Half of all babies will develop nappy rash at some point. Here’s how to treat it and prevent future episodes.
If you’ve noticed your baby’s skin looks red or irritated, it’s likely they have nappy rash. It can affect your baby’s bottom, genitals and inner thighs and, while it can be distressing for them, some cases are quite mild and may not bother them at all.
Either way, it’s important to treat the nappy rash to prevent it getting worse and, if you continue with a few home-care tips, you should prevent a reoccurrence. We speak to Lesley Gilchrist, midwife and co-founder of My Expert Midwife, for her expert nappy rash advice:
What is nappy rash?
Nappy rash is when redness, swelling or spots appear on your baby’s bottom, thighs and genitals and is usually caused by chafing or irritation.
‘Nappy rash is when your baby develops soreness on the area that has contact with their nappy,’ says Gilchrist. ‘It can be a generalised redness, or can become more inflamed and even bleed during nappy changes with wiping.’
When are babies susceptible to nappy rash?
About 50 per cent of babies will develop nappy rash at some point. ‘Babies are most likely to develop nappy rash between nine and 12 months of age,’ says Gilchrist.
‘It’s possible that this coincides with the time when most babies become more mobile and chafing is therefore more likely to cause irritations.’
What causes nappy rash?
There are several possible causes of nappy rash, says Gilchrist. These include:
Extended contact with urine and poo. Urine contains ammonia and poo contains digestive enzymes, both of which can irritate a baby’s skin if they have prolonged contact.
An ill-fitting nappy, or a nappy that just doesn’t suit your baby’s shape or skin. Nappies can chafe and rub at your baby’s skin, which then weakens the barrier and allows for further irritations.
Not changing your baby’s nappy frequently enough. Even highly absorbent nappies will keep urine and poo close to your baby’s skin.
The use of strongly scented soaps and detergents on your baby. These products include baby wipes, baby moisturisers and baby bath products.
Certain products. Using wipes that contain alcohol during your baby’s skincare routine can promote nappy rash.
Antibiotics. If your baby has recently been on antibiotics, they will be more prone to developing thrush, which can irritate their skin and result in nappy rash.
Treating and preventing nappy rash
Gilchrist suggests the following steps to help clear up nappy rash. These should also prevent future episodes:
✔️ Make sure you change your baby’s nappy regularly, to prevent any prolonged skin contact with urine and poo.
✔️ Avoid bathing your baby daily, as this will dry out the natural oils that your baby’s skin produces.
✔️ Make sure you wash your hands before and after nappy changes, to help to prevent the spread of any infections.
✔️ During nappy changes make sure the area is cleaned and dried thoroughly, without using excessive rubbing.
✔️ To clean your baby’s bottom and genitals, use water or unscented, alcohol-free baby wipes.
✔️ Always wipe from front to back when cleaning during your baby’s nappy change.
✔️ Let your baby have ‘nappy free’ time every day to encourage healing, by laying your baby on a towel on their changing mat. This will help air to circulate and will provide a dry and absorbent area in case there are any accidents.
✔️ Try a barrier balm or cream, to help keep your baby’s bottom well moisturised, such as My Expert Midwife’s No Harm Bum Balm, which does not drag your baby’s skin when you apply it, as this can cause further damage to their skin.
What if the nappy rash doesn’t clear up?
If symptoms persist, speak to your health advisor. ‘If your baby is very uncomfortable, or you don’t think their nappy rash is improving despite the self-help measures above, then you may need a prescription for a specially formulated cream or medicine from your GP,’ says Gilchrist.
Help and support
For additional support with all aspects of caring for your newborn baby, try one of the following resources:
- National Childbirth Trust(NCT): information and support for new parents.
- The Positive Birth Company: committed to empowering women to create positive birth experiences.
- Privatemidwives: private midwifery services from home births to hospital births.
- Hypnobirthing:The hypnobirthing UK Directory and website.