chapped lips in babies

Chapped lips can be annoying and uncomfortable, but what if your newborn’s lips are chapped? Should you worry? And what should you do?

If you notice dry, cracked lips on your baby, you may not need to be concerned, as this is a common problem.

But you should treat your child’s lips as quickly as possible because chapped lips may negatively affect feeding and sleeping. They can also sometimes lead to serious infections or even be a sign of a life-threatening condition.

In most cases, however, you can heal your newborn’s lips with natural remedies at home in only a few days.

Why Are Your Newborn’s Lips Chapped?

When your newborn baby’s lips are splitting and sore, a variety of issues may be the cause.

It might happen due to a lip licking habit, or your baby may be sucking on their lips. Dehydration and dry weather are also common causes. Sometimes chapped lips may point to underlying health conditions.

Dry winter, hot summer months, or too much wind exposure can cause lips to lose moisture. You may also want to watch your baby and notice if they breathe from their mouth, which can cause chapped lips.

How to Prevent Chapped Lips on a Newborn

Prevention is often the best treatment strategy.

To ensure that the temperature inside your home isn’t causing your newborn’s lips to dry out, use a humidifier in the winter to keep the air in your home humid.

And to prevent chapping due to the weather outside, try covering your newborn’s lips when you go outside, especially when it’s sunny or windy. You may turn your baby around when moving to keep the wind from hitting their face, or you can cover their face with a light, breathable fabric or scarf.

How to Treat Chapped Lips on a Newborn

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The best and most natural thing you can do to treat your newborn’s dry lips is to apply some breast milk with your fingers.

You don’t want to rub the milk all the way in — you should leave the area a little wet. Breast milk will heal the skin and protect your baby against bacteria. In some cases, you might not be breast-feeding your little one enough. According to the Mayo Clinic, most newborns need eight to 12 feedings a day, which is about one feeding every two to three hours.

You can also use a natural, organic lip balm or nipple cream on your newborn’s lips to keep them hydrated. Or you can use coconut oil, which contains lauric acid, a substance also found in breast milk.

Dr. Ericka Hong, board-certified pediatrician and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommends lanolin cream to parents of newborns with chapped lips. Lanolin is a waxy substance found naturally on sheep's wool. Before using a new substance on your newborn, you may wish to speak to their doctor to ensure it’s safe for your child.

How to Know if Your Newborn Is Suffering from Dehydration

If your newborn’s lips continue to be dry, watch for signs of dehydration. This occurs when the body loses water and nutrients so quickly that it can’t maintain ordinary function. According to the Cleveland Clinic, signs of dehydration in children include:

  • dry tongue and dry lips
  • no tears when crying
  • fewer than six wet diapers for infants
  • sunken soft spot on the infant’s head
  • sunken eyes
  • dry and wrinkled skin
  • deep, rapid breathing
  • cool and blotchy hands and feet

If you notice any of the symptoms listed above, you should call your baby’s doctor.

What if Your Newborn Has Chronic Chapped Lips?

If your newborn has chapped lips that won’t improve or last for weeks or longer, this might be a sign of another health issue.

Certain vitamin deficiencies can cause dry and peeling lips, as well as consuming too much of certain vitamins, like vitamin A. Another serious health concern to watch out for is Kawasaki disease, which is a rare condition that occurs in children and involves inflammation of the blood vessels.

This disease occurs more often in Japan, but the Kawasaki Kids Foundation estimates that the disease affects more than 4,200 children in the United States each year. It also occurs more often in boys than girls, and most children are younger than 5 when they get it. The following are symptoms of this disorder, which is not well-understood:

  • fever that lasts for five or more days
  • rash, often worse in the groin area
  • red, bloodshot eyes, without drainage or crusting
  • bright red, swollen, cracked lips
  • “strawberry” tongue, which appears with shiny bright red spots after the top coating sloughs off
  • swollen hands and feet and redness of the palms and soles of the feet
  • swollen lymph nodes in the neck

If you suspect that your newborn may have Kawasaki disease, you should seek medical treatment immediately. Most symptoms are temporary, and most children recover completely, but the heart and blood vessels can be affected, so it’s important to consult a doctor.