!

The lotion is cold

Nothing feels worse than something cold being rubbed on you after a warm bath. No wonder the babies are upset!

To keep from shocking and frustrating your baby by applying cold lotion to warm skin, try warming the lotion in your hands before applying it to your baby.

Don’t forget that what’s a little cool to you may be unpleasant for your little one – especially if they just got out of a nice warm bath!

Baby doesn’t like being rubbed down

Surprisingly, some babies do not like being touched at all, especially after a bath. If your baby doesn’t want to be rubbed down, it will be a challenge.

Here are some reasons that your baby might not like being rubbed down with lotion:

  • Sensitive skin – Some babies have sensitive skin, either being easily irritated or having a texture issue.
  • Overstimulation – Babies are experiencing everything new and it can be a little overwhelming. It is easy for them to get overstimulated and it can be very upsetting.
  • Sensory issues – Symptoms of common sensory disorders include hypersensitivity, frequently putting things in their mouth, and resisting touch and hugs. If you feel that your child has sensory issues of any kind, talk to your doctor.

Baby doesn’t like the smell

All of your babies’ senses are in overdrive, and their sense of smell is one of the strongest.

Some lotions and creams have strong scents to them, so choosing one that is scent-free is best. Also, be sure to read the labels because some can say lightly scented or have an ingredient that adds it even if they are for babies and sensitive skin. 

As a rule, the fewer ingredients the better.

Baby screams when putting lotion on

Screams of pain in babies are very distinct, usually high pitched shrieks, wails, or cries. They can also squirm or start to grab at the area affected. You may also be able to see signs of irritation, such as rash or peeling.

If the lotion is actually causing your child pain, stop immediately, clean off their skin, and address the issue with your pediatrician!

The lotion is irritating to baby’s dry skin

If your baby has dry or cracked skin, it can get irritated easily.

Lotions with fragrances and dyes are big causes and are not gentle for baby skin. If you choose to use a lotion, you should pick a type that is designed specifically for babies’ sensitive skin.

Creams or ointments tend to be better for dry skin than lotion.

The lotion is irritating to baby’s eczema

Eczema is a skin rash that can flare up at any time and can be caused by irritants, weather, clothing, or allergies. If the lotion is causing the baby’s eczema to appear, it could be an allergy or general irritation.

If the lotion is irritating your baby’s eczema, try:

  • A warm – not hot – bath. Make sure the water is lukewarm, and gently pat the skin dry.
  • Use an ointment or thick cream instead. Ointments can be greasy and heavy but they hold moisture in better and longer than lotions. Your doctor may also prescribe a specific one.
  • Identify triggers that can cause inflammation. Fragrances, dyes, certain ingredients in lotions may be triggering your child’s eczema. Identify the problem and avoid it by carefully reading labels.
  • In severe cases, apply a wet dressing. Your doctor will prescribe an ointment that can be put on followed by a wet cotton dressing and left on for a few hours.
  • Oral antihistamines can be used in severe or chronic cases. Itching is the worst part in an extreme eczema flare up and scratching will keep the skin from healing properly. Over the counter medication such as Claritan or Zyrtec may be prescribed.

Always talk to the doctor about medication, especially for a child under 2 years old!

Do babies really need lotion?

A baby’s skin is thinner and more sensitive, but they are very resilient.

If your child has normal skin, once a day is more than enough for lotion. If their skin is dryer, then you can apply it twice a day or after diaper changes and make sure to cover everywhere, not just dry areas.

Can I put lotion on a newborn?

Newborns are born with a protective covering called vernix (a waxy white substance that protects newborn skin up to the first week). During this time, it is not necessary to put lotion on them, although you can gently rub the vernix into their skin.

If your baby was born after their due date, the vernix has likely come off in the womb. Even still, it is unlikely that you’ll need to apply anything to their skin in the first several weeks, especially if you are bathing them infrequently.

Overall, newborn skin is incredibly sensitive, and new so delicate is the way to go.

When can I start putting lotion on my baby?

Unless your baby has especially dry skin or eczema, you probably will not need to apply lotion for the first several weeks, although it is safe to use a mild, fragrance-free lotion. 

Make sure to talk to your pediatrician about any concerns and questions and when best to start with lotion.

Can I put lotion on my baby every day?

Unless your baby has dry skin, you probably will not have to apply lotion to your baby every day.

When your baby needs a little extra moisture, try creating a routine that helps him get used to the feeling of the lotion.

Depending on your baby’s reaction to the lotion, it may be as easy as warming it in your hands and applying it after bathtime. If your baby gets overwhelmed by lotion after a bath, considering applying the lotion first thing in the morning instead of directly after the bath at night.

What is the difference between baby lotion and regular lotion?

While it may seem that any lotion will do, you have to be kind to your baby’s skin. Their skin is not only sensitive but thinner and since more of the product will absorb into their bloodstream, any ingredients will affect their insides as well.

Baby lotion that is for sensitive baby skin should not have harsh fillers.

Common lotion ingredients that should be avoided in baby lotions include:

  • Exfoliants
  • Alcohol
  • Heavy scents/dyes
  • Parabens
  • Phthalates
  • Ethanol
  • Mineral oil

If you want to know more about the differences between adult lotion and baby lotion (plus some great recommendations), check out this blog post!

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Joshua Bartlett

I'm the dad in charge of Natural Baby life. I have 11 years of parenting experience raising 4 children! I'm passionate about doing whatever it takes to raise a happy and healthy baby! Find out more about me here.

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