Okay, at Cloth Diaper Kids we deal with diapers and baby bums and with those two things, the question of rashes always comes up. So let’s discuss some of the simple causes and solutions for diaper rash that might help your baby heal the rash and get rid of the redness.
**Let me preface the following info by saying that I am not a doctor or medical professional. If your baby’s rash is severe, chronic, blistered/bleeding or does not show quick improvement, please see a doctor ASAP**
Alright, now let’s get to the basics and clear up one thing first. Babies who are cloth diapered tend to get fewer rashes than babies in disposables. Plain and simple. However, babies in cloth can get rashes too. The skin in that area is super sensitive and thin and needs the best of care to remain healthy, BUT, not all rashes are caused by the diaper baby is wearing.
Rashes that have nothing to do with diapers
- TEETHING – You’ll hear lots of people say that teething does not cause diaper rash, and then you’ll hear lots of other people swearing that it does. Whether it’s caused by baby swallowing lots of extra saliva (which equals loose stool or diarrhea) or by other factors going on in the body, many a mom has noticed a correlation between popping a tooth and a sore tushie. Solution: A cloth safe barrier ointment can help a lot so that acidic or frequent poops don't irritate the skin. Delish Yum Bum Butter is a favorite of ours and can be used safely with cloth diapers.
- DETERGENT SENSITIVITY – Just as there is a possibility of breaking out with a lotion, soap or cream there is the possibility of being sensitive to the detergent you are laundering your diapers in. If you are using the correct amount of detergent for your machine and load size and an extra rinse at the end hasn’t helped…Solution: Try a different brand of detergent of course. Note: just because you are using a certain detergent on baby’s clothing without an issue doesn’t mean it won’t cause a problem when you use it with your diapers. Remember, in the diaper area you are dealing with very thin, delicate, sensitive skin and any detergent residues are combining with pee/poo in a moist environment. Under these conditions a normally fine detergent may cause baby troubles. Switch detergents and see if you notice a difference. Go for something unscented with no added fabric softener.
- SKIN CONDITIONS – If skin conditions run in your family, if baby has very fair skin or if baby is prone to or dealing with something such as eczema, then re-occurring rashes can be frustrating for mom and annoying for baby. Solution: Let baby have as much open air diaper-free time as possible. Keep baby in very breathable natural fabric diapers (bamboo, cotton, hemp) and consider preventative use of organic coconut oil or unscented, cloth diaper safe bum ointment at every change to keep skin healthy. Wool covers can also be helpful rather than PUL as a waterproof layer. A natural fabric diaper such a fitted or prefold paired with a wool cover is a classic favorite of sensitive skinned babies.
- DISPOSABLE WIPES – This is a big one. Chemicals and preservatives used in disposable wipes can cause some really bad rashes and if not the actual cause of the rash they can exacerbate a rash baby already has and cause pain and stinging on raw skin. Even so called ‘gentle’, ‘hypo-allergenic’ or ‘natural’ wipes still contain preservatives and can cause serious problems which is part of the reason why so many parents never consider them to be the cause of rash.
Solution: Cloth wipes are the way to go. Not only are they economical, they are soft, gentle and re-useable and come in a variety of different materials. Plus you simply wash them right along with the diapers you are already laundering anyway.
- FOOD ALLERGIES / STARTING SOLIDS – Food can be a source of rashes too believe it or not. Food allergies can cause bum rashes and babies beginning to eat solid foods can experience them too. For example, our first baby loves oranges to a fault, but too much citrus and his poops become so acidic that they burn his skin and cause blistering rashes. Also keep in mind that smaller babies, who are breastfeeding can be sensitive to something that mom has eaten and passed along in the milk and can get a rash that way too. Solution: An excellent, barrier cream is in order to keep poop from touching the skin if acidity is the issue. For something extra good at calming a heated rash, try Esembly's Rash Relief with non-nano zinc.
- SICKNESS & INFECTIONS – If baby has been sick (think diarrhea) this can change the PH of their bowel movements which can lead to skin irritations and rashes. Additionally, some rashes can be caused by medications, yeast (common after antibiotics, or if mom or baby has thrush from breastfeeding) or bacterial infections like staph. Solution: If baby is sick and has loose bowels then all you really need to do is protect the skin from the acidity. A cloth safe barrier cream will do the trick and disposable liners will make cleanups easier. For yeast or bacterial infections you are best to see your doctor as a medicated cream may be necessary to treat the rash. In these cases, switch to disposable diapers during treatment as the medicated cream is not cloth diaper safe and preventing re-infection is important. During this time, sanitize your cloth diapers to prevent re-infection.
