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7 Causes of Diaper Rash and How to Treat Them Naturally

on | in Motherhood | by | with 34 Comments

 causes-of-diaper-rash

Eat. Sleep. Pee. Poop. Repeat.

It’s a pretty smooth system . . . for babies anyway! For parents there are usually a **few** more things involved, like:

  • learning to eat everything cold with one hand
  • waking up from a sleep coma only to realize you left the car running in the driveway
  • perfecting the art of hip healthy swaddling
  • deciphering diaper rash

This can be a little tricky, given that there are lots of possible causes of diaper rash. No fear, though! Today I’ll explain how to identify some of the most common culprits, then we’ll talk about natural treatment options.

BUT FIRST -

I should probably mention that I’ll be sharing my favorite recipes for homemade diaper rash cream and baby powder later this week. Now let’s get on to the post!

Diaper Rash: DECODED

Culprit #1: Infrequent Changes

Remember that list of things we would **never** do when we became parents? Yep, this is one of the first ones that made me eat humble pie. Now don’t get me wrong, I did usually change my sweet babes often, but there were some epic parenting fails as well.

Maybe I left the house for a “quick” errand which took MUCH longer than expected, only to get stranded with less-than-adequate supplies.  Or maybe I was so excited to get my preschooler out for some much-needed park time after the birth of her little brother that I, ahem, didn’t notice the funny poop face he made AS SOON AS I put a brand new diaper on him. (Incidentally, I may also not have noticed that my little girl was wearing two right shoes).

Fortunately in my case these occasional oversights rarely resulted in a rash, but when they did it was a very simple fix. Here are the details:

Rash Features

Very often, the distinguishing feature of this kind of rash is that it doesn’t show up in skin folds/creases where wetness can’t reach. The skin is usually flat, red and irritated. May sometimes peel.

Things That May Help:

  • Frequent changes (Make sure to pat child’s skin dry rather than rub)
  • Bottom balm + homemade powder for baby 
  • Diaper-free time: If the weather is warm spending some time outside is a great option; otherwise time indoors on a floor that’s easy to clean will work. Fresh air tends to help speed healing.
  • Avoiding wipes that contain alcohol or fragrance (tutorial on how to make your own wipe solution coming soon!)
  • Nap for mama

Culprit #2: Yeast

This is one of the most common causes of diaper rash. Antibiotics kill good and bad bacteria but leave yeasts like candida albicans intact, and when its competition is eliminated candida thrives. (Gut & Psychology Syndrome, page 42) Unfortunately, most of us have had more than a few rounds of antibiotics growing up and we may pass on these imbalances via the birthing process. Did you have any idea? I certainly didn’t when my first child was born. (Note: I have since learned that there are things we can do to increase the quality of the gut microbiota they receive from us.)

Antibiotics administered during birth can have the same effect, as can antibiotics administered directly to baby or indirectly via mom while she is breastfeeding. When overgrowth in babies occurs it can sometimes lead to thrush and/or diaper rash. Here are the details:

Rash Features

Yeasty rashes may look like pimples or open chicken pox. It may spread into skin folds/creases. If baby has struggled with thrush (an overgrowth of yeast in the mouth) and chronic diaper rashes, yeast is a likely culprit for the rashes.

Things That May Help:

  • DO NOT USE CORNSTARCH if yeast is suspected – it will feed the yeast and perpetuate the rash. Clay is a better option. I’ll explain how to make your own powder later this week.
  • Probiotics specially formulated for babies
  • Apply kefir directly to the rash as you would diaper cream. Make sure skin is dry before application and dilute with coconut oil if kefir makes baby uncomfortable. Start by applying at every change, then spread out applications as needed.
  • Change baby frequently (Make sure to pat child’s skin dry rather than rub)
  • Bottom balm + homemade powder for baby 
  • Mix a 50/50 solution of water and raw apple cider vinegar. Dab on affected area with a cotton ball or cloth that will be thoroughly disinfected later. Pat dry.
  • Tea tree oil is a natural anti-fungal, as is coconut oil. Many parents report success with applying 5 drops tea tree oil mixed with 2 tablespoons of coconut oil. Notes: Do not apply undiluted tea tree oil to skin – it will burn! And no, I personally do not think tea tree oil will cause an estrogen imbalance. Here’s why.
  • Diaper-free time: If the weather is warm spending some time outside is a great option; otherwise time indoors on a floor that’s easy to clean will work. Fresh air tends to help speed healing.
  • Avoiding wipes that contain alcohol or fragrance

