Do you use diaper rash cream every time you change your baby?

Grandmas everywhere are wondering, “Where is the diaper cream?”

According to the ultimate boss of all-things-baby, mother of 5 and Gigi to 6, also known as my fabulous Mom, back when we were babies in cloth diapers, everyone used A&D diaper cream with diaper changes.

All diaper changes.

Desitin diaper cream was reserved for rashes.

When I had my 15-year-old, lived in the Caribbean, and was a young medical student, I followed that logic. Maybe not a bad idea with the heat and moisture actually.

By the time I hit my most recent slightly geriatric pregnancy, times had changed. The choices for diaper creams are limitless and using them all of the time is no longer in vogue. Why the change?

Does the type of diaper you use cause diaper rashes?

You would think (and I did think and told my Mother repetitively) that the invent of super fluid-absorbing disposable diapers decreased the rate of diaper rash. Interestingly, the studies actually do not support that.

Many studies have tried to show that babies who use disposable diapers have less diaper dermatitis (going fancy medical on you here) than cloth and the results actually aren’t there.

What does cause a diaper rash?

Nearly all diaper rashes can be placed in 2 categories:

Irritated Skin

Diaper dermatitis is just irritated skin the vast majority of the time. That’s all. As you can imagine, those lovely bodily fluids cause moisture that irritates the skin. Friction from moving in a diaper all day disrupts the barriers in the irritated skin and a red rash develops over the diaper area.

The simple diaper rash happens over the flat surfaces of the baby’s bottom and groin and SPARES the folds. If the folds are involved, you may be dealing with a fungal form of diaper rash.

Should you use diaper cream with every diaper change
Mild Diaper Rash from Irritated Skin

Yeast Diaper Rash

The second most common cause of diaper rash is yeast or fungal infections. This area is wet – and yeast loves to grow in wet areas. Yeast rashes tend to be thicker – the skin looks thick like beef.

It spreads with little isolated satellite lesions through the diaper area and tends to appear in the folds or creases rather than the flat surfaces.

Should you use diaper cream with every diaper change
Yeast Diaper Rash

What does diaper cream do?

Diaper creams work as a barrier between urine and the skin. Because the creams lubricate the area, the baby’s skin has less friction with movement and less irritation. Most diaper rashes are simply irritation of skin in the area so a barrier and decreased friction alone allows the skin to heal itself. Voila, no more rash.

Popular Names of Barrier Diaper Creams

do you use diaper cream with every diaper change
All Barrier Diaper Creams… Hint: Most have Zinc Oxide as active ingredient

So, should you use barrier diaper creams with every diaper change?

The short answer is NO. You do NOT need to use barrier creams with every diaper change. Yeah for lazy Moms like me! Getting that stuff off your fingers takes work.

Are there other types of diaper cream?

There are 2 other groups of diaper creams available that fall outside of the traditional barrier style creams:

  1. Antifungal ointments – these ointments treat diaper rashes caused by yeast. They are typically prescription and reserved for more serious rashes.
  2. Steroid ointments – for the rare eczema, psoriasis, or allergic rash in the diaper area. You should take your child in to the Doctor for evaluation if you are concerned about this form of rash.
do you use diaper cream with every diaper change
Check with your Doctor before using these

When should you use Desitin or other barrier diaper creams?

USE Desitin or other barrier diaper creams for MILD diaper rashes. You only need the barrier for irritated skin. Makes sense. It is simply a coating for that sensitive skin to heal.

Where should you apply diaper cream?

Diaper cream should be applied to any area of irritated skin in the diaper area. That would typically be the flat areas of the bottom and groin where most rashes occur. You will not cause harm if you apply to non-irritated skin, though. The tube just won’t last as long.

How should you apply diaper cream?

To apply diaper cream:

  1. Make sure your hands are clean
  2. Clean the baby’s bottom (more below…)
  3. Place enough cream on the tip of your finger to cover the area
  4. Start in the front and work toward the back

3 Key Steps to Treating a Mild Diaper Rash:

1. Apply a thick layer of barrier cream with every diaper change

2. Increase the number of diaper changes – even let that cute little baby bottom go diaper-free for a few hours if you can stand the cuteness and the mess.

3. Stop using baby wipes – go to warm water on a soft washcloth and gently pat dry. If you must use wipes for practical reasons, use water-based alcohol-free products.

When should you call the Doctor?

If you have tried the above and are losing ground or the rash looks different than expected to begin with (ex: in the folds, satellite lesions), topical steroid or anti-fungal treatments may be needed. For yeast rashes or more moderate to severe diaper rashes, it is time to check with your Doctor for evaluation and treatment.

How can you prevent diaper rashes?

The best way to prevent mild diaper rashes caused by skin irritation is frequent diaper changes. When your baby wets or soils the diaper, go ahead and change it. If your child gets them frequently, allowing your little one to go diaper free periodically can be beneficial as well.

Diaper rashes do NOT mean lazy parenting, though. Please do not blame yourself. They are a part of this lovely world of diapers. Don’t worry your child will outgrow them – eventually.

Simple Solution:

Most diaper rashes are just irritated skin. If you see it coming on, treat it like your Mama did. Use a barrier ointment with more frequent diaper changes, a warm washcloth, and pat dry. Maybe even let that hiney run around diaper-free for a bit. If that doesn’t work or the rash doesn’t fit, it’s time to head to the Doctor.

For more Blog Posts on Caring for Baby:



Dr. Emily VinZant is a Family Physician, weight loss and life coach, and the modern American Mom. She helps Mom’s lose weight through Weight Loss for Modern American Moms. If you would like to learn more, schedule a consult at https://emilyvinzantmd.as.me/schedule.php

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