Causes & cures for diaper rash

In my son's experience, a diaper rash is either mild, or something slightly different and more dreadful. We've battled our share of rashes over the past few months, but this last one was a real doozy. Here, I share how I helped soothe his bottom while treating his peskiest of rashes.

Causes of diaper rash

I'm no doctor, but what I've learned is that there are a whole slew of causes for babies breaking out in rashes. From dietary changes to reactions to diapering products, or just the time between changes, sometimes it's hard to tell what's causing the breakout. At six months old, my son Vincent got his first big rash. At this same time, I had transitioned him fully off of breastmilk to only formula—he'd begun teething and was chomping down on everything in sight, and drooling—a lot. I had also started him on baby foods. And to top it all off, we were between our Honest diaper bundle deliveries when we ran out of diapers, so I had purchased a small package of cheap diapers to hold us over until our shipment arrived. It was a recipe of factors which I believe exacerbated his rash:

  • Introduction of baby foods

  • Sugar in fruit-based foods

  • Chemical-laden diapers

  • Uptick in saliva swallowed

  • Constant tasting of his surroundings

  • Continual aggravation of his bottom from cleansing and frequent changes

  • Irritation from trying so many different rash creams

The list could go on and on.

Consequently, I spent the next three weeks closely monitoring different baby foods I gave him, ensuring he wasn't having an adverse reaction to a specific food or that something wasn't too sugary. I got him back into his normal Honest diapers, changed his diaper more frequently, and tried all kinds of diaper rash creams. Returning to our usual diapers and slowly reintroducing foods seemed to help stop the spread of rash, but weeks went by and the rash only worsened in a very concentrated area. Bright red bumps that seemed to spike in clusters, scaled up, and at times, bled. So what was happening? Vincent had a yeast rash. Regardless of how clean I kept his diaper area, or how often I applied cream and changed his diaper, nothing was curing it. I recall that Vincent once had thrush for about 2 weeks when he was a couple months old—some babies are just prone to developing yeast sensitivity.

Diaper rash creams

As I mentioned, I tried all kinds of creams in my desperate attempt to cure Vincent's rash. These included:

I won't even list the powders or my own personal mixtures I created to try and get rid of the stubborn thing. It was a mess. But from the creams we bought, it was clear which gave more bang for the buck. Although gentle and "friendly," Honest didn't really give Vincent rash relief. It was good as a light preventative if he was rash-free already, but it didn't help combat rash once it appeared. Same with Aquaphor, which uses petrolatum instead of zinc oxide. Boudreaux's offered speedy relief and treatment for normal diaper rash. The max strength version is what we continue using for long car rides or overnight diapers. But only Triple Paste and Desitin seemed to quickly stop the spread of rash and immediately get to work healing. For us, either one is very effective at offering fast relief of normal diaper rashes. And the more liberally you use them, the better.

Curing diaper rash

After figuring out that it was a yeast rash, I then did some googling for over the counter ointments, as well as natural relief options. I bought:

The 3-day Miconazole (like Monistat), did not help Vin. In fact, it seemed to only irritate the rash by causing redness and a bit of swelling. It seemed to me that perhaps the 3-day strength was too harsh compared to if we'd tried the 7-day version. Next we tried Lotrimin. After two days of applying ointment at each change, I observed no inflammation and I noticed that the yeast rash had become less scaly. A solid week later and we've run out of the Lotrimin and are using the Tinactin. The rash has no redness whatsoever, and nearly all of it has disappeared entirely. Only a few tiny, flesh-colored bumps remain. I notice no difference in Lotrimin versus Tinactin.

Sidebar: I must mention, while slowly reintroducing baby foods seemed to not result in any development of rash, I observed that returning to a regular baby food schedule (once per day for us), seemed to irritate the yeast and feed it. This means that Vincent is likely having some kind of allergy or sensitivity to something in his food. We plan on addressing it with his Pediatrician at his 9-month appointment in a couple weeks. I'll post another blog on those findings soon!

I also did a few things to help relieve Vin's bottom. I mixed a few drops of tea tree oil in his nighttime balm and rash creams since tea tree is a natural antiseptic. In baths, I'd mix epsom salt and tea tree oil into the water for fast relief. Inflammation and redness faded every time. I also mixed a couple drops of tea tree in the Aveeno nighttime balm which I'd apply to Vin's bottom before bed. I can't recommend the use of tea tree oil to combat skin ailments enough—it's a wonder oil.

The 411

With patience, vigilance, and oodles of love, you'll have baby's rash cleared up sooner rather than later. But while it might seem more satisfying to diagnose and cure your little one's malady on your own, persistent and long-lasting issues are best tackled by the professionals. I've learned quite a bit over the last few months, and while I'm comfortable dealing with the more typical diaper or yeast rashes, I very much look forward to Vin's upcoming checkup for insight into his dietary needs. Parenthood—tireless effort and dedication, yet seeing to the wellbeing of your child makes it all worth the while.

Dear Jon

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