It’s totally irresistible to sniff babies, especially on the side of their heads. The baby smell is the best indeed! But while snuggling your baby with kisses, have you ever noticed some kind of oil or dandruff on your baby’s head? Is it dandruff? It might be a baby cradle cap.
But what exactly is this condition?
Baby cradle cap
Cradle cap, also known as seborrheic dermatitis, or seborrhea, is found on the head of a baby. Like the milia found on a baby’s face, it is a common condition in newborn babies, and sometimes even in children up to three months.
With a baby’s cradle cap, thick white or yellowish scales or dandruff can be noticed on the scalp and other parts of the baby’s head, especially in the first weeks after birth.
Sometimes you can also notice some scaly patches on the eyebrows, eyelashes, ears, next to the nose, nape, armpits or in the diaper area. It basically appears in the parts of the body with the most oil-producing sebaceous glands.
It is often mistaken for eczema, but these two conditions are different, although the baby may have it at the same time. For children with eczema or dry skin, the cradle cap is itchier.
As parents, we have many questions about this condition. Does it hurt? Is the baby’s hair growth affected? Here is some information to know to understand this condition.
What causes cradle cap?
1. It is not contagious and is not an indication of poor hygiene
There is no known reason for its existence. According to the book, The Baby Care Book: A Complete Guide from Birth to 12 Months Old written by Dr. Jeremy Friedman, MD, and Dr. Norman Saunders, MD, cradle cap can be caused by overproduction of skin oil or sebum in the oil glands and hair follicles.
Another possible cause of baby cradle cap is maternal hormones. These hormones go to the placenta before the baby is born, and this causes the oil glands in the skin to become overactive.
Other factors such as sudden changes in weather (hot to sudden cold), having oily skin, immune system problems, even stress, and other skin diseases such as eczema, can also cause cradle cap.
Moreover, babies whose parents have eczema are more prone or more likely to have it.
Baby cradle cap can be seen in children and sometimes in teenagers due to high levels of hormones at this age. There is also a yeast (fungus) called Malassezia that grows on sebum with bacteria. But when it comes to the baby’s cradle cap, does it still need to be treated?
2. It disappears on its own even without treatment
Oftentimes, your newborn’s cradle cap does not require medical attention or treatment. After a few weeks or months, it just disappears on its own.
It helps to wash the baby’s scalp or whole head with mild soap or baby shampoo and warm water and put baby oil or mineral oil on the areas with cradle cap.
After soaking it in oil for a few minutes, the scaly patches can be combed off using a soft baby brush (NOT a standard comb). Do not use dandruff shampoo, as it contains salicylic acid which is not safe for babies.
3. DO NOT try to scratch it
Scratching it with your nails can make it worse. The baby’s scalp may bleed and hurt.
Remember that our nails have germs that we cannot see. If the baby is also injured, it can still be infected. Even if it is annoying to look at, avoid moving it as it may harm your baby. Remember, the baby’s mound is soft.
4. It is not itchy or painful
For adults, there may be itching on the scalp when there is dandruff. So we think that the baby’s scalp may also be itchy because of the cradle cap or baby dandruff. But while it can be disturbing to look at, don’t worry, cradle cap is usually not itchy for your baby.
5. Call your doctor if you notice something strange
If there is blood, and the baby is uncomfortable because of it (crying or scratching), consult a doctor immediately. If the scaly patches have spread to other parts of the baby’s body and face, take him to the doctor as well.
Because if it is severe, there are medicated shampoos or lotions that the doctor can recommend. Hydrocortisone cream is given for redness and swelling. Remember NOT to use any medicine without a doctor’s advice.
6. Remember that it is not a chronic disease or infection
Cradle cap is not caused by a virus, infection or allergy. Babies with eczema can be a factor in having a severe cradle cap, but if it is not scratched, it won’t scar. But if it is scratched and moved, especially if you pick on it with your dirty nails, it can get infected.
7. Is it contagious?
As earlier mentioned, most newborns get cradle cap. But it is not contagious.
8. Possible complications of baby cradle cap
If you notice some of these symptoms, it is best to consult your newborn’s paediatrician right away:
- redness of the scalp
- the affected area spreads or worsens
- aside from cradle cap, baby is also experiencing diaper rash
It is also possible to have a fungal ear infection and signs that the baby has thrush. If there is already a fungal infection, it can develop and bacteria can grow. In severe cases, there may be cracking or bleeding in the affected area.
It is best to let your doctor know if there are other noticeable problems with the baby, such as diarrhoea as it may be related to the cradle cap.