Preventing Reinfection

According to this post, “Yeast bacteria can live up to 5 days on baby’s skin and clothes even after the rash has cleared. Be sure to disinfect baby’s diapers, clothes, and sheets in between uses and up to 5 days after the rash has cleared to prevent reoccurrence.” Here are some ideas for disinfecting your laundry:

  • Diaper Stripping – If you use cloth diapers you may need to strip them. Here’s how to do that – some suggestions are greener than others.
  • Oxygen Bleach such as OxiClean Free – “Oxygenated Bleaches/Non Chlorine Bleach (Sodium Percarbonate): is effective against bacteria and fungal yeast, and can be used at lower temperatures but is considered ” more effective when used in hot water 130º F.”(2) Concentrations for effective disinfecting are not documented. Some oxygenated bleaches are loaded with other additives. We suggest you read your labels well and find one without fillers and fragrance and that has a high percentage of Sodium Percarbonate.” (Source)
  • Sun – Exposing your dipes to sunlight will help with the disinfection process.
  • Bleach – If your dipes continue to cause issues chlorine bleach may be a last resort. Here’s how to use it.

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Culprit #3: Teething Or Illness

Though we’re not exactly sure why, diarrhea sometimes accompanies teething. Some people think it’s because babies drool a bit more during that time and swallowing excessive drool loosens the bowels. Whatever the reason, diarrhea sometimes happens, and it can quickly lead to a rash.

Rash Features

Varies.

Things That May Help

  • Comfort measures for teething may reduce drooling. Here are some other things I’ve found helpful. Also, if you’re a fan of homeopathics check out this post.
  • For illness related diarrhea, different measures can be taken to boost immune function depending on the babies age.
  • Frequent changes (Make sure to pat child’s skin dry rather than rub)
  • Barrier cream + homemade powder for baby 
  • Diaper-free time: If the weather is warm spending some time outside is a great option; otherwise time indoors on a floor that’s easy to clean will work. Fresh air tends to help speed healing.
  • Avoiding wipes that contain alcohol or fragrance

Culprit #4: New Foods/Food Sensitivities/Allergies

Acidic foods like tomato and citrus can cause a rash, as can foods to which the baby is sensitive or allergic. If baby is breastfed, certain foods consumed by mama can also cause irritation.

Rash Features

May look like a red ring around baby’s anus.

Things That May Help

  • Removing suspected foods from the diet. For more information on food sensitivities, check out Gut & Psychology Syndrome.
  • Frequent changes (Make sure to pat child’s skin dry rather than rub)
  • Barrier cream + homemade powder for baby 
  • Diaper-free time: If the weather is warm spending some time outside is a great option; otherwise time indoors on a floor that’s easy to clean will work. Fresh air tends to help speed healing.
  • Avoiding wipes that contain alcohol or fragrance

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Culprit #5: Baby Care Products, Detergents And/Or Fabrics

If you’re cloth diapering, leftover detergent residue and/or the chemicals in detergents and fabric softeners can be irritating to baby’s bum. Other possible culprits are the type of fabric used (though this is rare) and/or bath products and creams. The U.S. is not as strict as other nations about the type of ingredients used in baby products so this is a real possibility. For example, the European Union requires that pure borax be labeled with warnings such as “may damage fertility” and “may damage unborn child,” while in the U.S. it can be found in diaper creams. (Source)

