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Jennifer L.W. Fink
Registered Nurse

Diaper Rash

Baby’s got a rash on her bum? Here’s what to do.

What is diaper rash?

Diaper rash is a parental rite of passage – and definitely one of those you’ll-know-it-when-you-see-it kinds of things.

What are the symptoms of diaper rash in babies?

Diaper rash is marked by red, inflamed and irritated skin on baby’s bum. Sometimes, just a part of the diaper area is affected.

Are there any tests for diaper rash?

Nope, you won’t need a test to tell you when your baby has diaper rash. Your baby’s red, irritated bottom — and cranky-pants mood — is all the evidence you need.

How common is diaper rash in babies?

Extremely common. Most babies will develop diaper rash at least once. In fact, most babies will get diaper rash more than once.

Diaper rash is most common during the first 15 months of life, but it’s especially prevalent between the nine and twelfth months, because that’s when most babies begin eating a wide variety of solid foods, and their bodies are adjusting to the switch.

How did my baby get a diaper rash?

Think about it: your baby’s bottom is frequently in contact with pee and pop, two completely-irritating substances. The dark, moist environment of a diaper is also perfectly suited for yeast, a common cause of diaper rash.

But that’s just the beginning. Allergies, illness, foods and medication can contribute to diaper rash too. Some babies are allergic or particularly sensitive to certain baby wipes or soaps, so they may trigger diaper rash.  Diarrhea ups baby’s chances of getting diaper rash, and so does introducing new foods. Watch when baby’s on medication, too: Antibiotics can cause diaper rash by disrupting the normal balance of bacteria in the gut and make it easier for yeast to flourish.

What’s the best way to treat diaper rash in babies?

Keep baby’s down-there area as clean and dry as possible. Change diapers frequently. Use a cloth with plain water, instead of baby wipes, to give him a good clean, since most baby wipes contain chemicals that can be irritating to inflamed skin; water is much gentler and just as effective. Pat the area dry, since rubbing can make irritation worse. Apply a barrier cream, such as petroleum jelly or zinc oxide, to dry skin to prevent further irritation.

Let baby go diaper-free for a little while. Leaving the area open to air — even for a few minutes — can help decrease the moisture and the humidity that gets trapped in the diaper area.

Most cases of diaper rash clear up with home treatment in just a few days. If the rash stays for more than a week, despite your best efforts, consult a doctor. You should also call a doctor if you notice open sores or bleeding.

What can I do to prevent my baby from getting diaper rash?

Keep your baby clean and dry. Change diapers frequently and liberally apply barrier cream, especially at naptime and bedtime. “You want to coat your baby’s bottom so that the poop and pee doesn’t touch the skin,” says Natasha Burgert, MD, FAAP, pediatrician at Pediatric Associates in Kansas City, Missouri. “Many people use over-the-counter diaper creams sparingly because they’re expensive, but that doesn’t work very well. You need a good thick coat.”

What do other moms do when their babies have diaper rash?

“We’ve used Desitin, Buttpaste, and Vaseline. Vaseline works best for my daughter. It's also easier to wipe off. Just make sure your baby is completely dry before you put it on. If not you’ll just seal in the moisture and make the rash worse.”

“We blow-dry my baby’s bum on cold every change and use cotton balls with water instead of wipes.”

“I turned to my brother for advice, since his son had a recurring rash problem, and he suggested we alternate Desitin with Aquaphor and to make sure baby’s bum is completely dry before putting anything on. Our routine became to clean him up, pat his butt dry with a tissue, put on either Desitin or Aquaphor and then his diaper. It took about a week, but it has cleared up now!”

Are there any other resources for diaper rash in babies?


_ The Bump expert: Natasha Burgert, MD, FAAP, pediatrician at Pediatric Associates in Kansas City, Missouri_

More from The Bump:

How Many Diapers a Day is Normal?

Are Diaper Wipes Safe for Newborns?

The Difference Between Cloth Diapers and Disposable