- What Is Cradle Cap?
- How Did My Baby Get Cradle Cap?
- What Is The Treatment For Cradle Cap?
- Should I Pick Cradle Cap Off My Baby’s Scalp?
What Is Cradle Cap?
Cradle cap is a harmless, non-infectious skin condition in babies and infants, classed as a form of dermatitis. It appears on the skin as scale-like flaky, crusty patches and can have a yellow or brown appearance. Cradle cap primarily forms on the scalp, but can also be found in the eyebrows and around the ears. If cradle cap is found on other areas of the body, it may be diagnosed as seborrheic dermatitis.
Rest assured, cradle cap is not painful or uncomfortable for your baby. It is not dry skin, a sign of poor hygiene, nor is it a bacterial problem. It is simply a temporary skin condition which tends to disappear on its own after three months of age – however in some cases, it can persist for longer.
How Did My Baby Get Cradle Cap?
While there is not a definitive answer on the cause of cradle cap, there are two main beliefs doctors and experts have:
Overactive Sebaceous Glands
Many experts believe cradle cap is due to overactive sebaceous (oil) glands. When your baby was growing in your uterus, it was surrounded by amniotic fluid and needed active sebaceous glands to waterproof his or her skin. After the birth, remnants of maternal hormone circulating in baby’s body is thought to play a role in the glands remaining active.
A fungal condition is another belief on the cause of cradle cap, which is suggested to be the result of the mother being given antibiotics prior to childbirth, or the baby having them. Antibiotics are designed to wipe out bad bacteria but also do the same for good bacteria. This can result in an overgrowth of bad bacteria, leading to fungal infections like thrush, or in this case, cradle cap.
While there is no definitive answer, cradle cap has no preventative or cure. It usually resolves itself by three months of age when the glands become inactive (until pimply teen stage, later in life!). Even if you treat the cradle cap, be prepared that it could come back again. This is because based on the first theory, the oil glands will continue to produce more oil until the glands become inactive. Or if its a fungal condition, the yeast may not be killed off completely.
If cradle cap persists well beyond three months or is found in other places (including the face), then have your doctor check that its not another skin condition or eczema.
Should I Pick Cradle Cap Off My Baby’s Scalp?
No! It’s not a good idea to pick it off, as tempting as it may be. You could end up giving your baby sore or infected skin. If it becomes infected (the same bacteria that causes impetigo – school sores – come into play here), your baby’s skin will become redder than it already is and little fluid-filled blisters can appear. The blisters can burst and weep on your baby’s head. If you find this happens to your bub, you’ll need to take him or her to the doctor, who may prescribe some antibiotics if needed.
Cradle Cap Treatments – What Should I Use?
You may hear or read about remedies involving either shampoos (including anti-dandruff shampoos) and oils. I would avoid some of these things like the plague as they can be quite irritating and even dangerous for a baby. If you’re going to use an oil, you may as well use one that is going to have some added beneficial properties!
Below are some suggestions on some gentle treatments for cradle cap. All you need to do is apply the chosen treatment, making sure it’s covered well on the scalp, not the hair. Let it sit for a while to soften up the cradle cap – give it a bit of time to absorb, overnight if you wish. Depending on what you’ve used, all you then need to do is wash it off with warm water. You can also gently brush off the cradle cap with a fine tooth comb.
My first and best suggestion would be to use coconut oil, which is completely natural, non-toxic, safe for baby and contains so many wonderful properties not found in other oils, including anti-fungal and anti-bacterial actions. If the cradle cap is fungal, then this will certainly help address the root cause and not just treat a symptom.
I am a huge fan of pure coconut oil for the body and skin. You can purchase this oil from health food stores or plenty of online stores, ensuring its not a refined or mixed oil product, for optimal therapeutic results. Opt for organic if you can. Note that coconut oil is in a solid form. It can be confusing the first time you realise its not a liquid like other cooking oils, but it softens easily to apply on baby’s head. If you decide to warm it up yourself, please be careful of not getting it too warm on baby’s head.
Coconut oil also smells so much better than many other oils (especially when its a warm day when it really brings out oily scents!) and it has so many other uses after you treat your baby’s cradle cap.
For loads of information on coconut oil and its many benefits and uses, including health problems it can help with, check out coconutresearchcenter.org
Olive oil is probably the most common oil used by parents for cradle cap removal. Its cheaper than coconut oil and more readily available – but it doesn’t have the many beneficial properties. If you can’t access coconut oil, you probably have some olive oil around the home that you can use immediately.
Jojoba oil is a great oil for skin and has anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties, but if your baby has sensitive skin, you might want to avoid it as it may irritate a baby’s sensitive scalp. Alternately you can mix it with another oil. Only use a small amount.
Sodium Bicarbonate / Bicarb Soda / Baking Soda
This is another gentle option that some mothers find works well. You can make a paste and apply it to baby’s scalp before a bath, then rinse it off afterwards. Alternately use a solution as a wash – 1 tablespoon of bicarb soda to 1 cup of water.
Baby Oil / Mineral Oil
I have included this one in the list as I suggest to ALL parents to avoid using baby oil (which is mineral oil) altogether. It is a very inexpensive product to make and doesn’t spoil easily, which is why it is used by manufacturers. It is difficult to absorb and clogs pores, slowing the skin's ability to eliminate toxins.
Baby oil is made from a petrochemical byproduct and you don’t want that on your baby’s skin at all. In fact, it can make babies very sick and have fatal consequences if your baby inhales this oil into their lungs – it can stop them from working. There have been cases where toddlers and young children have gotten into baby oil and ended up with serious respiratory conditions. Click THIS link to see a story which was featured in the news. There have also sadly been some fatalities. When ingested, its been linked to a multitude of serious health problems.
Baby oil is like leather on skin, so you can imagine what it can do to little lungs. Ditch baby oil and choose something healthy, gentle and safe for baby.
More Ideas or Help?
If you’d like to get some more ideas, read other members experiences, or even share your own, check it out in our forums, in a thread especially for cradle cap treatments.