View All Articles

How to prevent and care for diaper rash

Odds are that your baby will experience some form of diaper rash sometime during infancy or toddlerhood. We use the term “diaper rash” to describe a skin irritation that occurs in the area covered by diapers. The first sign of it usually appears in the form of redness or tiny, red bumps on the buttocks, upper thighs, lower abdomen or genitals. 

While diaper rash usually isn’t serious and often goes away after three or four days of proper care, there are a few key things to know. Being aware of these techniques for prevention and treatment will hopefully help avoid the complications of diaper rash, such as skin infection, and prevent pain and suffering for your baby, too. 

What causes diaper rash? 

Before we discuss what you can do to prevent this from occurring, it’s important to know what causes it in the first place. The biggest culprit? Leaving a diaper on too long. A wet diaper, when left on too long, leaves moisture on the skin, and the components of the urine irritate the sensitive area of a baby’s bum. Leaving a stool-filled diaper on too long is also harmful; baby’s poop contains harsh digestive molecules that can damage the skin. Once the skin’s protective barrier is broken, the area is even more sensitive to irritation, causing redness and pain and opening the door for bacteria or yeast to cause infection in the area. 

Tips to help prevent diaper rash 

There are a handful of things you can do to prevent diaper rash from occurring. Breastfed babies tend to suffer from diaper rash less than babies who aren’t breastfed (though we don’t exactly know why) so if you’re on the fence about breastfeeding, add this to your list of reasons in favor of it. However if that ship has already sailed, know that while some children seem to be more prone to diaper rash than others, there are steps every parent can take to combat the problem. 

  • Change all dirty diapers as soon as possible (even if they’re just wet).
  • Avoid baby wipes with alcohol in them as it can irritate the skin.
  • Consider using a soft cloth and water to clean baby during diaper changes.
  • Expose baby’s bottom to air whenever possible; plastic pants and diapers restrict air flow and hold in moisture, making diaper rash more likely.

Tips for caring for diaper rash 

  • Even if you normally use baby wipes, use a soft cloth and water to clean the area when diaper rash occurs.
  • If it’s painful for baby when wiping the area, consider using a squirt bottle of water to clean the area, as it is gentler on the skin.
  • Change diapers frequently and allow diaper-free time to expose the sensitive areas to the air.
  • Consider using an oil-based barrier ointment (such as A+D Original Ointment) or a zinc oxide diaper cream (like Desitin cream) on the affected areas to protect it from moisture inside the diaper and allow it to heal. Use this liberally on red areas at each diaper change. 

Sometimes a skin infection caused by yeast or bacteria may occur alongside diaper rash. If your baby’s rash does not seem to get better within three to four days, if you notice signs of a fever, blisters, pus draining from the rash or severe pain, be sure to contact your pediatrician promptly.