Skip to content

No matter how careful you are, your little one will probably get diaper rash at some point. Most babies do. So plan ahead.  Learn how to treat diaper rash, plus prevent flare-ups. Your baby's little bottom will thank you!

Causes of Diaper Rash

  • Leaving a wet or dirty diaper on too long
  • Rubbing or chafing against the diaper itself
  • Yeast infection
  • Bacterial infection
  • Allergic reaction to diaper

A harmless rash that's often seen on a baby's scalp, called cradle cap, can also show up on his bottom. The official term is seborrheic dermatitis.

It causes red, scaly, waxy patches that eventually go away without treatment. You may notice it on other parts of your baby's body, too.

Babies get a diaper rash more often when they:

  • Get older -- especially between 9 and 12 months old
  • Sleep in poopy diapers
  • Have diarrhea
  • Start eating solid foods
  • Are taking antibiotics, or if you take antibiotics and are nursing

Tips for Treating a Diaper Rash

  • Wash your hands before and after every diaper change.
  • Check your baby's diaper often, and change it as soon as it becomes wet or soiled.
  • Use plain water. When you need to get poop off, use a mild cleanser.
  • Gently pat the area clean and dry, rather than rubbing.
  • If you use wipes, choose mild ones. Try to avoid those with fragrances or alcohol. Or use a clean, soft washcloth.
  • Be sure the area is completely clean and dry before putting on a fresh diaper.

Bad rashes call for extra measures!

  • Try a squirt bottle to wash the area well, without rubbing sore skin.
  • Let your baby go diaper-free as much as possible. Airing out the diaper zone helps a baby's skin heal faster. To avoid a mess, do it right after a bowel movement.

Creams, Ointments, and Powder

These products aim to soothe a baby's sore skin or create a protective barrier -- or both.

  • Smooth on cream or ointment to your baby's clean, dry bottom before putting on a clean diaper. Look for zinc oxide or petrolatum (petroleum jelly) in the ingredient list.
  • If you use baby powder, take care to keep it away from the baby's face. The talc or cornstarch in the powder can cause breathing problems. Place it in your hand, then apply it to the diaper area.

Skip the steroid creams you find in the drug store (hydrocortisone) unless your doctor tells you to use one. They can irritate your baby's bottom even more if not used correctly.

Diaper Switches and Laundry Strategies

Some parents find these changes lead to fewer diaper rashes.

  • Change the type of diaper. If you use cloth, try disposables. Or try a different brand of disposable diaper.
  • If you wash your own cloth diapers, change your detergent. Choose a mild, hypoallergenic detergent. Or add a half cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle.

Call the Doctor When:

  • The rash gets worse or doesn't respond to treatment in two or three days.
  • Your baby has a fever or seems sluggish.
  • You see yellow, fluid-filled bumps (pustules) and honey-colored crusty areas. This may be a bacterial infection that requires antibiotics.
  • You notice signs of a yeast infection:
    • A swollen red rash with white scales and lesions
    • Small red "satellite" pimples outside of the diaper area
    • Redness in the folds of the baby's skin

Your pediatrician can prescribe an antifungal medicine to clear it up.