Everything You Want to Know about Cradle Caps

No matter how much you read about newborn care, no matter what people tell you about your baby’s care, there’s always something that you’ll discover yourself, and this will scare the life out of you. One of those things is the appearance of flaky, scaly skin on your baby’s head, or what doctors call infantile seborrheic dermatitis, or cradle cap.

What is a Cradle Cap?

Cradle cap is the flaky dry skin that suddenly appears all over your infant’s head. It could also be crusty, greasy patches that are white, yellow and brown and looks like dandruff. Cradle cap, or infantile seborrheic dermatitis is harmless and doesn’t bother the baby. It is not even itchy for the baby, so there is no cause for concern.

The appearance of such crusts is common also around the baby’s ears or eyebrows, on his eyelids, or even in his armpits and other creases. It typically goes away on its own and it is not contagious.

Symptoms & Causes

Cradle cap, as we mentioned, appears on your baby’s scalp, or sometimes in other parts of their body as the following:

- Patchy scaling or thick crusts on the scalp

- Oily or dry skin covered with flaky white or yellow scales

- Skin flakes

- Possibly mild redness

There are no warning signs for the outbreak of cradle cap in your baby. The crusty skin appears on its own within the first 3 months (can be delayed sometimes) and usually goes away on its own.

There is really no cause for concern if you see the appearance of cradle cap on your baby. It is not caused by allergies or poor hygiene.

There is no confirmed theory about why this happens. Some doctors say that the hormones passed from a mother to the baby may cause overstimulation of the sebaceous glands which increases the production of oil in the hair follicles and oil glands. This is turn causes the dead skin to stick to the baby’s scalp instead of falling off.

Another explanation is, a kind of yeast called malassezia that grows in the sebum along with bacteria. This causes the skin to take on a flaky, crusty appearance.

What to do if your baby has cradle cap?

It is best to leave the crusts alone. Usually cradle cap goes away on its own and you don’t need to treat it with anything special. However, if it is bothering you too much, you can do the following:

- Gently massage your baby’s scalp with your fingers and then brush off with a soft baby hairbrush

- Shampoo your baby’s head daily or every other day and leave the shampoo in the scalp for a few minutes. Rinse out any remaining shampoo or soap. Brush with a soft comb later

When to see a doctor?

If your baby’s cradle cap is excessive with no signs of remission, see your baby’s doctor about possible treatment options. Usually the following are advised:

- A mild anti-dandruff shampoo to treat the scalp (but do not do this on your own without checking with the doctor because any shampoo that contains salicylic acid is not recommended for your baby)

- A mild hydrocortisone cream for topical application

- Specialised shampoo for cradle cap

- Antifungal ointment for topical application if the condition is caused by a yeast infection.

Home Remedies

There are a number of home remedies you can try to get rid of cradle cap faster. Some of the more tried and tested ones include:

  • Olive oil - gently massage your baby’s head with olive oil. Let it sit for some time and softly brush off the flakes with a baby toothbrush

  • Coconut oil - use the same way as olive oil but you can leave this in your baby’s scalp overnight. Brush off the same way  

  • Vaseline - you can apply vaseline on the affected areas at night (even if it’s sticky) and then gently brush off the flakes with a toothbrush next morning

Cradle crap happens to half the babies out there. It is no big deal, really. If nothing, it will go away with time. The key is to not panic, and understand that this is just as much a part of your baby as those chubby cheeks!

Feature Image Source: farmaciabottasso.com