After nine plus months of preparation, anticipation, and anxiety, the little bundle of joy you have been waiting so long for finally makes their debut. Whatever the specific journey of getting them to your family, they are finally here and they are absolutely perfect! From their little button nose, to their itty bitty legs, and even to the ape-like hair found all over their ears and back (known as lanugo and is completely normal, by the way). Your baby is perfect in every single way.
Fast-forward a few months. That same bundle of joy is finally sleeping contently, giving you a chance to sit down and examine his or her precious little features and just how much they have changed over the past few months. Although they are still that perfect little baby you brought home, there is something noticeably different. This something is flaky, brown, and scaly and it is making itself at home on the top of your little one’s head. Now before you hit the panic button, let me explain a few things about this very common, very harmless condition.
What is Cradle Cap?
Cradle cap. Chances are you have heard of it before. But do you really know what it is? The technical term is infantile seborrheic dermatitis (or in laymen’s terms, baby dandruff) and chances are it will go away all on its own in about 6 to 12 months. Although most common in newborns, it can be seen in children as old as 3. And relax, it is completely harmless and will upset you far more than your child.
In addition to an infant’s scalp, cradle cap can also be found on their eyelids, armpits, ears, diaper area, or other parts of the body where creases can be found. Greasy or oily patches of skin, thick crusts on scalp, flakey white or yellow scales, or mild redness are all common signs of cradle cap. However, if your baby seems uncomfortable or itchy from the spots on their skin then it is typically eczema, not cradle cap, to blame.
What Causes Cradle Cap?
Rest assured that although the exact cause of cradle cap is unknown, experts agree that poor hygiene or allergies are not the source. One contributing factor, however, may be that the hormones which pass before birth from the mother to the baby are over stimulated, causing an abnormal production of sebum (oil) in the oil glands and hair follicles. This overproduction clogs pores and you and your child end up with cradle cap as a result. Other factors such as extremes in weather, already oily skin, and other problems with the immune system may make it more likely that a child will develop cradle cap.
How to Treat Cradle Cap?
There is not much you can do to treat cradle cap, but there are a few things you can try if you have are having a hard time deterring your focus from it. These include:
• Wash your baby’s hair once a day with a mild baby shampoo (We recommend California Baby Calendula Shampoo and Body Wash).
• Gently message your baby’s scalp with a soft brush, washcloth, or your fingers in order to loosen the scales.
• Rub a tiny amount of natural oil, such as olive oil or almond oil, or petroleum jelly, on your baby’s scalp and leave it on for 10 to 15 minutes. Gently comb out the flakes with a fine-tooth comb or brush and then wash scalp with a gentle shampoo. If left on their head it could clog their pores and worsen the cradle cap.
• Do NOT use over-the-counter antifungal creams without talking to your pediatrician first because these balms can be toxic when absorbed through the skin.
Is Medical Attention necessary?
In most cases, medical attention is not necessary. It is important to add that if your baby’s cradle cap does not improve with time, if you notice it spreading, or if there is any bleeding, that you contact your baby’s pediatrician. Make note of how long your baby has had cradle cap, what you have done to try and treat it, and how often you shampoo your baby’s hair.