How to Treat Your Baby's Diaper Rash

Is your baby’s diaper rash causing them to cry when it’s time for a diaper change? Are they tossing and turning day and night to try and get comfortable in their diaper?

Dealing with diaper rash is something many parents are faced with during the first stages of their child’s life. Still, no matter how common it is, we know it can be hard to handle.

So let’s get into the dirty details on diaper rash. What causes it? How you can identify what kind of diaper rash your baby has? And, most importantly, what you can do to fix it?

Table of Contents

    The Different Types of Diaper Rash

    The first step in treating a diaper rash is to figure out what kind of rash your baby has and what’s causing it. Before I became a mom I didn’t know there was more than one type of diaper rash — boy, was I in for a surprise.

    It turns out there are many different kinds, and I saw them all: yeast, bacterial, eczema, and a horrible mystery one that popped up when my daughter had an orange for the first time. Once I figured out how to tell one diaper rash from another, I was able to fix them more quickly and easily.

    I became a master of indentifying rashes — and you can too. Let’s take a look at the different types of diaper rash and what causes them.

    Diaper rashes can occur as early as one week of age, but they most commonly happen in babies 9-12 months old.

    1. Yeast

    Inside a baby’s diaper is a warm and moist environment, the perfect place for yeast bacteria to grow and thrive. The strain of yeast that causes a diaper rash is called candida, and it usually grows in the folds of your baby’s skin (1). It can be common in babies who are currently being treated with antibiotics.

    A yeast rash is bright red and scaly with raised borders. It typically lasts longer than two days and, as it gets worse, can develop blisters and satellite lesions in the main area of the rash (2). A yeast rash normally does not go beyond the diaper area.

    Yeast rashes do not respond to typical diaper rash treatment. If you call your baby’s pediatrician they might prescribe an antifungal cream such as nystatin, or recommend an over-the-counter cream if the rash is mild enough.

    2. Acidic Bowel Movements

    The acids in certain foods, especially fruits and fruit juices, can make your baby’s stools acidic, causing a rash to occur. This type of rash looks like a bright red sunburn in the beginning but can develop open sores if not treated right away

    The good news is that over-the-counter creams work great for clearing up an acid rash. You just want to make sure that you’re applying a thick layer with every diaper change, providing a barrier between your baby’s behind and any bowel movements they may have.

    If the rash keeps occurring, consider taking acidic foods out of their diet for a while.

    Fruitful Note

    Although it is rare, acid rashes can occur if you are breastfeeding and eating a lot of fruit because the baby gets the acid from your breast milk (3).

    3. Contact Rash

    A contact rash is a flat and blotchy rash that usually occurs on large areas of your baby’s bottom. It’s normally caused by skin simply being in a wet diaper too long. However, harsh chemicals found in disposable diapers, as well as certain detergents used to clean cloth diapers, can also cause a contact rash.

    Contact rashes are easy to treat by using over-the-counter diaper creams. They can be treated and prevented by simply making sure you change your baby soon after they wet their diaper.

    4. Bacterial

    A bacterial rash is less common than a yeast rash. These rashes look similar to impetigo and cause sores, and in some cases, pus-like yellow scabs on your baby’s bottom (4).

    If you suspect your baby has a bacterial diaper rash, it’s best to contact your doctor, because topical or oral antibiotics are often needed to clear up the issue (5).

    5. Eczema

    Eczema often begins as small raised blisters and, as they break, cause the skin will ooze (6). Eventually, the rash will become hard, raised, scaly, and almost always itchy. The exact causes of eczema are due to overactive immune system Heat, dairy, food allergies, and contact allergens such as scented laundry detergent seem to be common culprits.

    Here are things you can do to help soothe the symptoms:

    • Choose water-based baby wipes.
    • Oatmeal baths.
    • Moisturize with coconut oil.
    • Try Eczema-focused moisturizers.
    • Decrease allergen contact by using scent-free body wash and laundry detergent.
    • Use over-the-counter steroid cream as the last resort.
    • If all of the above fails, talk to your doctor.

    What Diaper Cream Should I Get?

    Have you ever walked into the baby aisle to get diaper cream? Did you find yourself overwhelmed by the sheer volume of options? We hear you — it can be hard to decide what kind to get for your baby’s rash.

