Have you heard the expression, “Skin as soft as a baby’s bottom?” Babies are widely praised for their smooth and delicate skin on their bottoms. But in fact, your baby’s bottom must be tough and resistant to withstand the continual exposure to urine, feces, germs, soaps, and nappy wipes. Unfortunately, the smooth skin on your baby’s bottom may break down at some time and develop a nappy rash. More than half of babies between 4 and 15 months of age get at least some trace of nappy rash at least once every two months. Let’s look at what you can do to try to prevent nappy rash, and to treat it promptly when it occurs.
Recognizing nappy Rash
The earliest sign of a nappy rash is some redness of the skin in your baby’s nappy area. As the nappy rash progresses, the baby’s skin around the genitals, lower abdomen, thigh skin folds, upper thighs, and buttocks can become brighter red, swollen, shiny, and sensitive to touch. You may see a solid red rash or red spots. With a more severe nappy rash, the skin in the nappy area can develop blisters or open sores. Fortunately, most nappy rashes are mild, and with proper care will clear up within 3-4 days. But if the nappy rash does not clear up, you’ll need to contact your baby’s doctor for treatment.
The Causes of nappy Rash
Your baby’s skin has natural layers of protection. However, the following things can break down the skin’s protection and cause a rash:
Urine and feces staying on the baby’s bottom for too long
Rubbing by the nappy or by too vigorous cleaning
Allergic reaction to chemicals in the nappy, nappy wipes or soap;
Infection with yeast or bacteria
The typical nappy rash starts when the skin on your baby’s bottom becomes irritated by urine or feces, rubbing, or an allergic reaction. Then, once the skin is vulnerable, an infection with yeast of bacteria can set in.
Although babies can get nappy rash in the first few months of life, it is most common between 8 and 10 months of age. nappy rash is more likely when:
- Your baby begins to eat more solid food. This is thought to be due to the change in the acidity of babies’ urine and stool.
- Your baby has diarrhea. This is because the frequent stools and cleaning can break down the skin.
- Your baby takes antibiotics for an illness or when you’re taking antibiotics while breastfeeding your baby. This is because the antibiotics kill off the protective bacteria on the skin and allow an overgrowth of yeast infection. Your baby can also get a yeast infection (called “thrush”) in his mouth at the same time.
Preventing nappy Rash
The best way to prevent nappy rash is to try to minimize exposing your baby’s bottom to the things that can irritate the skin:
- Change your baby’s nappy frequently to keep him as dry as possible. Cloth nappys tend to be less absorbent than disposable nappys and should be changed more frequently. Newborns pee and poop more frequently and may need to be changed every 1-2 hours; older infants and toddlers may need to be changed every 2-4 hours. Be sure to change your baby’s nappy as soon as possible after a bowel movement.
- Clean your baby’s bottom gently. Generally, you need to clean your baby’s bottom only when she has a bowel movement. You can use a nappy wipe or a soft cloth moistened with water. If you have a baby girl, be sure to wipe from front to back to help prevent urinary tract infections.
- You don’t need to use powder or cornstarch. They can cause breathing problems for some babies.
- When you bathe your baby, use baby soap. Avoid adult soaps that have deodorants, perfumes, anti-perspirants, and other chemicals that can irritate your baby’s skin.
If Your Baby Gets nappy Rash
At the first sign of a nappy rash, try the following to help clear it up quickly:
- Change your baby’s nappy more frequently. This helps protect your baby’s rash from further irritation by urine and stool. If possible, try leaving your baby without a nappy for periods of time to help dry her skin.
- Don’t use scented nappy wipes. These may contain perfume, alcohol, and other chemicals that can irritate your baby’s skin. Look for “hypoallergenic” nappy wipes and consider pre-rinsing them in warm water to remove the chemicals so you can clean your baby with just a moist cloth.
- If your baby’s bottom is tender, clean with water instead of nappy wipes. You can use a spray bottle with warm water, or rinse her bottom in the sink or tub.
- Dry your baby as gently as possible. You can use a towel or washcloth and pat her dry (don’t rub); or use a blow dryer on the low or cool setting (to avoid burns).
- Try using an over-the-counter protective ointment (e.g., with zinc oxide or petrolatum) on your baby’s nappy area. This can help protect the skin from irritation from urine and stool, and help it heal. You don’t need to rub off the ointment with each nappy change.
If your baby has a more severe nappy rash that has blisters, open sores, or doesn’t go away within 3-4 days, contact your baby’s doctor. Your baby may need an antifungal cream or powder for a yeast infection, or antibiotics for a bacterial infection of the nappy area.
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.