Your premature baby’s skin is fragile and lacks the barrier protection found in full-term infants. As such, experts recommend cleansing your premature baby’s diaper area with baby wipes designed for infant skin. Research has shown that these types of wipes more effectively clean a baby’s diaper area than cloths and water alone, effectively removing urine and stool, and are gentler and less abrasive than water used with a cloth or cotton wipe. Infant skin wipes have been shown to reduce redness and skin irritation and promote a healthier skin barrier with the appropriate pH balance for a baby’s best skin. Preterm infants are at increased risk of developing diaper dermatitis because their skin barrier isn’t yet fully formed, but proper cleansing helps reduce their risk for diaper rash.
In the days after birth, the pH of baby’s skin is slightly acidic (around 5), which helps protect skin from pathogens. Most disposable baby wipes are 90% water and are specifically formulated to have a final pH of 4.5–5.5 to help maintain healthy skin pH. Tap water can have a pH up to 8.5 and distilled water can range from 6.5–7.0, which can disrupt natural skin pH.
Baby wipes contain gentle cleansers (surfactants) that are more effective at removing fecal residues due to their ability to remove both water and fat-soluble materials, unlike water and cotton or cloth. Baby wipes contain emollients that reduce friction between the wipe and the skin, reducing skin irritation, which is why the mother/baby nurses of AWHONN recommend the use of infant-skin friendly wipes in their latest evidence-based newborn skin care guidelines when diapering babies as compared to water alone.