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Newborn chapped lips: Treatment and causes

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

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.

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
  • drowsiness
  • a fast heartbeat

Skin shedding

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.

Skin sensitivities

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.

Nutritional deficiencies

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

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.

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.

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