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11 Ways To Prevent (and Treat) Diaper Rash On Your Baby

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Inside: Want to know how to prevent diaper rash? Here are 11 important things to remember, products to try, and tips for treating an existing rash.

Diaper rash is another of the many “fun” things the first time mom will inevitably encounter. This goes right along with navigating the ins and outs of breastfeeding, figuring out newborn sleep, and the myriad other newborn challenges.

While it’s not always a pleasant experience to change a diaper, it’s very important to learn how to prevent diaper rash and care for your baby’s delicate skin. If you see those telltale red spots on your baby’s bum, it’s time to take action! Unchecked and poorly treated rashes can lead to discomfort and even serious infection for your little one.

So, here’s everything you need to know about how to prevent diaper rash, what products to try, and how to treat an existing rash.

What is diaper rash?

Newborn baby cries while getting diaper changed due to painful diaper rash.

Diaper rash is a common form of inflamed skin you’ll likely encounter in one way or another on your baby’s skin. It typically appears in a red patchwork on a baby’s bottom and can even manifest in open sores.

There are several types of diaper rash to be aware of. Each has a differing level of severity and may require specified treatments. Learn the 7 types of diaper rash, below.

The Different Kinds of Diaper Rash

  • Chafing: This is the most common form of diaper rash. You’ll see redness, typically along with small spots or bumps in high friction areas.
  • Yeast infection: This condition, also known as, candidal dermatitis, shows up as a bright red, tender rash that usually starts in the creases and skin folds between the abdomen and thighs and spreads from there.
  • Cradle cap: You may be familiar with cradle cap (seborrheic dermatitis) as a condition that can affect a baby’s scalp. But, it can also initiate in or travel down to the diaper area, too. The distinguishing signs of cradle cap are a deep red rash with yellow scales.
  • Eczema: Atopic dermatitis or eczema causes itchy, red patches on the skin. This is typically experienced in other areas of the body, but can appear in diaper areas, too.
  • Impetigo: This secondary bacterial infection causes puss laden sores that can tear and ooze yellowish fluid and appears crusty when dried.
  • Intertrigo: This final form of diaper rash tends to pop up in skin folds. It emits oozing white or yellowish fluids causing itch.

Causes of Diaper Rash

While there are several different kinds of diaper rash, there are also several common causes. The most typical cause for a diaper rash is infrequent changing. But, there are other less obvious culprits, too. If you notice a rash on your baby’s bum and you’ve stayed on top of diaper changes, it may be due to:

  • Chaffing
  • A reaction to products like your baby’s brand of diaper, wipes, lotions, soaps, etc.
  • A yeast or bacterial infection (can be caused by moisture)
  • New foods you or your baby have consumed
  • Skin sensitivity
  • A reaction to antibiotics you or your baby have been prescribed

Symptoms to Look Out For

The most obvious symptom of baby rash is a red irritation around your baby’s diaper area. But, you should also look out for unusual fussiness. And in extreme cases, your baby may also develop a fever.

RELATED: What Helps a Baby Poop?

How to Prevent Diaper Rash

Woman holds out a used white baby diaper away from her body.

Baby’s have especially delicate skin and fledgling immune systems. So, as a new mom, you’ll want to establish good habits for their care. Here are 11 easy ways to prevent diaper rash that will eventually become second nature.

1. Change diapers often

Whether you’re using cloth or disposable diapers, it’s important to change your baby’s diaper frequently. Enzymes from a baby’s stool and urine can cause reactions in the skin, and moisture is a breeding ground for bacteria. Wet diapers and soiled diapers are equally capable of causing a rash. Get in the habit of checking your baby’s diaper when they wake, around feeding time, and before they go down to sleep.

2. Rinse baby’s bum

Use a moist, soft cloth, cotton ball or baby wipes to clean the skin. Though it’s not always convenient to use items like a washcloth or cotton ball for diaper changes, try to rinse baby’s bum once or twice a day. This is especially important during the newborn phase when a baby should not be bathed.

3. Avoid baby wipes with alcohol

Try to avoid baby wipes with alcohol, especially if you know your child has sensitive skin. These wipes can be agitating and lead to a rash. Stick to mild, fragrance-free wipes that are less likely to be irritants.

4. Pat dry

Be sure to gently dry your baby’s bottom with each change. This can help prevent infections and sores. Use a clean cloth or towel or try blowing on your baby’s bum to air dry.

5. Don’t make diapers too tight

To prevent chaffing, make sure your baby’s diaper isn’t too tight. You want it to be snug, but you should be able to fit at least a finger in between the diaper and your baby’s tummy. If you notice irritation in high friction areas, try adjusting the fit of your baby’s diaper.

