Does your baby have a dry, flaky scalp? Your baby may be experiencing cradle cap. The good news is that this is common and easily taken care of. So let’s talk about what it is and what you can do.
What Is Cradle Cap?
Cradle cap is a very common condition in babies, but can appear on children as old as 3 years. It consists of scaly or flaky patches on your baby’s scalp. These patches are usually either white or yellow and can also be accompanied by redness.
The scales are usually difficult to remove, but don’t worry they’re not itchy or painful for your baby. They’re also not contagious and typically won’t come back after its gone.
It is possible for patches to show up on other parts of the face or body as well. If you notice this, contact your doctor about treatment options.
How Did Your Baby Get It?
The exact cause of cradle cap is unknown, but one thing that is known is that it is not caused by poor hygiene. It is also not caused by allergies or bacterial infection.
One possible cause is malassezia (a fungus) in the sebaceous glands of the skin. This has been somewhat supported by successful antifungal treatments.
Another possibility is excess oil in these glands caused either by hormones transferred during birth or simply because the glands are producing oil too quickly.
What Else Could It Be?
Cradle cap and infantile eczema can sometimes be easily confused. So how can you tell the difference?
Unlike cradle cap, infantile eczema is generally not concentrated on the scalp. It usually shows up on the arms and legs, but may also appear on other parts of the body including the face.
The scaly patches caused by eczema are generally redder than cradle cap and they are also itchy.
Treatments for infantile eczema are different than those for cradle cap so if you’re not sure what your baby is suffering from you may want to talk to your pediatrician.
What Can You Do To Treat It?
Cradle cap typically doesn’t require any treatment and will clear up on its own within a couple months. If you feel want to help it clear up sooner, there are a few things you can do at home.
The best place to start is to wash your baby’s hair daily with a mild baby shampoo and use a washcloth or soft bristle brush to loosen scales before rinsing. I found this was an easy step to add into the bath portion of our bedtime routine.
If this doesn’t work, try rubbing some mineral oil or Vaseline on the effected area and let it sit for up to an hour prior to washing your baby’s hair. Make sure you remember to wash it out though, or it can make the problem worse.
Make sure you don’t scratch the scales off because scratching can cause sores and may even lead to infection.
When Should You Talk To Your Pediatrician?
Although home remedies are typically very effective in taking care of cradle cap, some cases are more persistent than others. If you are having a difficult time taking care of your baby’s cradle cap on your own, you can schedule an appointment with your pediatrician to get additional help.
You should also talk to your pediatrician if the patches spread to other parts of the body, or if it looks like an infection is starting to develop.
Your pediatrician may prescribe a low-strength steroid cream for persistent cradle cap or may suggest specific home remedies. They may also just recommend waiting it out.
What About Ongoing Treatment and Prevention?
Even once the cradle cap is gone, it’s a good idea to continue to wash your baby’s hair regularly. This will help prevent oil from building up and creating a problem again. You can also continue to rub your baby’s head with a washcloth or soft brush also.
If you are breastfeeding, it may be beneficial to start taking a vitamin B supplement. Vitamin B can become deficient during breastfeeding but it is key for healthy skin. There isn’t any direct evidence linking it to prevention or treatment of cradle cap but at minimum it will help improve your skin as well as your baby’s.