Practical advice for new parents

Cradle Cap

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What is Cradle Cap?

Cradle cap (or infantile seborrhoeic dermatitis) refers to the relatively thick, scaly, yellow or reddish crusty skin that appears on the top of the scalp of a newborn. While very unsightly, there is nothing to worry about with cradle cap as it is quite normal and harmless to your baby and should clear up of its own accord eventually.

Cradle cap can make its first appearance on your newborn in the earliest weeks or months of his/her life, and can last up to a year or so, although it is most common that cradle cap on most babies clears up within a matter of a few months or so.

While cradle cap itself specifically refers to the instance of seborrhoeic dermatitis on the scalp, the condition can be found on other parts of the baby's body such as under the arms, and around the face, ears and neck. Seborrhoeic dermatitis can also be sometimes found in the folds of the baby's joints and skin and even on the back.

As with many things in the medical profession, there is still some debate as to what causes cradle cap. Rather than go into any form of debate about what might cause cradle cap, what we can say is what doesn't cause it - and that's poor hygiene or any other action on behalf of the parents or the baby itself. All babies are equally susceptible to cradle cap, and it is a perfectly normal condition that bears no reflection on the actions of the parents.

The thing to remember is that it looks much worse than it is. In all likelihood, your baby is not bothered by it, so neither should you. Cradle cap is not itchy to the baby, nor does it cause any discomfort and it's not contagious to other children or people. However, if you do want to try to get rid of cradle cap from your baby's scalp, there are methods that should help:

Cradle Cap Treatment

Firstly, do not try to force the removal of patches of cradle cap from your baby's scalp. The best method of removing cradle cap is to soften up the area with a mild shampoo first and then gently scrape the area with a comb or brush (a small toothbrush is ideal for this). It is best that you remove a little at a time, and spread the treatments out over a period of time, as this helps to minimise the irritation to the skin of your baby. Depending on the extent and the thickness of the cradle cap, you should see results after the first treatment. Remember, go gently and take your time, and the cradle cap will come off eventually, but the key is to soften up the skin as much as possible beforehand. You can also try to soften up the scalp further by applying small amounts of baby oil to the affected areas about 20 minutes before shampooing, and this should help loosen up the scaly sections further.

If left alone, cradle cap should clear up naturally by the time the baby is 6 months old although, as with all things with babies, some cases will take longer to clear and some will clear up sooner. Simple regular cleaning of the scalp will keep the cradle cap at bay once you have the condition under control.

In more severe or extensive cases there are medicated shampoos that your doctor can prescribe, so if you are worried in any way about the presence of cradle cap or seborrhoeic dermatitis on your baby then ask your doctor or medical professional for advice.

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