articles and blog

Babies' bottoms are in frequent contact with moisture and bacteria, which means most babies will get a diaper rash at some point.

Most rashes are caused by wet or soiled diapers left against the skin for too long. They can also be caused by sensitivity to a certain disposable diaper brand or the soap used to clean cloth diapers. Diaper rash can occur both with use of cloth or disposable diapers.

The most obvious symptom of diaper rash is red skin on areas in direct contact with the diaper. There also may be bumps or breaks in the skin around the diaper area. Some babies will fuss or cry during diaper changes because the skin is tender to the touch. In severe cases, there may be painful open sores and your baby may become vulnerable to yeast or bacterial infections.

Diaper rash can become more common when babies have diarrhea or frequent bowel movements and when they start to eat solid food. Babies are also more vulnerable to yeast infections if they or their nursing mothers are taking antibiotics.

It is easier to prevent a rash than to cure it, so focusing on prevention is key.

Preventing Diaper Rash

The best thing you can do to prevent diaper rash is to immediately change your baby's diaper when it is wet or soiled. If your child seems to have a sensitivity to a brand of diaper or kind of soap used to clean cloth diapers, changing the brand or soap may also help. You may also consider using extra absorbent diapers, which wick moisture away from the skin.

If you think your child may be vulnerable to diaper rash avoid putting the diaper on too tightly. You may also apply a layer of diaper ointment, such as petroleum jelly or a cream containing zinc oxide.

Treating Diaper Rash

If your child has a diaper rash, it's best to clean the affected area gently but thoroughly with warm water. Avoid using diaper wipes until the rash clears if the wipes seem to irritate baby's skin.

If your baby has a bowel movement you can cleanse the area with a very mild soap and water. Otherwise, try to only use warm water for cleansing to lessen irritation. Soaking your baby's bottom in an oatmeal bath can also be soothing.

After rinsing or soaking the area with warm water, dry the skin gently and leave skin open to the air as long as possible. If possible, leave the diaper off for awhile so the skin to increase air circulation and encourage healing. If you need to put a diaper on your child right away, fasten it loosely.

You also may protect your baby's skin by applying a layer of diaper cream on sore, reddened skin. You do not need to remove it with each diaper change, as rubbing will only irritate the skin more. Avoid the use of powders, since it is unhealthy for your baby to breathe them in.

When to Call Your Healthcare Provider

If you're using an over-the-counter diaper cream and your baby's rash is getting worse or doesn't improve after a few days, call your healthcare provider.

If the rash is bright reddish pink, with raised bumps surrounding it, your baby may have developed a yeast infection. Your healthcare provider will likely recommend a yeast cream to treat it.

Thankfully, most diaper rashes are easy to treat and once your child is toilet trained, they will no longer be a concern.

Matthew Gibson, MD

Methodist Physicians Clinic Regency Pediatrics

Dr. Gibson is a pediatrician in the Omaha area who answers your question about child development and parenting. He chose to specialize in pediatrics, because, "Kids are fun. You get to see them grow, and 'oh my gosh' here's their personality." In working with kids, he gets to be a lifelong learner as he's watching the children grow throughout their lives. He enjoys hearing his patient's stories and learning how he can be the strongest advocate possible for them and to make ...

Learn more about this expert