6. Pay close attention to skin folds

Skin folds are great at collecting and holding onto moisture and bacteria. Make sure to clean any folds in your baby’s skin with each change. These can be in the creases between baby’s upper leg and abdomen or on the insides of each leg, for example. Once the folds are cleaned, ensure they are dry before putting on a new diaper.

7. Always wipe front to back

This particular tip is important when learning how to prevent diaper rash, but also crucial to avoiding UTI’s and other infections in your child. Try to prevent any waste from coming into contact with baby’s genital areas. This is especially true for baby girls.

8. Let baby be bare

It’s not always feasible, but try to give baby a couple times throughout the day to be bare skinned. Airing out the diaper area can be incredibly beneficial to that delicate skin. It doesn’t take much, just a few minutes after each diaper change can do. Let baby lay or crawl around on a clean towel to avoid accidents.

9. Use rash prevention ointments and creams

Diaper cream like Desitin cream or petroleum jelly are great products to prevent and treat diaper rash. These ointments provide a barrier between baby’s skin and any waste as well as the baby’s diaper. However, some mothers may prefer alternative products and treatments.

Discuss with your doctor before using:

  • Witch hazel ointment
  • Breast milk
  • Aloe vera or calendula
  • Shampoo clay

If applying ointment becomes too much of a sticky mess, try using a diaper cream applicator. These will keep your hands clean while still getting the job done.

10. Wash hands after each change

It’s important to wash your hands after each diaper change to ensure bacteria isn’t inadvertently transferred to you or your baby. Even if you don’t think your hands made contact with baby’s stool or urine, it’s a good idea to give them a quick wash. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

11. Double or triple rinse cloth diapers to remove all soap

Lingering soaps or fragrances can cause irritation to sensitive skin. Make sure to give cloth diapers a really good rinse (2-3 times) to ensure all soaps are completely removed after washing. And make sure diapers are completely dry before use.

RELATED: How to Get Baby Poop Out Of Clothes

How to Treat an Existing Diaper Rash

Tube of diaper rash cream with some coming out onto a clean q-tip next to stack of diapers.

While it’s important to know how to prevent diaper rash, it’s equally important to know how to treat it. It’s very likely your baby will develop some form of diaper rash during the 2-3 years they’ll be wearing them. Don’t panic if you notice a rash, but do begin treatment right away.

If you’re not already, make sure you’re following the clean, dry, apply technique and establish the following care:

  • Use a squirt bottle or soak baby’s bum in a tub of warm water to soothe and clean the rash.
  • If you typically use wipes, use a moist cloth to wipe instead.
  • Use a mild soap to aid in the removal of stool if water isn’t doing the trick.
  • Expose the diaper area to the air as much as possible.
  • Consider using an oil-based barrier cream (such as A+D Original Ointment) or a zinc oxide diaper cream (like Desitin cream). This will protect the skin from moisture and speed up the healing process. Generously apply to the affected area with each diaper change.

Other diaper cream options are:

  • Triple Paste
  • Vaseline

When should you see a doctor?

Mother checks her sick newborn baby's temperature with a red thermometer while baby sleeps.

Diaper rash usually clears up in 2-3 days. If you noticed continued symptoms or any of the conditions below, it’s time to call your doctor. They can provide further care specific to your child’s particular needs and ensure your child’s health and well-being.

If the rash:

  • Is severe or unusual
  • Gets worse despite home treatment
  • Bleeds, itches or oozes
  • Causes burning or pain with urination or a bowel movement
  • Or is accompanied by a fever

it’s time to call the doctor.

FAQs

How can I prevent diaper rash naturally?

There are several good practices to naturally prevent diaper rash. Here are a few of the most helpful and easily achieved:

– Change baby’s diaper frequently.
– Avoid products with alcohol, heavy soaps, and fragrances.
– Let baby go diaper-free when possible.
– Clean baby from front to back and in between folds with each diaper change and make sure their skin is completely dry before putting on a new diaper.
– Ensure their diaper is snug but not too tight.

What is the main cause of diaper rash?

The most common cause of diaper rash is infrequent diaper changes. Be sure to change baby’s diaper often and as soon as possible if you notice stool. Check their diaper when they wake, around feeding time, and before they go down to sleep.

What is the best ointment for severe diaper rash?

Pediatricians recommend oil-based barrier creams like A+D Original ointment and zinc oxide creams like Desitin. You can also use petroleum and non-petroleum jellies.

Should you use diaper rash cream for every diaper change? 

Applying cream with every change is a great preventative measure for diaper rash. But, if you’re not always able it’s okay to skip this step. Use diaper cream as often as you can and especially if you know your baby has sensitive skin.

Want More?

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Your Turn

What did you think of these tips for how to prevent diaper rash? Is there anything you think I should add? Let me know in the comments!

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