Rash Features

Varies

Things That May Help

  • Use a natural laundry detergent
  • If you use cloth diapers you may need to strip them. Here’s how to do that – some suggestions are greener than others.
  • If you’re using disposable dipes or wipes, consider trying a new brand
  • Diaper-free time: If the weather is warm spending some time outside is a great option; otherwise time indoors on a floor that’s easy to clean will work. Fresh air tends to help speed healing.
  • Avoiding wipes that contain alcohol or fragrance

Culprit #6: Bacterial Infection

Sometimes a regular ole rash can become vulnerable to bacteria, which of course love warm, moist environments like diapers.

Rash Features

Varies. May possibly have pus, raw skin, or raised patches that ooze.

Things That May Help

  • Tea tree oil is a natural antimicrobial, as is coconut oil. Many parents report success with applying 5 drops tea tree oil mixed with 2 tablespoons of coconut oil. Notes: Do not apply undiluted tea tree oil to skin – it will burn! And no, I personally do not think tea tree oil will cause an estrogen imbalance. Here’s why.
  • Diaper-free time: If the weather is warm spending some time outside is a great option; otherwise time indoors on a floor that’s easy to clean will work. Fresh air tends to help speed healing.
  • Avoiding wipes that contain alcohol or fragrance

Culprit #7: Gut Imbalance

Gut flora imbalances can lead to diaper rash, eczema, psoriasis and other conditions. Though I have already covered this in the section on yeast rashes, it is worth mentioning that there are other possible culprits other than yeast. Identifying them may require the help of a qualified health care professional.

Things That May Help

  • Seeking the guidance of a qualified healthcare provider to correct the imbalance
  • Diaper-free time: If the weather is warm spending some time outside is a great option; otherwise time indoors on a floor that’s easy to clean will work. Fresh air tends to help speed healing.
  • Avoiding wipes that contain alcohol or fragrance
  • Probiotics specially formulated for babies
  • Reading Gut & Psychology Syndrome

Have you tried a home remedy for diaper rash? What worked for you?

Sources:

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/diaper-rash/DS00069/DSECTION=causes
http://www.pinstripesandpolkadots.com/ReasonsforRash.htm
http://www.babble.com/baby/is-it-diaper-rash/is-it-diaper-rash-1/
http://www.tinkletinkletoot.com/Diaper-Rash-Blues_b_2.html

Photo credit: Bingbing, FreeFormKatia

Disclaimer: I AM NOT A DOCTOR and I do not give healthcare advice. The information in this post has not been evaluated by the FDA and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. This is simply what I would do if one of my kids had one of these kinds of rashes. See my full disclaimer here.

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34 Responses to 7 Causes of Diaper Rash and How to Treat Them Naturally

  1. Jean says:

    The doctor said my child had peri-anal strep and gave us antibiotics. Sadness! I so didn’t want to use the antibiotics. Wish I had known to use some tea tree oil, I even have it at home.

    • Alison says:

      If it makes you feel any better, my son had a strep rash that was insidious and it wasn’t until I had to put him on antibiotics for c.diff that it finally cleared up. He has some scars on his bottom from it. NOTHING natural worked. I am rabidly anti-antibiotic too. It was so bad that it actually lived in the cloth diapers and started to infect my other son a few years later. I had to bleach everything, which I am also VERY against. The solution was the antithesis of everything I believe in.

  2. Alex says:

    Thanks for the info! I don’t know why I never thought of ACV on my baby’s bottom.

    I have also heard of using goldenseal powder with coconut oil or butt paste for a strong antimicrobial.

    • Adam says:

      DONT put apple code vinegar on a diaper rash!! Are you crazy? This will still and just cause more pain and ongoing discomfort. There are plenty of other remedies that don’t do this. Use your head

  3. Khaleelah says:

    For a simple rash (infrequent changes + heat + sweat) after/while we were moving, I applied some primrose oil and did a bit of diaper free time on a blanket. Within about a day the rash was pretty non-existent. I also will occasionally put some primrose oil on chafing he gets around his legs. He’s outgrowing some of the cloth diapers, but not completely ready for all the bigger ones :/

  4. Dawne says:

    Breast milk does a great job. I just squirt a little on whenever my baby';s bum looks red, let it dry, and put on a little coconut oil. Works great!

