May 31, 2024
May 31, 2024

Understanding your baby’s diaper rash

Diaper rashes are pesky little rashes that pop up on your baby’s bum, usually from sitting in a wet or dirty diaper for too long. Babies have sensitive skin and it can get irritated quickly, leading to discomfort, pain, itching, and a nasty rash. To keep those bottoms happy, let’s explore what causes diaper rashes, how to treat them, and tricks to prevent them from coming back.
Dahlia Rimmon, RDN
Written by
Dahlia Rimmon, RDN
Content Writer
Dr. Marcy Borieux
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Marcy Borieux

What is diaper dermatitis?

Diaper dermatitis, also known as infant diaper dermatitis, is another name for a diaper rash. Diaper dermatitis can appear when your baby’s been hanging out in their soggy, dirty diaper for too long (because pee and poo can irritate their skin!). Diaper dermatitis means the skin around their bottom is red and inflamed.

How is diaper dermatitis diagnosed?

Your pediatrician will examine the diaper area and rash pattern to determine if it's dermatitis or a different skin condition.

What causes diaper dermatitis?

Here are a few things that cause diaper rashes:

  • Diarrhea
  • Chemical irritants from diaper materials, clothing, lotions, body wash, or laundry detergent
  • Diaper wipes with irritants
  • Yeast or bacterial infections
  • Tight-fitting diapers

Are diaper rashes caused by yeast infections?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of yeast or fungus found in the digestive tract. Diaper rashes caused by yeast infections may look a little different, with shiny and bright red or pink patches with sharp edges. Yeast infections can also cause small raised bumps or pimples on the infected area, and may appear as a more severe diaper rash.

How to treat diaper rashes

Luckily, diaper rashes are temporary and clear up pretty quickly if you stay on top of treatment. Here are a few ways to tackle those irritating diaper rashes.

Regularly change your baby’s diaper

Make sure to change your baby’s diaper as often as possible, even after every pee. Though it might mean stocking up on more diapers, keeping the affected area clean and dry is key to clearing up diaper rashes.

Don’t use wipes

Even the most gentle, hypoallergenic wipes can cause irritation to your baby’s skin. If your baby is prone to frequent diaper rashes, clean your baby’s bum using a soft washcloth or gauze pads with warm water. Make sure your baby’s bottom is completely dry before putting on their diaper.

Use a barrier cream or ointment

After your baby’s skin is clean and dry, apply a thick layer of diaper rash barrier cream or healing ointment. Zinc oxide-based creams and ointments are our favorite, and they can help create a barrier between your baby’s skin and moisture from pee and poo.

Allow your baby to roam, diaper free!

Sometimes, all your baby needs is diaper free time to let their little bum air out. Lay your baby down on a clean surface and let them wiggle around or practice some tummy time diaper free. You’ll probably see an accident or two, so keep some paper towels and disinfectant spray nearby, just in case.

Switch to fragrance-free baby products

Babies have sensitive skin, and your baby's skin might be getting irritated by chemicals in diapers, wipes, lotions, or laundry detergent. Choose fragrance-free body products, since fragrances can trigger irritations and diaper rashes.

FAQs: Diaper rashes

If my baby has a diaper rash, should I do a diaper change in the middle of the night?

If your baby sleeps through the night, there’s no need to disturb them. But, if your baby wakes up and has trouble falling back asleep, their diaper rash could be causing discomfort and keeping them awake. A quick diaper change or two in the middle of the night could help your baby settle back down.

Will changing to cloth diapers help?

Cloth diapers could help prevent diaper rashes. Some babies react to the chemicals and materials in regular disposable diapers, which could lead to skin irritations and diaper rashes. But keeping your baby’s skin clean and dry is the best way to treat diaper rashes. If you find that your baby has skin irritation or rash symptoms with a certain disposable diaper brand, you can always switch and try a different diaper.

What are some homeopathic diaper rash treatments?

Homeopathic diaper rash treatments are not well-researched, so they are not recommended without first reviewing with your local pediatrician or your Summer Health pediatrician.

What’s considered a severe diaper rash?

Some diaper rashes are worse than others. Severe diaper rashes can involve irritation beyond the upper layers of the skin, and you may notice open sores, skin blisters, cuts or pimples. These usually result in very uncomfortable and painful diaper changes.

What’s the best diaper rash cream?

The best diaper creams are made with healing ingredients like zinc oxide, and have a thick consistency to provide a protective barrier for the skin. Ointments with petroleum jelly (like Vaseline or Aquaphor) or thick creams work well too.

Can my child go to daycare with a diaper rash?

Yes, children can go to school with diaper rashes as long as their teachers can assist with diaper rash treatment. Be sure to provide instructions about diaper changes, how to apply diaper rash cream or ointments, and directions for using cloth diapers (if necessary).


American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP): Common Diaper Rashes and Treatments

Dahlia Rimmon, RDN
Content Writer
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