If you are first time mother, you may be worried about your baby’s thick, greasy scalp. But it usually is nothing to worry about. Most likely, it is due to a common but harmless and temporary condition that many babies develop called cradle cap. Although it might look worrisome, it rarely causes any discomfort to the child and is totally harmless that resolves on its own after few months.
What is Cradle Cap?
Cradle cap is relatively common harmless condition of the scalp presenting in the first 3 months of the baby’s life. Cradle cap appears as patches of thick, greasy, yellowish, crusty, scaly rash over the soft scalp. The vertex and the frontal area are commonly involved. However, cradle cap is not limited to the scalp, it can occur on face and other parts of the body too. Cradle cap is basically the infant form of seborrheic dermatitis, so called as “Infantile seborrhoeic dermatitis” that is limited to the scalp.
Other names given to cradle cap
- Infantile seborrhoeic dermatitis
- Honeycomb disease
- Pityriasis capitis
- Milk crust
- Crusta lacteal
What Causes Cradle Cap?
The exact cause of cradle cap is not clear, but it is clear that it is not due to any allergies, infections or lack of hygiene. Experts agree that it is probably due to overactive sebaceous glands that produce excess sebum, which prevent the old skin cells from drying and falling off, as a result they stick to the scalp giving a thick greasy look. It is believed that babies have high level of mother’s hormones in their body even after several weeks or months following birth that is responsible for excess sebum production. Another factor like yeast infection (commonly malassezia) may also play role in the development of cradle cap.
Symptoms of Cradle Cap
Not all cases of cradle looks the same, it may look different on every baby. However, there are some common signs and symptoms that are usually present with the cradle cap, some of which are listed below:
- No itching
- Thick, scaly and flakey scalp
- White, discolored or yellow crusts
- Reddening of the affected skin
- Temporary hair loss
Cradle Cap Pictures
Cradle Cap Treatment
Cradle cap usually doesn’t require any medical treatments which may disappear on its own after few weeks or months. It can sometime take more than a year for cradle cap to go. In the meantime, there are several remedies that can help loosen the scales and prevent scale buildups. Some of which are discussed below:
Cradle Cap Remedies
Home remedies of cradle cap
- Gently massage your baby’s scalp with the mineral oil (baby oil will do) and leave it overnight, then wash your baby’s scalp with mild baby shampoo next morning.
- Gently rub your baby’s scalp with finger to loosen the crusts and scales. You may also use soft brush to loosen the crusts.
- Repeat this process every day until you see improvement and continue using every few days to help prevent scale buildups.
- You may use mild anti-dandruff shampoo if above option is not working but these dandruff shampoo can irritate the baby skin and eyes. To be on the safe side, you may go to the nearest pharmacy and ask for cradle cap shampoo.
- Maintenance therapy with mild shampoo every few days is a must as baby’s skin will continue to produce sebum several months after birth.
- If frequent shampooing is not helping, it’s time to visit your doctor. He/she may prescribe stronger shampoo containing antifungal medications or hydrocortisone cream.
- If your baby’s cradle cap looks red, inflamed or swollen, this could be suggestive of infection. Visit your doctor immediately; he/she will manage accordingly with antifungal and antibiotics.
Things you should avoid
- Never pick cradle cap off your baby scalp; you may end up with the infected scalp.
- Be sure not to use adult strength prescription dandruff shampoos.
- Never use over the counter steroids and antifungal creams without talking to your doctor, as some products can harm your baby.
- Avoid shampoo containing salicylic acid that can be absorbed through skin and irritate the baby.
Remember, most of the babies might looks funny in the beginning as they have been through 9 months journey. They need some time to adjust to the new world. Some might have oddly shaped head as a result of narrow vaginal canal; some might have cradle cap that might look scary. The good thing is, these initial imperfections are temporary and you know your baby is always beautiful.