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Nothing feels better than a baby's newborn skin, but for some babies, they may have rough or oily patches of skin, usually around their head area.

Seborrheic dermatitis, commonly referred to as "cradle cap," is usually found on a child's head, but can also appear on other areas of the body (though this is rare).

These rough, oily and oftentimes scaly patches of skin can appear out of nowhere. This is not uncommon for newborns and it will eventually go away.

Cradle Cap Misconceptions

There are several misconceptions surrounding cradle cap. Rest assured that there is no need for concern as:

  • Cradle cap is not contagious
  • Cradle cap is not a result of poor hygiene
  • Cradle cap is not caused by putting hats on your baby

Causes

The cause of cradle cap is still undetermined. Some practitioners think the rough patches and scales are caused from the overproduction of oil. Others think the cause is that a baby's oil glands work harder because of hormones from the mother are still present in the baby.

Treatment

Cradle cap usually clears itself up within a month or two. However, here are a few home remedies that may help reduce the symptoms:

  • Wash your baby's hair daily with mild shampoo. Massage shampoo into the scalp and rinse well.
  • Brush your baby's hair with a soft hairbrush specifically for babies. Be sure to be gentle.
  • Apply lotion, vaseline, mineral oil or olive oil to your baby's scalp. This will help lubricate the skin and help loosen the scales.
  • Ask your doctor for recommendations on use of anti-inflammation cream if you notice your baby is irritated by the skin condition.

Never pick or scratch at the crust or scales. Picking can actually injure the tender skin underneath and cause a sore and infection.

When to see Your Doctor

During your routine check-ups, your doctor will notice the cradle cap. They may want to know how long it has been present. If you see the cradle cap spreading or your baby shows signs of itching the affected areas, see your pediatrician. These symptoms may suggest another diagnosis.

As a parent, you know your child. If you have questions or concerns, please contact your doctor!

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 ...

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