Cradle cap in babies is like dandruff in adults; both quite harmless, but can be pretty annoying. They result from a type of dermatitis that causes rough, scaly patches and flaky skin on the scalp. Babies are too cute for that!
Unfortunately, cradle cap is way too common, and usually appears between one and three months of age. It presents itself as scaly patches that are white or yellow in color, and can be dry or greasy. It is, however, not contagious, neither is it associated with poor hygiene. And while most mild cases completely resolve on their own, a few days of treatment can go a long way. Here’s how you can handle it at home.
Use shampoo daily
Like you might have thought; shampooing your baby’s scalp every day can help treat and prevent cradle cap. It is recommended to use gentle baby shampoo with minimal scent. There are ways to get rid of cradle cap smell, but fragrances used in shampoos can lead to skin sensitivities – you don’t want to add that to the list of things to worry about.
Massage with oil
Massaging your baby’s scalp with a very small amount of baby or mineral oil (coconut and sunflower oils) can help soften the scales on their skin, making them easier to remove later. It is recommended to steer clear from essential oils like olive, geranium, and tea tree oils, as they are highly scented and may cause eczema.
About 30 to 60 minutes after washing or massaging with oil, gently brush or massage your baby’s scalp with a baby brush or comb. This is a good way to easily remove scale build-up. However, you must try to avoid scratching or picking at the scales because it can aggravate the condition.
As a last resort
If all of the above fails, see your pediatrician as they might recommend a prescription of an antifungal shampoo (ketoconazole), and possibly some creams to treat the condition. However, this is relatively rare, because if your baby isn’t actually bothered by the cradle cap, it usually tends to go away on its own by eight to 12 months of age.
When to see a Doctor
If you notice that your baby’s skin is becoming red and inflamed, or if the scales start to bleed or become itchy; if the scales appear outside the scalp area; or if your child is acting ill or has a fever, it would be time to pay your pediatrician a visit.
Although it may not be the most pleasant thing in the world, cradle cap is a completely normal, common, and totally treatable condition. Approach it with daily shampooing, oil massages and gentle brushes before jumping to doctor mode. The most important thing to do is pay attention for any signs of itching, fever, and bleeding dots, for those are your cues for a doctor’s visit. And most of all, enjoy holding your little bundle of joy in your arms, and enjoy being their parent for all its worth.