Diaper Rash in Newborns: Preventing, Causes, Treatment and Remedies

It is common for newborns and toddlers to develop a diaper rash. The condition is caused by a variety of things such as wetness, diarrhea, use of antibiotics, yeast infection and friction. While it is not dangerous, diaper rash can be a source of discomfort and pain.

The rash presents with symptoms very similar to atopic dermatitis. In fact, diaper rash and diaper dermatitis can be used interchangeably. Signs largely show up on the buttocks, thighs and genital area. They include skin redness, inflammation and bumps.

Most babies are able to recover without medical treatment. Some over the counter creams and a couple of home treatments are usually enough to get the job done. If the rash persists for more than 5 days without signs of improvement, it is best that you check with your doctor. You could be dealing with a yeast or bacterial infection.

What causes diaper rash in newborns?

Most cases of diaper rash occur in infants and toddlers. So what causes diaper rash in newborns? Any of the following may be responsible.

Diaper waste:

The bacteria and enzymes in stools are common causes of skin irritation. This is why fecal matter is a more potent irritant than urine. It is also why newborns may have a severe rash when they are having diarrhea. When urine and fecal matter come together, the mixture contains ammonia. Ammonia will definitely prove an irritant to the delicate baby’s skin. The ammonia problem is more common when cloth diapers are used.


Irritation in the diaper region can be caused by the drying effects of soaps or contact with some chemical. It is common when scented wipes are used.


Diaper rash caused by irritation is not that common but is a possibility in newborns. It occurs when the diaper constantly rubs against the delicate baby’s skin. With time, the skin will become irritated and may develop a bit of rash.

Poor hygiene:

Newborns are constantly soiling themselves and the diapers they have on. This makes them very vulnerable to different types of infections, mainly caused by bacteria and fungi which may cause the rash.

Yeast overgrowth:

Normally, a fungus known as candida grows on our skin, especially around the genital region. The fungus doesn’t cause signs of infection because it is kept from growing out of control by naturally occurring  “good” bacteria. During a bacterial infection, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to either you or your baby. These medications can end up interfering with the balance as they don’t have the ability to differentiate between bad and good bacteria.

Bacterial infection:

Like candida, staphylococcus bacteria are often found on skin but don’t cause any problems. Issues arise when there are breaks on the skin that allow the bacteria to enter the skin.

What are the symptoms of diaper rash in newborns?

In most cases, a diaper rash appears in the form of red or pink and irritated skin regions in the diaper area. Inner thighs and buttocks are mostly affected although the genital area may also be involved. Another common sign is formation of papules and pustules in severe cases. If not treated, the pustules soon develop into sores and blisters.

Areas affected by diaper rash sometimes become swollen or inflamed. This worsens if infection occurs. In advent of an infection, the rash becomes bright red and may spread to adjacent areas.

Generally, diaper rash symptoms in newborns include:

  • Skin redness or pinkness
  • Swelling
  • Painful to the touch
  • Formation of pumps
  • Scaly, dry and irritated skin
  • Soreness and blistering
  • burning
  • itching

Specific symptoms depend on severity. For example, only pinkness may be noticed in case of a mild rash. A bad rash presents with most of the mentioned signs including appearance of skin like it is burnt.

Newborn diaper rash treatment

Diaper rash is usually not serious. Complications arise when bacterial or yeast infections are involved, which mostly appears as red bumps diaper rash. Medical newborn diaper rash treatment is necessary if the rash persists for more than 5 days without signs of improvement even with home treatments or if the rash is bleeding. In that case, your doctor will prescribe antifungal cream or antibiotics such as mupirocin for diaper rash. These medications may be accompanied by a mild hydrocortisone cream to deal with inflammation and irritation. See yeast and staph infection diaper rash pictures to know when to see a doctor.

