Cradle cap Is Not a Cute Hat

It’s flaky, it’s scaly, it’s sticky, and may have an oily smell. It can cover the head, forehead, eyebrows and ears. Cradle cap is not a cute hat. It can leave parents wondering what is wrong and how to fix it.

Cradle cap shows up as flakes on the skin or thick patches in the baby’s hair. It is not contagious, itchy, or harmful to the baby. It is not a result of poor hygiene. Mayo Clinic suggests hormones from the birth or yeast could be a contributing cause. The true cause is unclear, but the oil glands and hair follicles produce extra oil resulting in cradle cap. The medical term is sebborheic dermatitis.

What to do?

If your baby has cradle cap, you can treat it at home. Mild cases of cradle cap may clear quickly. More significant cases may take several months to improve. If the cradle cap does not improve with home treatments or spreads to face and body, your little one should be evaluated by their pediatrician.

Home Treatment

If your baby has cradle cap, you will want to get a few supplies ready.

  • A baby brush or fine-toothed comb (for babies with hair)
  • A toothbrush (for bald babies)
  • Coconut oil or mineral oil (be mindful of allergies)
  • Shampoo
  • Washcloth
  • Bath Towel

Step 1: Apply the oil to the baby’s scalp. Take some time to massage it in and disrupt the scales.

Step 2: Let the oil stay in the hair for about 20 minutes. The oil loosens the flakes from the hair or scalp.

Step 3: Gently comb or brush your baby’s head and scalp to remove the scales. If there are places that really stick, re-apply or give the oil more time to work.

Step 4: Use the washcloth and shampoo to wash the baby’s hair. Be sure to remove all the soaking oil. If that oil remains it can make the cradle cap worse.

Step 5: Repeat these steps every day until the cradle cap resolves.

Step 6: Once the cradle cap is gone, continue to shampoo your baby’s head every day or so to keep the oil buildup at a minimum.

Other tips:

If the cradle cap is on the forehead or ears, you can use the same steps above. Just use the washcloth to try to remove the patches from the skin. Never scrape at the scales on the face or ears. If there are ever patches on the skin or scalp that start to bleed, be sure to contact your pediatrician.

Cradle cap is most common in babies up to 3 months and usually resolves completely by 1 year. For long-term cases, your pediatrician may recommend prescription a mild steroid, hydrocortisone or anti-fungal cream. Do not use over-the-counter forms of these medications without your doctor’s consent.

Here’s to silky baby heads because nothing beats the scent of a newborn!


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