Cradle Cap Causes – Treatments and Prevention

Cradle cap is one of the wonders you will wake up to as a nursing mother. Yes, it doesn’t give any sign – it appears from nowhere and can be overwhelming, considering how it has the tendency to spread all over your baby in no time.

The condition occurs in 80 percent of babies – especially when they are between 0 – 3 months of age. It can be scary and causes a lot of mothers to panic. Like many conditions and issues that occur with newborn babies, cradle caps are not as severe as they usually seem and rarely cause the baby any form of discomfort whatsoever.

In this article, we will discuss the fundamentals and advanced intricacies of cradle caps, in order to give you a robust understanding of how best to handle it and care for your baby when they appear. Check out all you need to know about cradle caps below:


What is Cradle Cap?

Cradle cap is a greasy-like rash, usually yellowish in nature that appears on the scalps and sometimes bodies of young infants within their first 3 months.

They are also known by different other names, including crusta lacteal, milk crust, honeycomb disease, pityriasis capitis, and infantile seborrhoeic dermatitis. You have nothing to fear despite all the scary names that cradle cap can be identified with.

To date, there is no proven cause for the condition but science has linked it to the hormones of the mother of the child. Scientists claim that these hormones escape through the placenta during childbirth, and since they are misplaced, they cause the baby to react.

Cradle cap basically occurs when the baby’s system is releasing more oils than usual, so they look for means to escape through the infant’s skin. It can be mistaken for dandruff and looks a lot like it.

Lastly, it will relieve you a lot to know that cradle cap is not contagious in any way and does not affect the infant or the nursing mother (or caregiver) in any way whatsoever. So, keep your mind at rest, your baby is fine.

[Also Read: How to Keep Your Baby Cool In the Car Seat]


Causes of Cradle Cap – What Causes Cradle Cap in Baby

As I mentioned earlier in the article, the causes of cradle cap are somewhat unknown, so all publications and accounts that tie it to bacterial infection, bad hygiene, or an allergy are baseless and unfounded.

However, scientists have given an explanation to the possible reasons behind the condition. According to them, the condition could result from overactive sebaceous glands which produce oil-like substances known as sebum.

When the over-reactive sebaceous glands produce too much of the sebum, it prevents the baby’s old skin cells from falling off the scalp, rather they stick to the baby’s body in form of dandruff.

Like I mentioned earlier, the reason why this is possible in the first place is that the mother’s hormones that passed through the placenta are causing a reaction in the baby – due to its elongated stay in a ‘foreign’ body.

On the other hand, fungal infection in the baby can lead to cradle cap – let me explain how. When the infant has a fungi infection, the antibodies or antibiotics you administer will go to action against it as they should.

In the process of fighting these fungi, the antibiotics end up destroying the useful bacteria in the baby’s system and it can lead to cradle cap in the baby. Are there useful bacteria in the human body? Well, yes there are!


Cradle Cap Treatments – How to Treat Cradle Cap

In most cases involving cradle cap, there is no need for the nursing mother or caregiver to take action because the condition clears off on its own within a couple of weeks or months. (Although I will admit that looks like forever to some nursing mothers and care givers.)

However, when you notice changes on your baby, you should make use of oils and a mild shampoo to wash the baby’s hair – apply the oil or a lotion before the shampoo to prevent scaling.

Many experts also advise mothers and caregivers to carefully brush the baby’s hair with a soft brush to remove the dry scales – or dandruff-like elements on the baby’s hair. You should repeat this process bi-weekly or at two days intervals to prevent the cradle caps from returning or becoming more evident than they should be.

If you notice that these approaches did not make any changes and you are genuinely becoming more worried than you should be, then you can contact your family pediatrician. The doctor will examine the baby to know if there are inflammations or an infection.

In the absence of these, the doctor is likely to prescribe a stronger shampoo for use. But if the doctor notices that there are inflammations or an infection, the doctor will prescribe an antibiotic. In addition to the antibiotics, a steroid-based soap or an antifungal soap or shampoo may be prescribed.

In a nutshell, cradle cap should not cause any worries, but if your instincts tell you that something is wrong more than the ordinary, you should see an expert to carry out some examinations.


How to Prevent Cradle Cap – Cradle Cap Remedies

Since cradle cap does not have any known physical causes, it is difficult to try and prevent it from occurring. On most occasions, it clears on its own even without any action by the parents or caregiver.

To date, there is no direction or advice as to how we can prevent it, however, it has been proven that gentle washing and frequent brushing – especially after it has cleared up on its own or treated, goes a long way to preventing it from occurring again.

Yes, there have been cases where the symptoms re-occurs after treatment or disappearance. So, it is advisable to try to manage it when it occurs because the dryness can increase the dandruff-like elements.

Again, you should note that this has no effect on you or the infant, but most times nursing mothers and caregivers do not appreciate the sight of it; hence their decision to always take action.


Complications of Cradle Cap

I have always heard women say ‘Oh yes, I hear there is nothing to worry about Cradle cap itself, but are there any complications? Anything else I should worry about?’

Should you worry? My answer is usually no, but should you be cautious, my answer is one and the same – you can never be too cautious! Cradle cap should be monitored so that it doesn’t worsen or lead to something more complicated.

More so, when you notice that any of the following is occurring as a result of the cradle cap, it is advisable that you take caution or contact a pediatrician if need be.

1. Severe Redness of the Area: Normally, there is bound to be a coloration around the area, but if you notice severe redness in the area, then there probably is a little problem that needs your attention.

2. Cradle Cap Spread to Face and Body: Under normal circumstances, cradle cap should be on the scalp of your infant – not the body. If for any reason whatsoever, you notice there is a spread across the baby’s body, chances are that there is an infection.

3. Irritation Creeps In: Once you notice irritation around the patches of the cradle cap, it could mean that a bacterium is building on the area. At this point, you may want to seek expert advice.

4. Diaper Rash: If you suddenly start noticing that your infant is having diaper rash – when she shouldn’t, then it is probably because she is reacting to something. The diaper rash could be a result of a reaction to an infection around the cradle cap area.

5. The Infant Suffers from Ear Fungi Infection: It may not be a coincidence that your baby is experiencing cradle cap and suffering from ear fungi infection. If you experience this, it is a result of an infection on the cradle cap. So, you should consult a medical expert, especially because of the ear infection.

6. Crack and Bleeding: If you notice that the area where the infant is experiencing cradle cap is opening up and bleeding, then it is a sign that there is a bacterial infection. You should consult a medical expert to carry out an examination on the baby, just to be on the safer side.


Symptoms of Cradle Cap

On many occasions, you will wake up to see the effects, but if you are a very observant nursing mother or caregiver, you will notice the changes from a day or two before.

It usually starts off on the baby’s scalp but could spread downwards towards the corners of the baby’s ears. On some occasions, it appears in little patches around the infant’s eyelids, nose, groin, and armpits.

One important thing to note is that you should resist the temptation of trying to scratch the area where the cradle cap is visible, as it could lead to infection. Also, if the cradle cap is on the baby’s head, scratching it can lead to loss of hair – which may pull off with the cradle cap scraps.