Has your infant's scalp developed dry flakes or crusty yellowish scales? It's likely cradle cap. Known as seborrheic dermatitis when it appears elsewhere on the body, cradle cap is a noncontagious skin condition that commonly affects infants in the first few weeks and months of life.
Although the exact cause of cradle cap isn't known, some doctors believe one factor is a mother's hormonal changes during pregnancy, which stimulate the baby's oil glands. Unlike other common infant rashes such as eczema and diaper rash, cradle cap isn't itchy or uncomfortable for a baby. While cradle cap usually resolves itself within a few weeks or months, many parents prefer to try the following cradle cap treatments to hasten the healing process.
1. Mild Shampoo With Gentle Scrub
Washing a baby's scalp with a gentle shampoo and gently scrubbing the scalp help resolve cradle cap in many infants. As Circle of Moms member Melissa M. advises: "Use a soft brush for babies. When shampooing his/her hair . . . gently massage the head while it's wet and soapy. Then rinse well. Brush the hair a couple of times a day." Once the cradle cap is gone, shampoo every few days to help prevent it from returning.
2. Medicated Shampoo
If a mild shampoo doesn't help resolve your baby's cradle cap, your doctor may suggest a medicated shampoo. Cheryl B. shares: "My pediatrician told me to use just a tiny bit of dandruff shampoo (like Head & Shoulders) making sure not to get it in the baby's eyes. Worked like a charm." Emily B. agrees: "I used dandruff shampoo on my son once a week, and it cleared it right up!"
3. Baby Oil
Many Circle of Moms members recommend treating cradle cap with baby oil or olive oil. As Lorrie C. explains: "I just put some baby oil on my daughter's head where she was getting the cradle cap and then I used her baby brush and scrubbed it softly until it was all gone. We never had any issues after that!" It helps to leave the oil on your baby's scalp to absorb for 30 minutes or so before brushing it off. Also, be sure to thoroughly wash off the oil, as if left on it can make the cradle cap worse.
4. Medicated Creams or Lotions
Your pediatrician may also suggest a medicated cream or lotion. Lisa B. recalls: "I tried baby oil, olive oil, and different dandruff shampoos on my daughter, but the only thing that worked for her has been hydrocortisone cream! Our pediatrician prescribed a 2-percent strength, so we use that sometimes and sometimes over-the-counter 1-percent. We rub it into her hair before bedtime at night and wash it in the morning."
Cradle cap can also be exacerbated by a yeast infection. If the rash reddens and spreads to skin creases, and if your child appears to be itchy or uncomfortable, yeast may be an issue. In these cases your doctor may prescribe an anti-fungal cream.
Did we miss anything? What has worked for you?
The preceding information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.