The commonly used treatment is a diaper rash cream containing zinc oxide. Zinc oxide is a skin soother and promotes faster healing. This is the same ingredient you will find in a diaper rash cream for adults. Some creams may contain petroleum jelly however. Ensure to check the list of ingredients. How long does diaper rash last? On average, the rash lasts for 2-3 days. Mild cases can be treated overnight.

Treatment at home:

Treatment at home can be done with over the counter products or home remedies. Over the counter remedies mainly aim at relieving symptoms such as pain, redness, inflammation, skin dryness and pain. Home treatments work pretty much the same. Good examples include:

  • Essential oils – essential oils like coconut oil and frankincense oil are popularly used to treat different skin conditions. They promote skin hydration, soothe irritated skin and prevent microbial invasion.
  • Oatmeal bath – colloidal oatmeal diaper rash bath keeps the skin moisturized. Oatmeal is stuffed with proteins which promote skin healing.
  • Baking soda – baking soda is used for sunburns, psoriasis, eczema and other skin conditions, including diaper rash. While it can be applied directly, use in baths may bring more benefits.

Preventing diaper rash in newborns

Diaper rash usually does not result from negligence. All the same, preventing diaper rash in newborns requires some changes in how you handle your baby. Below are tips that may help:

Change your baby’s diapers appropriately:

Changing diapers may seem like something you don’t need lessons on. This is not the case. For example, it is recommended that a diaper rash cream be applied at every diaper change.

Use plain water at every diaper change:

Wipes are more convenient compared to water when making diaper changes. But whenever possible, always go for plain water to wash your baby’s bottom rather than wipes. In fact, replace the scented wipes with fragrance and alcohol-free ones to avoid baby’s skin irritation.

Get rid of the moisture:

When preventing diaper rash in newborns, focus on eradicating heat, moisture and friction. These are the main causes of diaper rash. In fact, even a yeast infection can only occur if the skin is fragile enough to allow the yeast to reach superficial tissue. It is recommended that you allow about 15 minutes to pass after cleaning your baby’s diaper area before putting a clean diaper on. Alternatively, you can gently pat dry with a towel.

Apply a diaper cream:

A diaper cream provides a protective barrier between the diaper waste and baby’s skin. When a bad rash is involved, ointments or pastes are the better choices. The problem with ointments is that they may cause a bit of irritation due to their longer lasting effects. Once you have applied the cream, cover with petroleum jelly like Vaseline. It helps keep diaper from sticking to the cream.

Review the benefits of powder:

Diaper powders are increasingly falling out of favor. Particularly, use of powders containing talc is advised against since they can cause breathing problems. If you are to use powders, choose ones that contain cornstarch. It remains debatable whether powders actually help with faster recovery from diaper rash.

Opt for a less absorbent diaper:

It is tempting to opt for a diaper you will not have to keep changing. The problem is that diapers that are too absorbent increase the risk of developing diaper rash. In fact, if your baby is prone to severe rashes, cloth diapers may be the best option. Remember to avoid the diapers with plastic covers.

Understand the role of food:

There are certain foods that cause diaper rash in toddlers. A newborn’s source of food is its mother’s milk, however. Babies who are directly breastfed develop stronger immune systems. This is very important when it comes to avoiding common infections. Breast milk can also be used to treat a diaper rash when applied directly. When treating diaper rash with breast milk, ensure that yeast overgrowth is not the cause of the rash. This is because breast milk contains sugars that will only propagate the growth.

Get rid of irritants:

Without realizing it, you may be using products that are irritating your baby’s skin. Newborns have very delicate skin. Even a mild irritant such as found in some soaps, certain brands of diapers or even wipes may be contributing to the development of diaper rash in your baby.

When to see a doctor

You will most probably have to deal with diaper rash again especially when your baby starts taking solid foods. The good thing is that you don’t always have to rush to the hospital.

Check with your doctor if the rash doesn’t improve with home treatments, it is accompanied by symptoms of infection, it is bleeding or persistently recurring.