A “cradle cap”, also known as “seborrheic dermatitis”, is perfectly normal and nothing to be afraid of.
It can alarm some parents but it is usually nothing at all. Here we’ll look at how to manage a cradle cap.
Symptoms of Cradle Cap
Cradle cap usually appears as white flaky ‘crackles’ on your baby’s scalp though it might also be visible behind their ears, around the eyes and more rarely, on their torso. The skin takes on a slight scaly appearance.
Generally, the colour is white to yellow-white.
The scales can be hard to lift off and if you do, you might see some slight inflammation underneath.
Cradle cap is seldom painful or irritating for the affected baby. It’s most common in very young infants.
Surprisingly, the mother’s hormones are to blame!
At birth, the mother’s hormones are still circulating in the baby’s system. That can continue for some weeks.
One possible effect of that is the baby’s skin may struggle to handle the accumulation of oils, as it will do through the rest of the baby’s life. The oils build up and form a deposit that is the basis of cradle cap.
There are none in almost all cases. The condition usually resolves itself within a short period of time.
Consulting a doctor
This is almost never required. However, you should do so if:
- the scales are accompanied by a fever;
- your baby seems to find the scales irritating or painful;
- there are signs of bleeding or severe inflammation with the scales;
- the scales seem to be spreading more widely over the baby’s whole body.
These symptoms may indicate that the condition is not cradle cap but something else.
For the most part, no treatment is required. As stated above, cradle cap usually cures itself.
However, you can try
- using a diluted baby dandruff shampoo (check with your pharmacist or doctor first);
- gently rubbing natural baby oil into your baby’s scalp prior to hair washing.
In some fairly rare cases, the condition may become very unsightly or inflamed and if so, your doctor might prescribe a corticosteroid.
Busting Some Old Myths
Finally, just to be clear and resolve some old tales:
- cradle cap is NOT infectious. It cannot be caught or passed on;
- it is not an indication of future hair loss (usually commented about only in the context of male babies) in later life;
- it is not in any way an illness nor does it suggest an increased likelihood of other illnesses in the future;
- it is NOT a hygiene issue!
Hopefully what we’ve explained here has left you feeling more relieved and more competent in handling this condition.
Of course, if you have been treating the condition for more than 2 weeks without success, it would be a good idea to ask your doctor to have a quick check too.