5 Simple Ways to Prevent Diaper Rash

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It’s something all parents of a newborn dread: changing your baby’s diaper and seeing his/her little bottom covered in red splotches. Welcome to the world of diaper rash. Most babies get it at some point, and it is generally harmless if treated.

Whether you choose cloth or disposable diapers, your newborn will wet and/or soil diapers approximately 10 times a day, or 70 times a week. That’s a lot of diapers! And a lot of potential diaper rash. At Westchester Health Pediatrics, we’re here to help, with tips and advice for keeping your little one clean and dry and rash-free.

What causes diaper rash?

Lauren Adler_02R WEB72

Lauren Adler, MD, FAAP

Most cases of diaper rash occur because your baby’s skin is sensitive and can easily become irritated by a wet or poopy diaper. Typically diaper rash looks red and bumpy and will go away in a few days with warm baths, diaper cream and a little air time out of the diaper.

Diaper rash symptoms

With a diaper rash, the skin underneath the diaper area is red and irritated. It may appear all over your baby’s bottom or genital area, or only in certain places, and may or may not involve the folds of the skin.

To prevent diaper rash, try these 5 tips:

  1. Change your baby’s diaper frequently, especially after bowel movements.
  2. Thoroughly clean and air-dry the diaper area at each changing. Sometimes sitting your baby in a few inches of lukewarm water does the best job of getting the skin clean.
  3. After cleaning the area with mild soap and water or a wipe, apply a diaper rash or “barrier” cream. Creams with zinc oxide are preferred because they form a barrier against moisture.
  4. If you’re using cloth diapers, wash them in dye- and fragrance-free detergents.
  5. If possible, let your baby go un-diapered for part of the day. This gives the skin under the diaper a chance to air out.

NOTE: If diaper rash continues for more than 3 days or seems to be getting worse, call your doctor. It may be a fungal infection that requires a prescription.

Diapering 101: Start by having everything you need close at hand

Before diapering your baby, make sure you have all the supplies you’ll need within reach. Never leave your infant unattended on the changing table. Unfortunately, falls and injuries can happen in the blink of an eye.

Here is what you’ll need:

  1. a clean diaper
  2. warm water
  3. clean washcloth or wipes
  4. diaper ointment or cream
  5. baby powder

The ins and outs of diapering like a pro

  1. Always wash your hands thoroughly before and especially after changing a diaper.
  2. After each bowel movement or if the diaper is wet, lay your baby gently on his/her back on a flat, secure surface. A changing table with raised sides (so your baby can’t roll off) is best.
  3. Remove the dirty diaper and using the wet washcloth or wipes, gently wipe your baby’s genital area clean. With girls, wipe from front to back to avoid a vaginal or urinary tract infection. Note: when removing a boy’s diaper, be aware that exposure to the air may make him urinate, so be careful!
  4. To prevent or heal a rash, liberally apply diaper ointment or cream.
  5. If there appears to be chafing, sprinkle some cornstarch baby powder (not talc) on the area.

Call your doctor if these conditions develop:

  • The rash does not get better despite treatment in 4-7 days.
  • The rash is getting significantly worse or has spread to other parts of the body.
  • The rash appears also to have a bacterial infection, with symptoms such as a pus-like drainage or yellowish-colored crusting. This is called impetigo and needs to be treated with antibiotics.
  • You are not certain what may be causing the rash.
  • You suspect the rash could be from an allergy. Your pediatrician can help you pinpoint the possible allergen.
  • The rash is accompanied by diarrhea continuing for more than 48 hours.

Want to learn more about diapering your baby? Come see us.

If you have questions, want more tips on diapering your baby, or would even like to come in and practice diapering, please come in to see one of our Westchester Health Pediatrics pediatricians. We’ll do everything we can to help your baby get the best start in life and grow up happy and healthy.

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By Lauren Adler, MD, FAAP, a Westchester Health Pediatrics pediatrician.

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About the Author: ML Ball