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The Complete Beginner's Guide to Nappy Rash

The Complete Beginner's Guide to Nappy Rash

What is nappy rash?

Nappy rash isn't a disease, it's just an irritation on baby's skin that's found in the area of the nappy. It's also called diaper dermatitis in places where they don't call a nappy a nappy. It's very common, and most babies will get it at some point. It's not serious, but it can be very irritating both for baby and for parents. A grumpy baby with a sore bum does not make for happy or well rested parents.

What causes nappy rash?

Just like it's hard to figure out what causes a rash on adults, it's tricky to figure out what's causing nappy rash on a baby. There are lots of possibilities:

1. It could be the chemicals you’re using on your baby.

Every time you use a baby wipe to clean up your baby's bum, you're swiping chemicals across his delicate skin. Baby wipes with harsh chemicals can cause irritation. Luckily, Hello Charlie has done all the hard work for you, and has done heaps of research to find the best and safest baby wipes for your baby. You can find it all in our Best Natural Baby Wipes Cheat Sheet.

2. It could be something your baby has eaten

My babies both had bad reactions to kiwi fruit. They'd eat some kiwi, and bam! Next nappy change they'd have a red, sore bum. It took me a while to put it together, but it turns out the kiwi fruit was just too acidic for both of them. I have friends who found the same thing with strawberries. If your baby is still being exclusively breastfed, it could be something that you've eaten. If your baby has started on solids, it could be something that your baby has eaten. When you introduce a new food to your baby, watch out for any adverse reactions. It might take a couple of days, which is why it's recommended that you introduce new foods a few days apart.

3. You might be waiting too long between nappy changes

Although urine is sterile, it can be irritating on baby’s skin if the nappy is on too long. If you’re using cloth nappies, make sure that you’re using a nappy liner to draw moisture away from baby’s skin. It’s also best not to use waterproof plastic pants as these don’t allow the air to circulate. If your baby is in a disposable nappy, change it frequently. Newborns will need to be changed every 2 to 2 ½ hours. As your baby gets older, he won’t need to wee as often, so you won’t need to change the nappy as often.

4. The nappy could be too tight

While you do need to fit a nappy firmly so that you don't get leaks and blowouts, too tight and your baby can get irritations and rashes where the nappy rubs. Try moving up a size, or a different nappy brand.

5. Your baby could have an allergy to the nappy

If you’re using a cloth nappy, use an unscented, natural detergent to wash nappies in. Perfumes and baby skin do not go together. If you’re using a disposable nappy, make sure you’re using one without perfumes, lotions and toxic chemicals. How do you know which nappies don’t have any of these? Check the Hello Charlie Safer Disposable Nappy Cheat Sheet, of course!

Check baby's bottom for nappy rash

How to treat nappy rash

1. Use a soothing, safe nappy cream

Choose a nappy cream with soothing natural ingredients like calendula and chamomile. Stay away from the toxins, and go with natural oils (preferably organic). If you want to go with a barrier cream, again, choose a nappy cream with organic ingredients, but find one with zinc. The zinc will soothe, but also puts a physical barrier between your baby’s skin and moisture. How do you find a safe nappy cream? We’ve got a Cheat Sheet for that, too. Check out the Hello Charlie Biggest Ever Natural Nappy Creams Cheat Sheet.

2. Give your baby some nappy free time

Guaranteed to bring a grimace to the face of any parent, have your baby let it all hang out for a while. Pop baby in a warm spot on the floor, preferably on a towel or a blanket (you just know there’s going to be an accident, don’t you?). Getting a bit of air around the bum will do wonders for nappy rash prevention. Do this every day or every few days if you can.

How to prevent nappy rash

So, how to prevent nappy rash? Let’s sum up.
  • Choose a nappy without perfumes, lotions or toxic chemicals
  • Use a safer baby wipe
  • Give your baby some nappy free time
  • Watch your baby's diet, and introduce new foods gradually
  • Use a natural nappy cream

If you do all these things and your baby has still got a rash, if the rash doesn’t seem to clear up, or if you’re just plain worried – go see your child health nurse or other medical professional. It may not be nappy rash at all, but an allergy to something else. 

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