Protecting your baby's bottom
Your baby's skin is so soft and perfect, yet so delicate and vulnerable. When baby's bottom falls victim to an angry red diaper rash, you want to do everything you can to soothe that tender tushy.
Diaper Rash Causes
Most diaper rashes are forms of contact dermatitis – a reaction to something irritating touching baby's skin. Diaper rash is so common precisely because so many irritating things go on around baby's bottom. Any one of these things may be the culprit:
- Urine and feces: These bodily waste products contain harsh compounds that can bother baby's skin. If you're not changing diapers often enough, or if baby is having very frequent bowel movements, a rash may result. Cloth diapers may be more likely to lead to diaper rash than disposables since they tend to hold moisture against the skin.
- New foods: A new food in baby's diet, or in yours if you're breastfeeding, may cause trouble on the way out. Pay close attention to see if there is a link between baby food and diaper rash.
- Diapers, soaps and lotions: It may be something you are putting on baby that is creating problems. Have you recently switched to a new brand of diaper, wipe, lotion or powder? Are you washing cloth diapers in a strong detergent?
- Chafing: Anything that rubs against the skin will eventually cause irritation. This includes tight-fitting diapers or clothing.
A more severe diaper rash may be caused by a yeast infection. Yeast thrives in warm, moist environments, and is most likely to occur if baby (or breastfeeding mom) is on antibiotics. This medication can eliminate the good bacteria that normally hold yeast in check.
Diaper Rash Symptoms
The physical symptoms of diaper rash depend on the type of rash you're dealing with:
- Common rash (contact dermatitis): A simple diaper rash due to irritation looks evenly red and puffy all around the bottom and genitals.
- Yeast infection: Small, raised red bumps that start in creases of skin and spread out from there indicate yeast. In a severe case, these bumps may eventually grow together into one bright-red rash.
A baby with diaper rash is also likely to be fussier than usual – that rash hurts! Baby is especially more likely to cry during diaper changes, when the sore skin is being touched and wiped.
Diaper Rash Treatment
Diaper rash treatments are simple, but it may take time and persistence to see results. Begin these treatments at the first sign of diaper rash:
- Remove irritants: First and foremost, figure out what has caused the rash and eliminate it. Don't use soap on the affected area, and avoid any scented wipes or lotions.
- Keep baby dry: The most important thing to do for baby's bottom is to keep it clean and dry. Go diaper free for a while if you can. Even a few minutes a day will help. A larger-sized diaper may also help increase airflow.
- Apply zinc oxide ointment: A diaper rash ointment containing zinc oxide, such as Penaten or Desitin, can help soothe irritated skin. Ointments also create a barrier against moisture; however, air won't reach the skin either. Some diaper rash products are available in a cream form, which creates less of a barrier. A doctor or pharmacist can advise you which is more appropriate for your baby.
- See your doctor: If the rash persists or gets worse, your doctor may prescribe a medicated diaper rash cream. This could be a hydrocortisone cream to help speed healing or an antifungal cream in the case of a yeast infection.
Diaper Rash Prevention
It breaks your heart to see your baby suffer. To be sure diaper rash doesn't strike again, follow these prevention tips:
- Use gentle products: Look for wipes, diapers, lotions and soaps that are unscented and alcohol free. Many brands have hypoallergenic or sensitive-skin formulas. Also look for gentle laundry detergent and fabric softener if you use cloth diapers.
- Wash with water: Eliminate wipes and soaps altogether and clean baby's behind with simple water or a clean, wet washcloth. Pat dry with a clean towel – don't rub the skin.
- Create a barrier: Petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, helps keep moisture and other irritants away from the skin. Vaseline petroleum jelly has no fragrances or colors added, making it ideal for sensitive skin. Zinc oxide ointment can also be used as a preventive as well as a treatment.
- Reduce moisture, increase airflow: Change diapers frequently to be sure baby's bottom stays clean and dry. Expose it to the air as much as possible – go diaper free, or air-dry for a few minutes at each diaper change. You may have to switch from cloth to disposable diapers if wet cloth diapers are contributing to the problem. If you do use cloth, use a breathable diaper wrap, rather than plastic pants, to improve airflow to baby's skin.
Most babies will suffer from a diaper rash sooner or later. Some babies have more sensitive skin than others, though, so it will take constant effort to keep their skin dry and healthy.