Diaper Rash Causes, Treatment, and Management

As a new parent, you might assume that your little bundled miracle will eventually get a diaper rash (and you’d be right). Seems like a simple, fleeting thought – until it actually happens. Then you’re suddenly wondering what caused it, which diaper rash cream you should put on it, how to prevent it from getting worse, if home remedies for diaper rash exist, and so on.

Have no fear. Let me help. A newborn diaper rash is very very common. But sometimes your little sweet pea gets a severe diaper rash and you feel truly helpless every time they cry through the diaper change.

What does a diaper rash look like?

A diaper rash is inflamed and irritated skin underneath the diaper area. It usually begins on their tiny little bum and can spread to their groins, thighs, or even the bottom part of their tummy. The redness is usually a very deep, patchy red, often with tiny bumps. It may also be scaly and is definitely tender.

If the diaper rash is mild, it should heal within 2-3 days with just a little bit of extra care. Sometimes the diaper rash can get severe, however, and you may need to see the doctor. If the rash is ever oozing or wet, this would be considered severe.

What causes diaper rash?

The most common cause of a diaper rash is stool or urine in contact with your babe’s skin for too long. But this rash is not your fault, Mom and Dad. Oftentimes our babies have more sensitive skin and it only takes one delayed diaper change to get things started.

Other possible causes:

  • New products. Again, their skin is sensitive. So maybe it’s the baby wipes, a new soap or lotion, laundry detergent – any of these things can cause a diaper rash.
  • Chafing on a snug diaper. Make sure your babe has the right size!
  • New food. This can be either once your baby tries a new food or even a breastfeeding mama. It changes the stool just enough and increases the likelihood of a rash forming.
  • Bacterial or yeast infection. Bacteria or fungi like to grow in warm, wet environments. Cue the diaper. This is most common in those cute, chubby thigh creases and then can spread. Red dots within the creases are a strong sign it is a bacteria or yeast diaper rash.
  • Antibiotics. If your baby is sick and put on antibiotics, two things are happening. 1) Antibiotics very often cause diarrhea, changing the content of the stool and also increasing the amount of time your baby’s bum is in contact with stool. 2) There’s a perfect balance of “good” bacteria and “bad” bacteria that we all have in our body. Antibiotics throw off that balance, leading us back to the discussion of baby yeast infections.

How to treat diaper rash (and prevent future ones)

  • Change diapers frequently.
  • Clean between diapers with just warm water and a soft cloth. Hold off on using baby wipes, as some of the chemicals or fragrances can be more harmful on a sore bottom. If you want to use soap, use one that is mild and fragrance-free. You can even give them a warm water soak between diaper changes.
  • Don’t scrub. Try to rinse away stool and urine as opposed to wiping, then pat dry gently.
  • Use a protective ointment or cream. Petroleum jelly and zinc oxide products have been proven to be the most effective. (Pro tip: use both together! Apply zinc oxide first, followed by a layer of petroleum jelly.) You should be lathering this on pretty heavily (think: frosting a cake) and not worrying about removing it with each diaper change. You should cleanse the skin just enough to get all of the stool off, leaving the rest of the diaper cream in place and adding more where needed.
  • Air that booty out! This is incredibly effective. Try some tummy time on a towel, on the floor, naked. (Your baby, not you Dad.) That being said, the back end of your little angel can turn into a missile very quickly so be careful. Maybe build a wall of towels behind them? (You can do that part, Dad.)

What about home remedies for a diaper rash?

As a healthcare professional, I don’t usually advise home remedies because there isn’t a lot of research to back them up. There have been small studies done that have found success with a few different options. If you’re curious about these, please discuss them with your kiddo’s pediatrician.

When to call the doctor

If the diaper rash does not start showing signs of improvement within 72 hours, go ahead and call the doctor for advice. They may want to see your babe and occasionally, will prescribe you with a medicated diaper rash cream to try.

Also call the pediatrician if your baby has a fever in combination with the rash, or if the rash is oozing (as discussed earlier) or bleeding.

If the rash has pimples, blisters, or peeling skin within it – this is another reason to reach out to the doctor.

You’ll never forget the sad cry of your baby getting their diaper changed when they have a bad diaper rash. But take precautionary measures and it can at least be limited. Our goal is for your only worry to be getting them to lie still long enough to get the new diaper fastened!

Blake WagemanNurse Blake:

Blake Wageman, RN, BSN has over 11 years of nursing under her belt, primarily focused on NICU babies and, just as importantly, their worried parents. She also has two daughters who have kept her on her toes from birth all the way into their tween years. Blake’s passion is giving parents not only the information, but also the comfort and confidence they need to make good decisions for their kiddos.

This content is intended for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment from an appropriately qualified and licensed physician or other healthcare provider.

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