If you have a baby, you know how soft and smooth their skin can be. You probably also know how prone it can be to irritation.
With the need to wear diapers 24/7, a baby’s bottom is constantly exposed to bacteria-breeding moisture and excrement. For this reason, diaper cream is an essential part of newborn care to both prevent and treat diaper rash.
But the correct product application is just as important as choosing the proper diaper cream. Here’s what you need to know about how to use diaper cream.
- Diaper cream is used to prevent and treat diaper rash by forming a barrier between your baby’s skin and potential irritants.
- It should primarily be applied to the cheeks of the buttocks and between the legs if this area tends to develop irritation.
- Some parents apply it at every diaper change as a preventative measure, while others use it as needed when their child is showing signs of irritation.
- It should be applied after removing the dirty diaper and cleaning the area with a baby wipe.
- Be sure to place a clean diaper under your baby’s bottom before applying the cream to prevent it from getting on your changing pad.
Why Does Diaper Cream Do?
The purpose of diaper cream is two-fold.
- Prevention of diaper rash: Diaper creams form a barrier between your baby’s skin and potential irritants, including moisture, excrement, acids from foods, and chemicals in their diapers.
- Treatment of diaper rash: If an outbreak has already occurred, you may use diaper cream to heal it. Many products contain ingredients that soothe and moisturize the skin, offer a moisture barrier to allow the skin to heal without further irritation, and (if you’re using a specific medicated product for this purpose) kill yeast and treat yeast-based rashes.
Where Should I Put Diaper Cream?
Diaper cream is primarily applied to the cheeks of the buttocks, where direct contact with the diaper occurs. It may also be helpful to apply cream between your baby’s bum cheeks and around the anus if this area tends to develop irritation.
On boys, diaper rash may occur on the scrotum, so it is safe to apply in this area if necessary.
Some parents apply diaper cream to thigh creases or the areas where the diaper meets the legs to reduce chafing. While this is completely safe, know that diaper creams tend to stain clothing.
Should I Apply Diaper Cream at Every Diaper Change?
Whether you use diaper cream at every diaper change is a matter of personal preference. Some mothers apply it all the time as a preventative measure against diaper rash. Others choose to use it as needed if their child is showing signs of irritation.
There is no right or wrong answer, but considering slathering on the cream in the following instances:
- When your baby has a rash.
- When your baby shows signs of redness/irritation.
- When your newborn is pooping meconium (black tar poop), to keep it from sticking to your baby’s skin.
- When your baby has diarrhea, to prevent irritation from the stool.
- When your baby is teething, has a cold, or is taking antibiotics, causing looser stools.
- If your baby has sensitive skin and gets rashes often, you may want to use it at every diaper change.
- You may also want to consider using diaper cream regularly every night — especially for babies who are sleeping for long stretches. Overnight is the time when their skin has the most exposure to moisture and excrement, so their chance of developing a rash increases then (1).
How to Apply Diaper Cream
1. Remove the Dirty Diaper
Remove your child’s dirty diaper. Use a baby wipe to clean all visible waste and diaper cream residue off your child’s bottom and genital area.
2. Place A Clean Diaper Underneath Your Baby’s Bottom
Place a clean diaper under your baby’s bottom as if you are going to put it on them, but do not close or fasten it. This will prevent diaper cream from getting on your changing pad and will put you in a good position to quickly fasten the diaper as soon as you’re done applying the cream.
3. Use a Dime-Sized Amount
Squeeze a dime-sized amount of cream directly onto your finger.
4. Apply Cream
Apply cream to your baby’s bottom. Spread the cream thickest on the cheeks of their buttocks or any areas that appear red and inflamed.
You can also apply diaper cream to these areas:
- Between the butt cheeks.
- Around the anus.
- In the folds of the labia and around the vagina for girls.
- On the scrotum and penis of boys.
5. Wipe Excess Cream from Your Fingers
Wipe the excess cream onto the inside of the clean diaper your baby is laying on, or clean your finger with a baby wipe.
6. Re-Apply The Clean Diaper
Reposition the diaper if necessary to ensure it’s straight. Securely fasten the clean diaper around your baby.
7. Wash Your Hands.
After removing your baby from the changing table and putting them in a safe place, wash your hands with soap and water. Though your hands may appear clean from “washing” them with a baby wipe, wipes do not kill all bacteria.
Diaper Cream Safety Considerations
While diaper creams are safe and widely used by parents worldwide, there are a few things to be aware of.
Do not use baby powder. The powder can become airborne and enter your child’s lungs, which is unhealthy. The cornstarch in powder is also a food source for yeast, exacerbating the problem if your baby has a yeast rash.
Always wash your hands with soap and water after applying diaper cream. When using diaper cream, your hands will come into contact with fecal bacteria. No matter how clean your baby’s bum appears, the truth is that baby wipes do not kill all bacteria. Do not be fooled into thinking that you can simply clean your hands with a baby wipe to sanitize them after applying diaper cream (2).
And to recap this important rule, diaper creams may be used around the vaginal area of girls, but never put diaper cream inside the vagina. You may use diaper creams on the penis and scrotum, but if your child is uncircumcised, the foreskin should never be forcibly retracted.
Finally, many diaper creams contain potential allergens. If your child has allergies, be sure to check the labels for these ingredients:
- Mineral oil.
- Coconut oil.
- Sunflower oil.
How Can I Get the Most Out of My Diaper Cream?
Diaper cream can be expensive, so it’s no wonder you want to make yours last as long as possible. There are a few ways to maximize your diaper cream.
- Choose the right product for the job for maximum effectiveness — whether it’s a cream, ointment, or medication.
- Consider using petroleum jelly as your daily moisture barrier, and use the pricier creams when your child has a diaper issue that needs treatment.
- Diaper creams are meant to go on thick; however, you can get away with using less on a day-to-day basis and increasing the thickness when your child’s bum needs extra care.
- Don’t over-use diaper cream. A dime-sized application is usually sufficient to cover a baby’s teeny bum.