    Here’s what diaper creams you should consider buying depending on the severity of the rash:

    • For mild rashes: Try brands like Honest, Cetaphil, or CocoMe (7). These will soothe your baby’s skin, and are free from petrolatum, if you’re uncomfortable with using gasoline products.
    • For moderate rashes: Choose a product with zinc oxide such as Baby Butz, Desitin or Balmex. These are stickier, and therefore messier, but the stickiness holds to your baby’s bottom better. This provides a stronger barrier between your baby and their diaper.
    • For severe rashes: For really bad rashes you can try Boudreaux Butt Paste (maximum strength) or Burt’s Bees, which contains zinc oxide and sweet almond oil, as well as lanolin and even beeswax — a super combo for baby’s skin.

    Medical Note

    If that doesn’t help, consider calling your doctor for a more powerful prescription cream and a checkup. Your physician may prescribe you a steroid cream for contact rash, antifungal cream for yeast infection, and topical or oral antibiotics if your baby has a bacterial rash.

    How Do I Prevent Diaper Rash?

    So, you’ve cleared up your baby’s rash and want to prevent it from happening again? I don’t blame you! As mothers, baby’s discomfort is our discomfort too.

    Here are some things you can do to help keep a diaper rash away:

    • Change them often: Check your baby every 1-2 hours to see if they are wet, and make sure to change them as soon as you notice they’ve gone to the bathroom.
    • Clean them thoroughly: When bathing your little one, don’t forget all the nooks and crannies in those cute baby rolls. Use scent-free and alcohol-free wipes or wet cloth to clean the baby between diaper changes.
    • Make sure they’re dry: Pat — never rub — baby dry before putting on a clean diaper. Rubbing can cause irritation to their sensitive skin.
    • Let their skin breathe: Allow your baby time without a diaper to air dry. This also gives their skin a break from the constant rubbing of the diaper.
    • Don’t overtighten the diaper: Diapers that are too tight keep the moisture in the diaper, creating a favorable environment for fungal and bacterial growths. The tight diaper also increases the rubbing and irritation of the baby’s skin.
    • Consider eliminating foods: If your baby continually gets a diaper rash after eating a certain food, you might consider holding off on that food for a while. The acid might be too much for your little one to handle, or it could also be a sign of an allergy (8).
    • Go fragrance-free: Fragrances can irritate your baby’s delicate skin. Consider using fragrance-free wipes, or even wiping baby’s skin with plain water.
    • Wash your hands: Wash your hands before and after diaper changes to prevent the spread of bacteria and yeast.

    A Note On Cloth Diapers

    As a cloth diaper using mother myself, I am all about saving money and the planet with what I put on my baby’s bottom. However, there are a couple of points you need to be aware of when it comes to cloth diapers and diaper rashes.

    1. Ammonia Rash

    An ammonia rash really isn’t a rash at all, but a burn caused by prolonged contact with urine in your baby’s diaper. This occurs more often in older babies who are sleeping through the night and appears as blotchy flat spots or blisters.

    While ammonia burns can occur in babies who use disposables, they are more common in cloth-diapered babies. That’s because cloth diapers do not leave a baby feeling dry like disposables do. Instead, the moisture will have direct contact with your baby’s skin as long as the diaper is on them.

    2. Using Rash Cream With Cloth Diapers

    The treatment game changes when caring for a diaper rash and using cloth diapers.

    Many diaper creams contain petroleum, which can cause repelling on synthetic fibers like those found in many modern cloth diapers. This means your diapers will no longer soak in any liquid, causing leaks and often rendering your diapers unusable because of how hard the cream is to get out.

    The good news is that there are petroleum-free diaper creams out there — just make sure to read the label carefully.

    If you find yourself in a position where you must use a petroleum-based cream, you can still use your diapers! Just make sure to use a liner in between your diaper and your baby’s bottom. This can be a flannel cloth, a piece of cotton, or even an old t-shirt.

    If your diapers are made from natural materials such as cotton or bamboo, it doesn’t matter what kind of diaper cream you use, just make sure to wash them thoroughly with hot water and a good detergent.

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    When Should I Call The Doctor?

    In many cases, diaper rashes can clear up on their own without the need of a doctor’s intervention. However, there are some cases when a doctor’s care is necessary.

    If your baby is experiencing any of these symptoms with their diaper rash, give your pediatrician a call:

    • If baby has a fever.
    • If the rash spreads outside of the diaper area.
    • If the rash gets worse, even with the use of over-the-counter creams.
    • If the rash is accompanied by diarrhea that lasts longer than 48 hours (9).
    • If the rash has blisters or pus-filled sores — this is a sign of a bacterial infection.

    Taking Rash Action

    Chances are, most babies will experience diaper rash at least once. The important thing is to identify the type of rash your baby has, and go through the appropriate steps to stop it in its tracks.

    Luckily, there are plenty of products and methods out there to help you do just that!

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