Baby Health and Wellbeing
Diapering Safety Tips:
- Always change your baby on a solid, sturdy surface.
- When buying a changing pad, choose one with contoured sides, an adjustable buckle and nonslip surface.
- If you’ll be using a changing pad on top of a dresser, make sure that you secure it down.
- Although your baby won’t be rolling for a few months, never leave a baby unattended on a changing table.
- When your little one starts to wriggle and roll, always keep one hand on him or her while you’re reaching for diapers or other supplies, even if your baby is buckled in.
- Keep your diapering essentials within arms reach, but not so close that your baby will kick or swat them down.
Up to 35 percent of babies will experience some degree of diaper rash, whether it’s a little redness or a painful, blistering problem. Here’s what you need to know:
- Your baby’s sensitive bottom is cooped up in a moisture-trapping diaper, regularly rubbing against a variety of chemicals (if using disposable diapers), urine and feces. Rashes can happen.
- Although diaper rash can happen anytime, many babies experience a higher chance of rash between six and nine months, when a variety of new solid foods can cause bowel movements to be more irritating.
- Some babies are more susceptible than others, whether it’s because of sensitive skin, allergic reactions, a pH imbalance in his or her feces, or too much ammonia in his or her urine.
- There are several causes of diaper rash besides moisture:
- The most common type of diaper rash is a little redness that comes and goes where the diaper rubs against your baby’s skin (like around the edges). It could also be that the particular chemicals in the diaper are bothersome, which could simply be fixed by changing the brand or type of diaper.
- If a baby is on antibiotics, is breastfed by a mother on antibiotics, or has a case of thrush (a yeast infection of the mouth), yeast can be deposited and grow in your baby’s moist diaper – which, as we know, is yeast’s favorite type of environment. You can tell that it’s a yeast infection by the bright red rash with slightly raised borders, plus your typical diaper rash cream won’t do a thing to treat it. If you suspect your baby has a yeast infection, ask your doctor about a prescription or over-the-counter antifungal cream.
- Bottle-fed babies might see redness around the anus due to a higher level of alkaline in formula, which can also happen once solid foods are introduced.
- A baby’s cradle cap can also appear in his or her diaper, which you’ll recognize as a scaly, crusty and painful-looking rash. (Don’t worry; it’s looks worse than it actually is.)
- Blisters or crusty scabs can indicate a type of bacterial infection.
- The single best treatment for diaper rash is prevention:
- Always change your baby’s diaper as soon as it’s soiled to prevent more irritation, even in the middle of the night if he or she is prone to rashes.
- Your baby’s bottom might need to periodically air out – meaning no diaper or protective ointment like Desitin, Balmex, etc.
- It might feel intuitive to clean your baby’s bottom as much as you can, but soap can actually dry out and irritate skin. Try to use a gentle baby-friendly soap only once a day, and instead use cotton balls and warm water to clean up a messy situation.
- If you’re using wipes, know that some varieties might irritate his or her skin (especially ones with alcohol), so try switching brands if one starts bothering your little one. Avoid wipes all together on rashes.
- Always make sure your baby is dry before putting on another diaper.
- If you’ve tried everything you can but a rash keeps coming back, try switching to a different brand or type of diaper. We know the thought of cloth diapers might scare an especially squeamish parent, but today’s varieties are much easier than the traditional fold-and-pin diapers.
- If you already use cloth diapers, try boiling them in a pot for 10 minutes.
- Another common prevention method is to use a protective ointment that works as a barrier against the bacteria in urine and feces. There are so many varieties out there, and while some parents will swear by a certain brand, keep in mind that different ones work for different types of skin. The most commonly recommended varieties include:
- Balmex; and
- Boudreaux’s Butt Paste.
However, if you’re concerned about the chemicals in these types of ointments, we like to check with the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database when looking for the safest baby products. These are the most common brands that were scored as a “low hazard”: (For the full list of safest diaper rash creams, go to the database.)
- Badger Diaper Cream (no hazard)
- California Baby Diaper Area Wash
- Balmex Extra Protective Clear Ointment
- Burt’s Bees Baby Bee Diaper Ointment
- Make sure your doctor knows about recurring and/or severe diaper rashes, as your baby might need a prescription ointment or, in rare cases, an appointment with a specialist.
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
Let’s brush up on our anatomy really quickly: Our urinary tract is made up of our kidneys (which makes the urine); ureters (tubes that carry urine from our kidneys to bladder); our bladder (which holds the urine); and our urethra (tubes that carry urine into the toilet/diaper). It’s an efficient little system until bacteria sneaks in from the rectum, genitals or bloodstream.
We all know what a urinary tract infection feels like (and if you don’t, lucky you), but babies can’t exactly let us know if it’s burning when they pee. Not in so many words exactly. In fact, symptoms can be hard to recognize in little ones, yet their urethras are so short (which means so close to the bladder) that they’re even more susceptible to UTIs than adults. And an untreated urinary tract infection can cause serious kidney complications, especially in babies and toddlers.
Here’s what to look for:
- An unexplained fever, which is often the only symptom;
- Crying, screaming and/or holding genitals when urinating;
- Foul-smelling urine that could also look cloudy or bloody;
- Frequent urination;
- Decreased appetite;
- Nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea; and
- Unexplained crankiness.
Your doctor will need a sterile urine culture to diagnose a UTI, which is difficult since we can’t ask a baby to willingly pee in a cup. The most accurate way for a doctor to go about this is to insert a catheter up your baby’s urethra and test urine directly from the bladder. We can’t imagine that this would be comfortable for babies (they scream when getting their noses aspirated, for goodness sake), but it should only take a matter of seconds.
In order to prevent a UTI:
- Always wipe from front to back (boys and girls) so that bacteria from the rectum doesn’t enter the urethra.
- Avoid using any fragranced products on your baby’s genitals, like adult soap, perfumed wipes or bubble bath.
- If breastfeeding, try and continue for the first year because it’s believed that nursing can help prevent UTIs for two years, even after weaning from the breast.
- Make sure your baby is drinking plenty of fluids to flush out his or her system.
All babies (especially newborns) should be classified as having sensitive skin, but some babies are even more susceptible to rashes and irritation, especially down in the diaper region.
- Try to limit the amount of soap you use to once a day at most (how dirty is your baby getting, really?), and make sure that it’s a gentle, baby-friendly kind of soap. If you think the soap is still irritating his or her skin, try switching to another brand.
- Instead of wipes, try using plain warm water to wash away the area, at least until solid foods are introduced.
- Try switching and/or eliminating brands or products one at a time, such as laundry detergent, soap, diapers, wipes, rash ointment, etc.
- Use as few chemicals and products on your baby’s skin as possible.
- On the other hand, try putting on a thin layer of barrier ointment at every diaper change to help keep urine off of your baby’s skin.
- Try switching to cloth diapers since there are fewer chemicals and plastics rubbing against your baby’s skin. If cloth isn’t working out, at least try and switch to a more natural disposable or hybrid option.
- Give your baby diaper-free time every day to air out, such as in between diaper changes and/or after a bath.
- Make sure that the diapers aren’t too tight.