Using cloth diapers is a great first step to avoiding diaper rash since they allow air to circulate, are free from unnecessary chemical irritants, and tend to get changed immediately rather than allowing urine to stay next to the skin for long periods of time. With disposables and pocket diapers, please remember that even if the moisture is wicked away and the diaper feels dry, the bacteria is still held against the skin, and there may be pH issues as well. Change early, change often, no matter what style of diaper you use!
With proper hygiene and diaper care, outbreaks should be rare and continual use of a barrier cream should not be necessary.
If you are having problems anyway, try these things first:
Eliminate unnecessary chemicals in wipes as well as diapers. Many disposable wipes contain harsh surfactants like sodium laurel sulfate. Instead, warm water on a washcloth works just fine until baby starts solid foods, and for some children after that as well. Wipes can be moistened at the time of use, or premoistened and kept in a plastic container for up to a week.
If you need more than water, consider using a gentle cleanser like aloe gel or make your own wipe solution with the following recipe:
- 1 Tbsp sweet almond or jojoba oil
- 1 Tbsp liquid castile soap (I recommend Dr Bronner’s almond soap)
- 1 cup warm water
Mix and either premoisten wipes, or keep it in a spray bottle to use as you go (this makes a great gentle cleanser for other things as well, from faces to applesauce covered windows)
Check your wash regimen:
Make sure you are using a gentle, low impact detergent that does not leave residue on diapers. Detergent should be free of fragrances, bleach and fabric softeners.
Many detergent labels tell you to use more detergent then necessary, and what you need will vary depending on individual laundry facilities and hardness of water. Experiment with reducing detergent to the least possible amount that still gets clothes clean. I use less than half the recommended amount in my machine.
Occasionally, hard water will cause mineral build up that traps detergent, ammonia and other irritants in the fabric. To strip diapers, soak them over night in a solution of one part vinegar, 4 parts water and then wash as usual.
Rinse your diaper pail regularly with a little soap or white vinegar to keep it clear of bacteria and yeast.
Allow your child a little diaper free time. You can give them recommended tummy time while lying on a waterproof pad or towel. As an added benefit, your child gains sensory input, learning what the cooler air or the texture of the blanket feels like on their skin- our kids invariably love ‘nunga punga’ time*.
Be aware of what your child is eating, especially when introducing new foods. Common foods that can cause irritation when introduced are acidic fruits (like strawberries), milk products and certain grains, especially if you have a family history of sensitivity to these foods.
Sometimes the skin just needs time to heal. Use a fleece or silk liner to wick moisture away from baby’s bottom. this, along with as much ‘nunga punga’ time as possible, will give the skin enough time to recover, and the natural seracin in silk can aid in the healing process.
If you do use a healing cream, look for one without mineral oil or zinc oxide. These can ruin cloth diapers and zinc oxide can aggravate certain skin conditions like eczema.
*according to my mother-in-law, nunga punga is the Housa term for naked little kid.