Cradle cap is just one name for an unsightly rash or dandruff like condition that is common in babies under a few years old. This is characterized by thick, yellow and brown scaling on the scalp and in some cases other areas of the body, like neck, knees, and other places where the body creases. It may also resemble eczema, and it takes a trip to the doctor to determine whether your little one has relatively innocuous cradle cap or the much more problematic eczema. Cradle cap is much preferable to the latter simply because it doesn’t really bother infants diagnosed with it.
Extreme cases may become itchy, but before then it’s nothing more than an annoyance for the parents. It’s natural to feel distress when you think your baby might be hurting, so before going into detail about treatment, take a moment to meditate on the fact that your baby is not experiencing any pain from this condition. Thankfully there are treatments that, over the course of a few weeks, typically can cure or at least diminish the presence of cradle cap. The use of baby oil is the least harsh (compared to prescription shampoos) and is the first line of defense against cradle cap.
Cradle Cap Isn’t Your Fault
Again, before we go on we should set your mind at ease: cradle cap is not associated with poor hygiene or allergies, according to Baby Center. This is a very common situation and it’s not your fault. By the time your baby is a year old it will almost certainly have cleared up entirely. So you can move on guilt free to how help your baby without worrying that you’re going to make it worse.
The first step towards getting rid of those hard scabs is to apply baby oil to them. You can start by using a pure, clean baby oil made from vegetables or you can use simple olive oil. Baby oil is recommended because the high quality blend of ingredients from brands like Honest Company will have other benefits to skin outside of softening the scabs. For the practical side, however, vegetable based oils will do. Warm the oil slightly so that it’s more comfortable for the baby and then apply to the scalp with your fingertips, especially in areas with a lot of scabbing.
Just letting the oil sit is enough for mild cases; about 15 minutes is recommended so the scabs have lots of time to soften and loosen. If your baby’s cradle cap is more severe you can do a light fingertip head massage to really get it into the cracks and dry, flakey areas of the scalp. This is often a very relaxing sensation for baby as well, and will help confirm that they really aren’t bothered by the cradle cap themselves; your baby shouldn’t show any pain when their scalp is massaged despite how it looks.
Once the 15 minutes are up it’s time to get that oil off. Baby shampoo sales account for more than 30 million dollars of sales in the United States each year, according to Statista, and once you try to wash oil off a baby’s scalp you’re going to see why. It’s very important that you get all of the oil off, so you might want to leave the shampoo on for a few minutes as well, though not nearly so long as the oil.
Don’t be surprised if you see flakes of skin or scabs come off while you’re rinsing. This is a natural result of the oil and is actually exactly what you want to happen. When you’re rinsed thoroughly, check your baby’s scalp for any lingering traces of oil. Oil is a great moisturizer, but when left on a scalp can lead to clogging and other problems much worse than cradle cap, according to Parenting. If your baby’s scalp still feels oily, reapply the shampoo and massage it in before rinsing thoroughly again. You can’t be too careful when it comes to this. Just try not to over shampoo and dry the baby’s scalp out again.
Rub Babies Head with a Damp Cloth
Once all the shampoo and extra oil is off, you can move on to the last step. You can use either a soft brush or a terry cloth to gently go over the areas of your baby’s scalp that are still scabbed or flaky. Don’t peel off anything that doesn’t “want” to come off, so to speak, as tampering with it can lead to problems such as bleeding. Sometimes a scab needs an extra push and sometimes what it needs is a few more days of treatment with baby oil before it’s ready to come off. Don’t worry and don’t rush; you should see a lot of improvement within a few short weeks.