What is Cradle Cap?
Cradle Cap is harmless; this is the first thing you should know about it. It is aesthetically displeasing but usually harmless for the baby until it aggravates to a degree that it looks red and swollen, then it may cause itching.
Cradle Cap is a condition of the skin. The human skin is always producing new cells and shedding off old ones, a process that we do not notice.
Babies suffering from Cradle Cap have hyperactive seborrheic glands that are responsible for producing oil.
Their skin produces new cells at a faster rate than it sheds them, which results in flaky or dry skin that looks like dandruff, or thick, oily, yellow/brown scaling or patches on the head.
Sometimes this skin condition can also occur on other parts of the baby’s body, for example around the ears and eyebrows and creases like armpits or even the diaper area.
Then this condition is known as seborrheic dermatitis as it occurs where there is the greatest number of oil-producing sebaceous glands.
Why does Cradle Cap occur?
Cradle Cap can occur in any baby, there are no risk factors that make one baby more prone to it than the other.
It usually occurs in the first six weeks of the baby’s life and usually continues up till three months of age.
Most often Cradle Cap resolves itself and no treatment is required. However, in some cases the condition may prolong to several months or beyond.
The exact reason for the occurrence of Cradle Cap is not agreed upon. The most common consensus is on the opinion that it is caused by hormones passed from the mother to the baby, through the placenta, just before birth.
These hormones are thought to over stimulate the seborrheic glands, producing more oils and making scaly patches appear over the skin.
Cradle Cap is not infectious or contagious. Some suggest that it is an allergic reaction or is caused by poor hygiene; however, both these views are wrong. Cradle Cap can occur in any baby and mostly goes away itself.
How do I treat my baby’s Cradle Cap?
No treatment is really required for Cradle Cap, it goes away by itself. However, it is unpleasing for parents to see their baby’s skin like that.
If it bothers them, they could try to shampooing regularly with a mild shampoo and brushing the baby’s scalp with a soft brush or terry cloth.
Don’t be afraid to shampoo the baby’s hair, in fact it should be done more frequently, about 2-3 times a week.
For more persistent cases of Cradle Cap, sometime the oil treatment is helpful. However, it is important to know that oil helps to build scales by clogging the pores and allowing the scales to stick, if used in a large amount or allowed to stay on the scalp.
If oil is being used, use a small amount. Rub it into the baby’s scalp; leave it on for a few minutes (it will help to loosen the scales) and then comb out the scales gently with a soft brush or tooth-comb. Be sure to shampoo the baby’s head afterwards so that the oil does not stay in.
For even more persistent cases that are not resolved by oil or shampoo, doctors may suggest stronger medicated shampoos.
But do not use an antiseborrhea without consulting your pediatrician first as these shampoos contain small amounts of sulfur and salicylic acid and may cause irritation to the baby.
The doctor may prescribe some other lotions or creams to treat the redness and scales.
Can I prevent Cradle Cap from coming back again?
If the Cradle Cap has completely disappeared, it is unlikely to come back again. If your child is a year old it rarely comes back before puberty.
However, preventive measures include washing the baby’s hair frequently, about two to three times a week.
Take care not to over do it as it may stimulate the oil glands and produce more oil.
If the condition keeps persisting off and on and does not finish completely you might need to keep using antiseborrhea shampoos in frequent intervals.
However, consult your pediatrician before any such step and let him/her decide if your baby still needs those shampoos or lotions.