  5. Kailah says:

    What an exhaustive list – perfect for the new Mama

  6. karen matusow says:

    pay special attention to what mama is eating…too much acid will cause diaper rash.
    my boy had a extremely bad diaper rash, then I realised I was drinking too much pelligrino and eating too much soft cheese. I cut this out and diaper rash was gone.

  7. melanie says:

    i am currently using coconut oil with some lavender essential oil and a bit of beef tallow. it’s great to promote healing and a good coating for protection. it is also very soothing when the bottom is sore.

  8. Lisa says:

    Anyone that has heard of the Enagic Kangen water processor knows that this incredible machine makes 7 waters that the Japanese have used in their hospitals and homes for 40 years. For diaper rash, Mama would spray the 2.5pH water which kills 99.9% of all bacteria, strep, staph, MRSA, etc. on contact allowing the baby’s skin to stop infecting. Next you would spraying the 11.5pH water to promote healing. And to prevent anymore rash, you would regularly spray the beauty water (6.0pH) to tone and protect the baby’s skin. This is non-toxic, non-invasive and causes no discomfort to the child! An incredible way to have a happy, healthy baby. <3

    • Katie Aleman says:

      You are crazy! 2.5 pH is pretty much the strength of white distilled vinegar, calling it “water” doesn’t make it any better, it’s an acid. You would be putting undiluted acid on your child’s raw behind! You’re crazy, irresponsible, and providing dangerous information.

      Also, “water” with 11.5pH is the strength of ammonia! Learn your chemistry people! You are dangerous!

  9. Joanne says:

    Great list! My daughter had a yeast infection on her bottom and I was able to clear it up in 2 weeks switching her off cloth and using coconut oil w/ tea tree. The pediatrician gave me a statin cream but I never had to use it! I feel so powerful when I don’t have to rely on prescriptions!

  10. Becky says:

    My babies rarely had rashes. When I saw one coming, I would just change twice as often. I thought putting my son in a disposable would be a good idea and that the diaper would wick away moisture, but the chemicals in the diaper made it worse. As soon as I put him back in cloth, it was gone. Also, if it was “persistent” (meaning I saw the rash for more than two diaper changes), then I would use some sort of barrier like lanolin and it would be gone by the next diaper change.

    I also have to completely agree with Karen Matusow! My babies were very sensitive to things I ate. It’s amazing!

  11. Tori says:

    I can’t tell you how long I’ve scoured the internet looking for this exact information. Especially including what exactly the rash is supposed to look like! Thank you thank you thank you!!!!

  12. […] my post on decoding diaper rash, here are my three favorite formulas for bottom balm and […]

  13. Cori says:

    I use Puremedy Baby Salve on my infant for diaper rash, cuts and scratches, AND cradle cap–it works like a charm! Usually one application is all it takes. It’s made with all-natural ingredients including pine resin, so your little one smells like a Christmas tree when you use it! It makes for slightly greasy hair for the first few hours after application for cradle cap, but hey, it works!

  14. Monica says:

    What a great list! I especially like the rash descriptions. I use my doterra melaleuca (tea tree) oil on open cuts and scrapes all the time without burning. It is always better to be safe than sorry, especially with babies. I do always dilute with babies. I read that 300% more melaleuca is sold than what is produced, so maybe that’s where some of the trouble comes in.

  15. Sarah b says:

    My daughter got a staph infection. I don’t wish this on my worst enemy. It was six months of doctor visits and her in constant pain. Her diaper area was one giant boil/open sore. Horrible. I tried it all. I did all the topical antibiotics and even one round internally. I tried every cream and product. It lived on. In desperation I tried raw honey with extra propolis. It was magic. I highly recommend trying raw honey on their butt if you have a problem. We have since used it on all diaper problems. I mix it with some tallow and coconut oil and smear it on. Good stuff!

