How to treat cradle cap

Although crusty, flaky, white or yellow patches on your newborn baby’s head can be an eyesore, cradle cap is a common but harmless condition. Experts are unsure what causes cradle cap, but hormones or fungus may play a role. What parents need to know is that cradle cap has nothing to do with hygiene. Even babies that are well cared for develop cradle cap. Some parents ignore the cradle cap and do nothing, since cradle cap usually clears up on its own after several months.

Seborrheic dermatitis is the medical term for cradle cap. In addition to the scalp, cradle cap can appear on your baby’s ears, eyebrows, armpits, or in other creases and folds. Like the flaky condition on the scalp, no special treatment is needed. 

If you prefer to treat your baby’ cradle cap, you can: 

  • Massage your baby’s scalp gently with your fingers to loosen the scales. This also improves circulation to your baby’s scalp. 
  • Shampoo your baby’s hair every day while the scales are present. Use a gentle shampoo, and be sure to rinse well. Once the cradle cap has resolved, you can cut back to twice weekly shampoos. 
  • Massage a pure, natural oil (e.g., olive oil, almond oil) onto your baby’s scalp. Wait about 15 minutes, and then gently comb or brush out the flakes. Shampoo your baby’s hair, waiting a few minutes after washing before rinsing. 
  • Brush your child’s hair with a soft brush (a soft tooth brush works great) after each shampoo and several times each day.

Most babies aren’t bothered by cradle cap, but if your child seems uncomfortable or itchy, you may want to discuss remedies with your child’s health care provider. Prescription shampoos, creams, and lotions are available if the condition persists or worsens.

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