Also, call the baby’s paediatrician if the rashes have spread beyond the scalp, the cradle cap gets worse even when treated or if it lasts for more than 12 months.
9. Does the cradle cap affect the baby’s hair growth?
In rare cases, the baby’s hair may fall out due to the cradle cap. If the scab is scratched, the baby’s hair follicles can be damaged. But it will grow back as soon as the scab is gone. It does not cause permanent hair loss.
10. Does the cradle cap stink?
In some cases, the cradle cap may have a slight odour, due to the buildup of oil or sebum. But it is usually odourless.
But if you smell like broken bread, you may be smelling yeast – this is a sign that the baby’s condition has become a yeast infection and should be treated by a doctor.
How do you make sure the baby’s cradle cap doesn’t get worse? Below are some tips in treating or preventing cradle cap to become worse.
Cradle cap treatment baby
Photo by Pixabay from Pexels
Although the scab on a baby’s head looks irritating, it usually disappears on its own. But there are medications and home remedies you can try to reduce your newborn’s cradle cap.
1. Baby shampoo
If the case of the cradle cap is mild, it can be easily removed by washing baby’s hair regularly. Just make sure that mild baby shampoo is used so as not to irritate her scalp.
After washing your newborn’s hair, use a soft brush to massage the baby’s scalp and automatically remove the scabs. A soft washcloth can also be used. As time goes on, you will notice that your baby’s cradle cap is gradually disappearing.
2. Cradle cap shampoo
If regular baby shampoo doesn’t work, try a cradle cap shampoo with beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) and salicylic acid to exfoliate the scalp, and Climbazole, an antifungal agent. Again, consult your child’s doctor first before using products with harsh chemicals on your baby.
3. Olive Oil
You can also try olive oil to create a moisture barrier on the baby’s scalp. Aside from softening the scabs so they are easier to remove, it helps to soothe the skin and reduce redness or swelling.
Just put a few drops of oil on your baby’s head and massage with your fingers or a soft brush. Then wash it with shampoo and brush again.
Avoid lingering oil on the baby’s scalp, as it can increase blockage in the oil glands and worsen the condition.
4. Coconut Oil
It’s just as effective on a baby’s scalp as olive oil – but it’s more fragrant! Moreover, there is evidence that coconut oil is more effective on the skin barrier compared to other oils.
How to prevent cradle cap
Cradle cap normally occurs in babies and there is no need to worry. It is self-healing. Consequently, there is no exact way to prevent this condition.
- Remember that baby’s skin is still very sensitive, so if you’re looking for home remedies for this condition, avoid products with strong ingredients or chemicals.
- If your baby had cradle cap but it has already healed, just keep his hair and scalp clean to prevent it from coming back.
- In order not to have a buildup of oils on the baby’s head, make it a habit to keep it clean and dry. Avoid prolonging the sweat on the baby’s scalp so that the cradle cap does not get worse.
Photo by Pixabay from Pexels
Cradle cap vs dandruff
Dandruff in infants is also called infantile seborrhoea dermatitis. This refers to the apparent scaling of the baby’s scalp, eyebrows and eyelashes. It is not dangerous but it causes irritation and redness to the skin.
If not cured immediately, it will cause hair fall or hair loss or end up with extreme dandruff in babies or cradle caps.
Baby dandruff home remedies
Here are some baby dandruff home remedies you can try:
1. Keep baby’s bath time short
Daily bathing of babies can dry out their sensitive skin and lead to dandruff. Therefore, if possible, avoid washing your baby’s hair too often. Additionally, it is best to limit it to no more than ten minutes of bathing. Use baby-friendly products made with natural ingredients.
2. Apply mineral oil to your baby’s head
Putting mineral oil on the baby’s head is one way to moisturize it. Applying oil will massage the baby’s scalp. This is to gradually eliminate dandruff on his head. Then shampoo and rinse well.
3. Brush baby’s hair
To get rid of dandruff on the baby’s head, comb it using a baby brush. Just make sure to use a brush for the baby that is soft and will not hurt his thin scalp or skin.
4. Use a humidifier
Using a humidifier will help to prevent the baby’s skin from drying out. This is a way to cure and prevent his dandruff. It will also help him breathe properly whenever he has a cold.
5. Consult your doctor
When the baby or cradle cap is already experiencing extreme dandruff, it is a good idea to consult a doctor. Because there are medications that can be prescribed to him that will help to cure his extreme dandruff.
Healthline, Mayo Clinic, WebMD, Seattle Children’s Org, Medical News Today
This article was republished with permission from theAsianparent Singapore.
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