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Baby diaper rash

October 29, 2020 • read

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Baby diaper rash

Most babies get diaper rash at some point. Some seem more prone to it, while others manage to skate through to potty training with only a few flare ups. It’s hard to keep your little one 100% diaper rash-free, but with some simple fixes you can minimize their risk. Here’s how to (mostly) avoid the dreaded diaper rash, and what to do if your baby gets it.

Diaper rash symptoms

It’s pretty easy to recognize diaper rash — your baby’s red and irritated skin speaks for itself. What’s not always possible, is to tell the difference between different types of diaper rash. A diaper rash caused by a yeast infection, for example, might look like a diaper rash with white bumps in it, or a red rash with scaly patches. But if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, it’s pretty hard to tell the difference. 

Diaper rash causes

There are a few different causes of diaper rash (also known as diaper dermatitis), but one of the most frequent culprits is moisture. Sitting in a wet diaper irritates the skin and the longer you sit, the worse the skin irritation is going to be. No matter how absorbent the diaper, after a few pees, it’s not possible to keep the layer next to the baby’s skin dry. This doesn’t mean you need to change your baby after every pee, but the less time they spend in a wet diaper the better.

Poop is another story. Poop is more irritating to your baby’s skin than pee and a major cause of diaper rash, so you’ll want to get them out of a poopy diaper ASAP. But even changing your baby seconds after each bowel movement (BM) doesn’t protect them completely. If your little one has frequent poops or a bout of diarrhea, they’ll likely get diaper rash anyways. In this case, make sure you clean them thoroughly after each BM and use a protective and healing balm or cream each time. And if your child’s rash isn’t going away, it’s a good idea to take them to see their pediatrician. Yeast causes newborn diaper rash too —  in breastfed newborns especially. And if their diaper rash is caused by thrush, you might be passing it back and forth between you and your baby. In either case, you should speak to a doctor to figure out the best way to treat it.

Food, formula and diaper rash

Formula-fed babies are just as susceptible to moisture-induced diaper rash as breast-fed babies. But for some formula-fed babies, diaper rash can signal a formula allergy. In this case, diaper rash probably won’t be the only tell — you’ll likely spot other signs as well, like irritability after eating, loose stool or diarrhea, or even blood in their stool. If you notice any of these signs and your baby’s diaper rash isn’t going away, talk to their pediatrician. They should be able to confirm if it is a formula allergy or something else.

Once your baby starts solids, it’s a great idea to keep a food journal. This way you can track if there are certain foods that cause diaper rash in your little one. Acidic foods like citrus or tomatoes are frequent triggers, but food allergies can also cause diaper rash.

Diaper rash: cloth vs. disposable diapers

Diaper rash doesn’t discriminate — both cloth and disposable diaper-clad babies get it. Cloth diapers, however, are generally less absorbent than disposables, and don’t wick moisture away from your baby’s skin as well. This is a great feature to encourage potty training, but less good when it comes to preventing diaper rash. To reduce your baby’s chance of diaper rash, make sure you change them frequently. If their diaper feels heavy or it’s been more than two hours, they probably need a change. As well, if you’re washing your cloth diapers at home yourself, make sure you follow manufacturer guidelines for cleaning them. Cloth diapers that aren’t cleaned properly or dried fully can be a breeding ground for yucky (and smelly) bacteria, which may increase their chances of developing a yeast diaper rash.

Disposables are more absorbent than cloth diapers but they’re just as likely to cause diaper rash when left on too long. As well, disposable diapers often have a number of chemical ingredients. These chemicals (and sometimes fragrances) can also cause diaper rash or irritation in your baby. If your baby’s diaper rash is spread over the entire area that the diaper covers, try switching diaper brands — something in the diaper itself could be causing it.

Treating diaper rash

Whether your child is a toddler or a newborn, diaper rash treatment should involve getting them out of their diaper. It’s easier to have a two-year-old run around bare-bum (especially outside), but even taking a few minutes extra before putting a new diaper on your infant can help. Baby diaper rash cream is also useful, but be warned — if you use a barrier cream with zinc oxide or petroleum jelly without drying the area completely before applying it, you’re actually sealing moisture against the baby’s skin. This makes their rash worse over time. Since severe diaper rashes can bleed and are incredibly painful, applying a balm at the first sign of redness is crucial. In some cases, like severe diaper rash from diarrhea, a medicated cream might be necessary. A good rule of thumb is if it’s not getting better after three days of treatment, it’s time to speak to a doctor.

Diaper rash do’s and don’ts

  • Do change your baby frequently — if it’s been more than two hours, they probably need a change (unless they’re sleeping).
  • Don’t leave your baby sitting in a poopy diaper.
  • Do speak to your child’s doctor if their rash isn’t getting better after three days.
  • Do speak to your child’s doctor if they develop diaper rash with bumps, blisters or sores.
  • Don’t use scented diapers or wipes.
  • Do dry your baby completely before applying a barrier cream.
  • Do use a baby balm when you change your baby.
  • Don’t use a wipe to clean your little one unless they’ve pooped.
  • Do speak to your child’s doctor if they develop a fever or if their diaper rash spreads beyond the diaper area.
  • Do wash your hands after every diaper change.

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