So of the things no-one ever tells you about when you become a new parent, neck cheese is the most revolting. What’s neck cheese I hear you say? Ah yes.
The received wisdom is that babies dribble milk out of their mouths when they drink, it runs down into the folds in their neck and gets cheesy. There’s also some special alchemy that combines a bit of sweat, bits of dead skin and general dirt that gather there. Which is about right – a layer of white gunge appears in E’s neck most days, if you don’t notice or don’t clear it up then it starts to smell and irritate her skin. It’s partly because she’s too small to sit upright and get air to all her skin.
If I’m honest, part of me quite likes it – it helps to create the special baby smell she has when you bury your face in her neck. A combination of hair, milk, stale ickiness, skin and washing powder on her clothes.
It isn’t just confined to the neck area either, as I learned to my embarrassment when we saw the health visitor the first (only?) time. She examined E all over and I was so proud to have remembered to clean her neck before we came out. And then I saw her lift E’s arms up and thought – “Oh no, I’ve never looked to clean under there!” The most disgusting layer of white gunk had gathered in her pits – I was mortified. Clearly the health visitor was used to this as she calmly said “Yes, you must make sure you check in all the folds of her skin to keep it clean” and then moved on. The folds in her chubby legs are also good for a line of white gunk.
There’s a surprising amount of dirt to deal with. For a while I was obsessed with the stuff that accumulated in her hands – when she was very small and screwed her hands into fists a lot – and would spend ages picking it out and cleaning her hands each night. This isn’t so bad any more (where does it come from?) but there’s still the cheese each night. Luckily she’s ticklish on her neck so has started giggling while I root around in there with a wet wipe.
Never let anyone tell you motherhood isn’t glamorous…