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How To Treat Cradle Cap

Updated on October 20, 2016
Baby with Cradle Cap
Baby with Cradle Cap | Source

What is Cradle Cap?

Most babies get cradle cap. It isn't anything to be embarrassed about and it shouldn't cause any alarm. It doesn't mean you are a bad mother either. The medical term for cradle cap is "Infantile seborrheic dermetitis." Cradle cap is an easier term to use. The name is only used for babies and toddlers, because adults can also get this condition, but it then has a different name.

Cradle cap causes scaly patches on the scalp that can cause thick crusting of white or yellow scales on the heads of newborns or older babies. Usually this happens in the first three months of baby's life. These patches usually occur on the oily spots of the scalp or in the ear. Occasionally it can be found on the face and other areas. Reddened skin may also go along with the condition. Although it is unsightly to look at, it is not dangerous.

What Causes Cradle Cap?

Doctors aren't sure what causes cradle cap.It is not caused by poor hygiene It is guessed that it may be caused by oily skin from overactive sebaceous glands or possibly a yeast infection called malassezia which is a fungus. I repeat, it is not caused by poor hygiene and a mother shouldn't be embarrassed if her babies get it. Most babies do.

Ways to Possibly Prevent Cradle Cap

Keeping the baby's head shampooed is the best way to try to keep cradle cap away, but the child may still develop the condition. It will help though, because it is believed it is caused by oily skin. The oily skin is thought to come from the mother's hormones before the baby is born. This is just a theory. Some infants seem to be more prone to the problem than others.

Don't shampoo the hair too often either. Since baby has gentle skin, this can dry out the scalp. Three times a week seems to be enough, but not more often than that.

Detail of Cradle Cap
Detail of Cradle Cap | Source

How to Treat Cradle Cap

Once the baby has the condition, never pick at it or scratch at it. This could cause an infection or cause the condition to become inflamed. Instead, shampoo the baby's head with baby shampoo. Never use adult shampoo on baby's sensitive skin, but if it is a severe case some pediatricians recommend a mild dandruff shampoo. Check with your doctor first.

After shampooing, use a baby brush and lightly brush the infants head. This will help loosen the scales. Rubbing gently with a terry cloth towel helps too.

When my children were babies, we used baby oil to help the condition. I just rubbed it on the baby's scalp. Other suggested oils to use are olive oil, mineral oil, cocoa butter, or even petroleum jelly. I would think the petroleum jelly might create a bit of a mess though.

There is disagreement about how long to leave the oil on the head. Some doctor's say just for a few minutes and some even say overnight. Use your own motherly intuition or just use the oil before shampooing. To remove the oil, you can just rub it off with a wet cloth and then dry the hair.

When Do You Need to See a Doctor for Cradle Cap?

If the area becomes inflamed or infected it is important to see a doctor. Otherwise you won't need to visit the doctor unless the condition just doesn't go away. It usually clears up on it's own within a couple of weeks to a couple of months. If it doesn't, the doctor can prescribe a special shampoo or hydrocortisone cream.

How to Handle Cradle Cap

If you have had babies, did any of them get cradle cap?

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    • Barbara Kay profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Badder 

      4 years ago from USA

      Shyron, Thanks for reading. Cradle cap isn't dangerous at all, but it is unsightly.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 

      4 years ago from Texas

      I had heard of this condition, but neither of my two babies had it. If it did not happen to me or my kids, I did not think too much about it.

      Your article is useful to so many mothers especially first time moms who are scared of everything for their little ones.

      Voted up, UI and shared.

    • Barbara Kay profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Badder 

      4 years ago from USA

      Cari Kay, That makes sense, because both of my kids have allergies. Thanks for commenting.

    • Cari Kay 11 profile image


      4 years ago

      My daughter had such struggles with cradle cap. If I recall correctly, I ended up using olive oil and it seemed to work. She has had other skid conditions such as Perioral Dermatitis and I often wonder if cradle cap happens more in kids more prone to skin allergies.

    • Barbara Kay profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Badder 

      4 years ago from USA

      logsinquito, My daughter had a terrible case and my son had very little. Too bad they don't know what causes it, but it does go away so it isn't that bad.

    • ologsinquito profile image


      4 years ago from USA

      Yikes, that's quite a case of cradle cap in the photo on the top of your article. Fortunately, my children never had this skin condition.

    • Barbara Kay profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Badder 

      5 years ago from USA

      Radcliff, Thanks for commenting. I think more babies get it than not.

    • Radcliff profile image

      Liz Davis 

      5 years ago from Hudson, FL

      I had cradle cap when I was a baby, and both my babies have had it as well. My three-month-old still has it, although it's fading now. Thanks for the information, Barbara!

    • Barbara Kay profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Badder 

      5 years ago from USA

      mylindaelliott, I wonder if it isn't caused by the change in being in the amniotic fluid and then suddenly being in the dry air. I know doctor's don't use this theory, but it is odd that almost all babies get it. Thanks for you comment.

    • mylindaelliott profile image


      5 years ago from Louisiana

      I had five children and all but one had cradle cap. I was embarrassed for the first one who had it but I realized it wasn't because I didn't take proper care of them. Like you I used a little baby oil to loosen it up then it seemed to brush out.

    • Barbara Kay profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Badder 

      5 years ago from USA

      Nell, From my experience, it finally goes away anyway, but is unsightly while they have it. Thanks for visiting.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      5 years ago from England

      Hi Barbara, yes I remember it well with my son, I do believe we used some sort of cream on it, can't remember exactly what, but it did work, and then all his hair grew through and it disappeared quite quickly, nell

    • Barbara Kay profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Badder 

      5 years ago from USA

      teaches12345, My son had it when he was a baby. It eventually just goes away, but looks so bad when they have it. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      5 years ago

      I have seen cradle cap on babies before but did not know what caused it. I am sure your information will put many mother's at ease if their child develops this condition.

    • Barbara Kay profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Badder 

      5 years ago from USA

      Ebonny, Thanks for reading. A lot of problems have a bad stigma that are not the fault of the mother.

    • Ebonny profile image


      5 years ago from UK

      Fantastic that you have pointed out that cradle cap is not a problem caused by poor hygiene.


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