Rashes caused by cloth diapers
- MATERIAL SENSITIVITIES – Sometimes rashing is the result of babies with sensitive skin who react to synthetic fabrics on the bum. Occasionally we see babies who turn red from diapers that have fleece or minky on the inside and sometimes babies are sensitive to the waterproof PUL next to the skin or turn red in the leg creases from latex sensitivities in the elastics of certain diaper brands. Solution: Natural fabric diapers. Look for diapers with organic cotton, bamboo or hemp and use a PUL or wool cover overtop to make the system waterproof. If latex elastics might be the issue, look for diaper brands featuring latex-free elastics.
- POOR FIT – Streaks of redness on the belly or thighs can sometimes indicate a poor fit (either too loose or too tight). If chaffing is happening it can make baby uncomfortable and appear rash-like. Solution: Make sure you are getting the right fit for the type of diapers you are using. Leg elastics should fit in the crease of the leg the same way underwear would fit. Elastics around the legs and waist should be snug so there are no gaps. Slight red marks such as what you might experience from the elastics on your socks are nothing to worry about. If you’re not sure about the fit you are getting on your baby, ask us.
- WETNESS SENSITIVITY – Similar to babies who have skin that is sensitive to synthetic fabrics, there are babies who’s skin is sensitive to wetness. This happens when baby is using natural fabric diapers such as cotton, bamboo or hemp where wetness is felt against the skin because there is no wicking layer. During the day you may not see this kind of rash as baby is changed relatively often and the skin dries out a bit between changes. At night however, when the diaper is on for longer you may see it more pronounced. Solution: Lots of diaper-free air time for baby to get the rash under control. Cornstarch used in the same way as baby powder to put a light coat over baby’s bum can help keep things dry and is safe to use with your cloth diapers. Also, consider adding a wicking layer to your diapers with the addition of a thin stay-dry liner between diaper and baby to keep the wetness off the skin between changes (especially for overnight). Or, switch to diapers that have a built in wicking layer such as those with athletic wicking jersey, microfleece or microsuede on the inside. In addition to a wicking layer, a cloth safe moisture barrier bum cream can be helpful for overnight. Note: DO NOT use cornstarch on any rash that may be caused by yeast. It will make yeast rashes worse. Also, baby powder that is made of talc should not be used on babies because of the inhalation risk.
- AMMONIA BURN – Now this one can be quite serious as it is a chemical burn to the skin and can often be quite severe if not dealt with quickly. If you’re dealing with ammonia, you’ll know it. Ammonia smell is very very strong. I mean burn your nose, sting your eyes till they tear strong. This is different and stronger than barnyard smell, poopy smell, or strong toddler urine smell. Besides the terrible smell, baby’s bum will be all over red and/or blistered wherever the wet diaper has touched the skin. Ammonia is most often troublesome with nap or overnight diapers that have been on the bum a long time and are very saturated.
Solution: Keep those diapers off baby’s bum until you’ve dealt with the ammonia issues and make sure the bum is rinsed clean of any ammonia residue. What’s happening is that your diapers are not getting clean enough in your wash cycle and bacteria, hard water mineral deposits and or soap residues are reacting with the pee/poo to create the problem and the stench.
First rinse your nap and overnight diapers in the sink or bathtub before putting them in your wet bag between washes. This can help a lot.
Second, get rid of the ammonia you have now then tweak your wash routine and make sure you are using enough detergent to get your diapers really clean and keep them that way. You can also try this ammonia fix trick.
- DIAPERS AREN’T GETTING CLEAN ENOUGH – Similar to ammonia issues, but not quite as severe, if your diapers have any sort of smell to them when newly washed or right away when peed in, they aren’t getting clean enough. Often referred to as barnyard smell, it signals that there is some kind of bacteria or residue left in your diapers that can cause rashing in the warm moist environment of a diaper. Solution: Get those diapers clean. Generally barnyard smell is an indication of not enough detergent. Don’t skimp on detergent, especially if you have hard water. Diapers are dirty and they need proper agitation and adequate detergent and water to get really clean. Read through our other articles related to washing diapers, be open to tweaking your wash routine and contact us if you’d like help troubleshooting. We’re always here to help!
*And finally a quick word on breastmilk…that stuff is amazing in more ways than one. Dabbing some on baby’s bum regardless of what’s causing the rash and air drying before putting on a new diaper can help soothe redness too.