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Living Naturally:: Diaper Rash Demystified – Part 1: Finding the Cause

Now, on to the gory details helpful pointers in diagnosing your baby’s diaper rash.  Warning: there is nothing pleasant about diaper rash, therefore there may be terms used that could frighten the squeamish.

You have been warned.

Now, this post came about because my poor son had a terrible diaper rash on his cheeky bum.  As I mentioned last week, I had to make multiple calls to my cloth diaper manufacturer before I finally figured out how to treat his rash – and I didn’t know how to treat it until I could recognize the cause of the rash.

My daughters (now ages 7 and 4) never experienced prolonged diaper rashes, just the occasional redness associated with the extra-acidic urine that comes with teething – which was usually short-lived (thankfully).

And then I had a boy.

Everything was fine and dandy until he turned one, and it’s been a struggle since that point to keep his bottom clear of bumps, swelling, and yes, even cracked and bleeding skin.

After contacting the wonderful ladies at Thirsties, they sent me some information on actually diagnosing your child’s diaper rashes – and this, my dear mommies and daddies, made all the difference.  It wasn’t just a shot in the dark – buying random creams and powders and making homemade concoctions that would completely clear his tush up one night, and the next night would make no difference at all.

Knowing is half the battle.

So here is a breakdown of the various types and causes of diaper rashes.  This is my mostly-conclusive list gathered from across the world wide web, mommy forums, and my own 7-years of mommyhood and 5 years of cloth diapering

Diaper Rash Causes:

  1. Exposure to feces and urine for a prolonged time.  Contrary to popular belief, you really do need to change cloth diapers more often than their disposable counterparts.  You can most certainly go 3-5 hour stretches in between cloth changes and experience no leaking issues. However, it’s not the best for baby’s skin.  The issue here isn’t diaper performance, it’s hygiene.  One of the most dangerous components of disposables are the VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) – in short: the chemicals that absorb liquid at an exponential rate, wicking the moisture away from baby’s skin.  Cloth diapers obviously don’t perform in that way, so once baby wets or poops, it’s against their skin (more or less) until they are changed.  Annoying?  Perhaps.  Worth the extra diaper or 2? Definitely.  The acid from their urine and feces can irritate delicate skin, and this is a very common reason for diaper rash and the first place to start when ruling out the cause for your baby’s rash.  Start changing them everything 1-2 hours, especially if the rash is severe, and see what happens.

  2. Chafing and rubbing due to incorrect diaper size or prolonged sitting or walking.  Although you obviously don’t want your child’s diaper so loose that it leaks, make sure that you are not fastening it too tight.  You should easily be able to get a finger in between the diaper and your child’s thigh, as well as around the stomach.  Check to see if the diaper is too snug, if the insert has slipped or is crooked (depending on the style of diaper you are using), and if the diaper is older, make sure that the plastic and/or elastic around the legs and stomach are still stitched tight.

  3. Introducing solids or any new foods.  Once your baby starts eating solids, the acid in their stomachs will change, and so will the content of their stools.  Also, if you are breastfeeding, it’s very likely that something that you consumed could be causing your child’s diaper rash.  Watch out for citrus fruits, juices, tomato-based foods, and even in sever cases of allergies, your child could be reacting to the gluten or dairy in your diet.

  4. Food allergies: This is different from just introducing a new food.  When children try a food for the first time and their digestive juices change, they may experience a slight rash but most likely, it will be short-lived.  However, in the case of food allergies, it is quite possible that a child may be experiencing a food allergy and the diaper rash is the only noticeable symptom.

  5. Creams, oils, soaps and detergents.  Keep careful note of your baby’s rash if you suddenly change the brand of creams, powders, lotions or laundry detergent that you are using.  Anything that comes in contact with baby’s bum is a potential cause of aggravation – even if it says all-natural, dye free, free and clear, etc.

  6. Bacterial and yeast infections.  These are very both very common because your baby’s bum is covered all day, providing a warm, dark, moist breeding ground for bacteria and yeast over-growth.  This is very likely the cause if your child has been on antibiotics for any length of time, or if you are breast feeding and have been on an antibiotic.  Reason being: antibiotics kill ALL bacteria – good and bad, and our immune systems originate in our intestines.  If there is no balance of beneficial bacteria to strengthen our immune system, then the harmful bacteria has free reign.

  7. Teething: When babies start teething, their body produces extra saliva, and in some children, their saliva can become more acidic as the ph balance of their body changes.  This is a very common cause of diaper rash and few children escape infancy without teething-related rashes.

  8. Cloth diapers that contain residue or that are not thoroughly clean.  Regardless of the brand of cloth diapers that you may use, they will need to be periodically stripped to get rid of any detergent build-up or bacterial residue (and here is a great post on how to do that).

Next week we are going to look at diagnosing your baby’s rash based on it’s appearance, so if your little one has a sore bum, stay tuned – help is on the way!  In the mean time, feel free to post your questions or suggestions in the comments section, or shoot me an email at kelsi [at] cheekybumsmarket [dot] com.

Check out our other cloth diaper resources on the blog:


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This post was linked to: Titus 2 Tuesdays at Cornerstone Confessions, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways at Frugally Sustainable, WLWW at Women Living Well, Your Green Resource at Live Renewed, Simple Live Thursday at GNOWFGLINS,  Better Mom Mondays at The Better Mom, Barn Hop at The Prairies Homestead, Welcome Home Link-Up at Raising Arrows, The Homesteader Blog Carnival at The Morris Tribe

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