As a midwife and mum one of the most common questions I am asked is how to deal with nappy rash. That small, red irritation on your baby’s bottom can be very uncomfortable for them – and can make any poor baby very unsettled.
It is certainly difficult to see our babies miserable, and it seems almost inevitable that in your motherhood journey you won’t find yourself at some point dealing with this common problem. Nappy rash is truly an everyday occurrence, if you ask any mum, aunty or grandma for tips on how to prevent or cure it – everyone has a hint or trick to share.
These are my top 7 tips for preventing and treating nappy rash:
1. Give your baby some nappy free time.
Nappies are not as breathable as normal underwear, so giving your baby some nappy free time is a great way to let air circulate, keep a wet nappy off their bottom, and it is also very cute… (accidents aside!) Put your baby in a safe, warm place and let that air circulate to both prevent and heal nappy rash.
2. Consider the nappy.
One of the main causes of nappy rash is moisture on the skin. Think about whether the nappy is absorbent enough for you baby’s size. Disposable nappies come in different sizes, and many cloth nappies have extra inserts. Make sure the nappy is absorbing enough wee to keep your baby’s bottom dry. Try changing your baby’s nappy more frequently and ensure you don’t make the nappy too tight as this prevents the air circulating.
3. Look at the products you are using on your baby’s skin.
A baby’s skin is sensitive and it is normal for them to have mild rashes in the first few weeks, some because of exposure to a new environment, and some because of hormonal changes in their body. A baby’s skin isn’t as tough as ours. Consider the products you are using and read the labels. If you can’t pronounce the ingredients listed they probably aren’t the most natural products you could be choosing. The more natural a product the better! Something that smells lovely is probably highly perfumed, and whilst this seems appealing these are generally not gentle on baby’s skin. Try a soap-free, unscented wash or just plain water. They aren’t playing in the dirt just yet!
4. Check the wipes you are using.
Many wipes have a wide variety of chemicals, alcohol and scents in them and can cause small bottoms to become very irritated. There is no harm in using plain old cotton wool balls or dry disposable kitchen wipes (like Chux) and water to clean your baby’s bottom. Simply clean and then pat dry. Sometimes simple is best!
5. Think about what your baby is eating (and what you are eating!)
Foods that are highly acidic can cause irritation on the way out of your baby’s body. Some mums find that they can recognize that certain foods make their babies have irritable poos. For example, lots of onion, tomato or dairy products can be well-known culprits. If your baby is breastfed remember that if you are eating lots of these foods they are going through to your baby as well. Don’t decrease your breastfeeding, just decrease the amount of problem foods in your own diet if you feel your baby is being affected by them.
6. Use a barrier cream or a nappy rash cream.
A barrier cream protects the bottom from coming into contact with wee and poo. It is a preventative measure. These creams usually contain a zinc compound such as zinc and castor oil for example, Sudocream. They are great to protect your baby’s bottom. Use other creams with healing properties if a rash is present. I have found that a lot of mums like Bepanthen which protects from and treats nappy rash. There are many products available, sometimes it is a matter of trying a few to see what works for you. Your local chemist will be able to assist you in seeing what is available and selecting something appropriate.
7. See a health professional – GP, pediatrician or early childhood nurse.
Normal nappy rash should improve and clear up in 3-4 days following these tips. Rely on your mummy instinct and if you are concerned see a health professional. If the rash is spreading, or appears to have discharge (pus) or pimples see your GP or pediatrician. Fungal or bacterial infections such as thrush can look like severe nappy rash and require a medicated cream which must be prescribed by a doctor. Sometimes teething, medications or illness can cause nappy rash so if in doubt get that rash checked out!
From me to you, all the very best in caring for your little ones bottom! Prevention is always best when it comes to nappy rash so plenty of fresh air and frequent nappy changes will hopefully keep this dreaded rash away. Lastly, always remember to trust your instinct with your little ones health and seek medical advice if you are concerned.
Find further information on this topic at RCH and NSW Health.
Michelle Penn has over 10 years experience as a midwife and child & family health nurse. As well as being mum to four little ones (including two year old twin boys), she is passionate about empowering and educating new mums with relevant and interesting information to help them with the amazing journey which is motherhood.
When Michelle is not delivering babies or raising her own tribe you’ll find her running, removing small pieces of lego from the bottom of her feet, reading chick lit or escaping the grind with Candy Crush and a red Lindt ball.
*A note from Michelle: In my personal experience I have found the products mentioned above to be helpful, I am not paid to endorse or promote them.
Medical disclaimer: Tips provided need to be considered in conjunction with medical advice. For immediate concerns, please contact HealthDirect (Australia wide) ph 1800 022 222 – to talk to a registered nurse 24hrs a day, and in emergencies call 000.
Parents share their tips for managing nappy rash.