Support for parents of babies with eczema
While there isn’t one-size-fits-all treatment for early onset atopic dermatitis, one of the most common types of eczema in young children, there are a lot of online resources to help parents navigate this chronic condition. Where the medical community appears to have a gap and where niche, eczema-specific communities and support groups have stepped in is to address the other side of the coin—managing parental stress, anxiety and depression associated with managing a chronic condition such as baby eczema.
Infant eczema, at a glance
A quick summary: According to the American Academy of Dermatology, it is estimated that up to 25 percent of children in the United States are affected by atopic dermatitis. The severity of your eczema in children varies from child to child, but generally manifests itself in a rash, blisters, dry skin, weeping skin, crusting and itchiness. This condition is tied closely to having an overreactive immune system, as well as a number of factors like allergies, genetic markers, environmental factors and gut health. The symptoms usually start somewhere between 2 and 4 months of age and can continue well into adulthood. However, statistically speaking the majority of cases clear by age 4.
The reality of parenting a child who has early onset atopic dermatitis
Parents with children who suffer from early onset eczema face unique challenges in their daily life as they navigate their child’s eczema triggers, hone in on an appropriate skin management routine, and adjust their lifestyle to accommodate this chronic condition.
Depending on the severity of the condition and the extent to which a family is able to find a treatment course that can keep the skin from experiencing consistent flare-ups, a parent might:
- Experience consistent and prolonged periods of sleep disturbances due to baby’s itching
- Need to re-home a beloved family pet due to an allergy
- Experience financial difficulties due to medical bills and expenses for treatment necessities
- Experience anxiety, depression and feeling overwhelmed
- Experience extreme amounts of stress
- Need to learn how to navigate life-saving medications like epinephrine for severe allergies
- Need to learn how to bandage and dress wounds
- Need to adjust lifestyle to accommodate baby’s eczema triggers
This is not an exhaustive list—the challenges a parent might face when their child is diagnosed with atopic dermatitis are unique to the family. These challenges are combined with those that parents of skin-typical babies face as their children grow out of infancy and into becoming a toddler.
What is often overlooked is that the parent is undergoing overwhelming amounts of stress on a consistent basis over a long period of time and the effects of this stress are cumulative, significant and largely ignored.
A recent study published in Archives of Disease in Childhood concluded that “moderate to severe childhood eczema should be regarded as a significant illness in which maternal stress is equivalent to that associated with the care of children with severe developmental and physical problems.”
Support for baby eczema parents
In the absence of large scale programs or government-sponsored resources, what can parents of children with eczema do to find much needed support and relief?
- If you are the parent or caregiver, start by finding a parent support group. Dive into your social media network of choice and do a quick search. You’ll find countless parents posting about their experience through photos, advice, or encouragement. Consider posting about your experience if you’re comfortable with it. Remember that your eczema story might help someone else and it might find them at just the right time.
- Consult with a healthcare professional. Confide in your pediatrician, a primary care provider, or a mental health licensed professional. Identify areas where you can and should recruit some support and do so.
- If and when you feel more comfortable with being open about your baby’s condition, recruit friends and family to help. Map out a treatment plan and itemize all of the medications, doctor’s visits and supplies you’ll need. Then ask for help. Beating eczema takes an extraordinary amount of effort and financial resources and no single human (or a couple) should have to bear the burden alone–especially not when there are loved one’s a phone call away. Remember, every little bit helps so don’t be ashamed to ask.
- Finally, if you are one of two parents and you are feeling overwhelmed—delegate. Parents of eczema babies have extensive to-do lists that go above and beyond those of parents with non-eczema children. Skin management protocols, dietary supplement administration, cooking (or ordering) with ingredient restrictions while meeting nutritional requirements, treatment and product research, and the list goes on. You don’t need to do it all yourself and by delegating to your partner you not only remove items from your mental to-do list (which is cumbersome and adds to your stress), but you enlist them to be an active participant in the process, thereby making sure you’re not alone in it.
The road to full recovery is long and very bumpy. There will be set backs and moments of celebration, and it’s important to remember that it’s a marathon and not a sprint. Take care of yourself so you can continue taking great care of your baby.
Tiny Leopards is a children's pajama and apparel company catering to babies with eczema and sensitive skin. We design our products with the utmost care, knowing firsthand that parents of eczema children rely on quality products to keep their kiddos safe. Our heartfelt mission is to continue bringing this community together and empowering it with products and resources to help endure the eczema journey.