  16. Jacqueline says:

    My pediatrician told me the cause of diarrhea while teething is because their saliva becomes more acidic to help the teeth to break through. Weird, huh?

  17. Liz says:

    This article is very useful, if you didn’t mind, I’d love to translate this article in my blog, of course I will include the source.You did not mind do you?

  18. renato says:

    Olive Oil. Cold pressed extra virgin. We’d put it on at night and the next day already there was a vast improvement.

  19. catherine says:

    So other than eating right and changing frequently, what do you use for basic, everyday prevention? Would clay powder do the trick, or do you use a type of cream too? I feel silly asking this but it’s all so new and foreign to me! (Baby is not here yet but I’m slowly adding to my cupboard of DIY product ingredients)

    • Heather says:

      Hi Catherine, I’ve personally found that if all the likely root causes (listed in the post) are addressed that there isn’t much need for prevention. My little ones had a little rash here and there but for the most part they were fine without the use of balms and powders.

      • catherine says:

        Thank you! and thanks so much for all these posts…we used to go to our mothers for tips on mothering, but now so many know nothing about cloth diapers, homemade products, and all the chemicals out there. It takes an (internet) village!

  20. Daniel Lenochka Khashchuk via FB says:

    My daughter had a horrible rash that no creams helped or any brands of diapers.
    The day i switched to cloth diapering, not only her horrible rash was gone in a few days but she never had a rash again.
    I say cloth diapering is the best, there’s no chemicals in the diaper , just cotton :)

  21. Mashi Rahimi via FB says:

    Azra doesn’t the baby in the photograph remind you of Safia?

  22. Sarah Dolezal via FB says:

    Fan the fanny! I always always fan my little one’s bum with her diaper til it’s dry before I put it on. Always making sure she’s air-dried before I put her diaper on seems to help.

  23. Azra Sehic via FB says:

    Yes she does a bit, more so the piggy tails than anything else Mashi =) x

  24. Angela says:

    Do you think plain organic yoghurt could work in place of kefir for a yeast infection? I’m nearly certain my 18 month old has a yeast infection and do have yoghurt in the house. I also have Prescript Assist probiotic capsules if you have a suggestion for how to use those (topically? orally?)…
    She’s never had antibiotics and I never had them while pregnant or nursing her, so that part stumps me.
    Do you recommend clay or a powder after every change to keep moisture off her skin?
    THANK YOU :)

  25. Tamara says:

    What kind of cloth diapers do you use? Would love to see a post on your experience with them. Thanks!

  26. Tahoe Mama says:

    I been using cloth diapers on LO since he was about 2.5 months. We both shared a really bad case of yeast infection early on, and had to treat it with prescriptions. The oral Nystatin for infants is horrible! It contains sugar, which just feeds what ever yeast survive. The Nystatin cream seemed to work much better on the external yeast infection on his bum. I did have to use spoises while treating that yeast rash. The best that I’ve found are the Andy Pandy Bamboo diapers. They keep his bum dry and are super absorbent.

    We were doing really good at keeping redness away (I credit the wipe solution that I make with chamomile E.O., lavender E.O., and calendula extract) then at around 15 months his molars started to come in and he developed a horrible rash and loose poo. I think the poo caused the rash. I’ve been trying every possible thing to clear this rash up; now I’m onto a clay butt cream. I’ve also started giving him a probiotic. Keeping my fingers crossed that this treatment will show good results, or it’s off to the doctor’s office.

  27. This article is very useful,Thanks for the info! I don’t know why I never thought of ACV on my baby’s bottom.

  28. Jen says:

    Good article, except, yeast is a fungus, not a bacteria…which a quote from another source stated. Fungus is not difficult to get rid of, but you do have to be vigilant and persistent. :)

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