The best way to prevent diaper rash is to keep the diaper area clean and dry. A few simple strategies can help decrease the likelihood of diaper rash developing on your baby's skin.
- Change diapers often. Remove wet or dirty diapers promptly. If your child is in child care, ask staff members to do the same.
- Rinse your baby's bottom with warm water as part of each diaper change. You can use a sink, tub or water bottle for this purpose. Moist washcloths, cotton balls and baby wipes can aid in cleaning the skin, but be gentle. Don't use wipes with alcohol or fragrance. If you wish to use soap, select a mild, fragrance-free type.
- Gently pat the skin dry with a clean towel or let it air dry. Don't scrub your baby's bottom. Scrubbing can further irritate the skin.
- Don't overtighten diapers. Tight diapers prevent airflow into the diaper region, which sets up a moist environment favorable to diaper rashes. Tight diapers can also cause chafing at the waist or thighs.
- Give your baby's bottom more time without a diaper. When possible, let your baby go without a diaper. Exposing skin to air is a natural and gentle way to let it dry. To avoid messy accidents, try laying your baby on a large towel and engage in some playtime while he or she is bare-bottomed.
- Consider using ointment regularly. If your baby gets rashes often, apply a barrier ointment during each diaper change to prevent skin irritation. Petroleum jelly and zinc oxide are the time-proven ingredients in many diaper ointments.
- After changing diapers, wash your hands well. Hand-washing can prevent the spread of bacteria or yeast to other parts of your baby's body, to you or to other children.
In the past, it was common to use powders, such as cornstarch or talcum powder, to protect a baby's skin and absorb excess moisture. Doctors no longer recommend this. Inhaled powder can irritate a baby's lungs.
Cloth or disposable diapers?
When it comes to preventing diaper rash, there's no compelling evidence that cloth diapers are better than disposable diapers or vice versa.
Because there's no one best diaper, use whatever works for you and your baby. If one brand of disposable diaper irritates your baby's skin, try another. If the laundry soap you use on cloth diapers seems to cause a diaper rash, switch products.
Whether you use cloth diapers, disposables or both kinds, always change your baby as soon as possible after he or she wets or soils the diaper to keep the bottom as clean and dry as possible.
Washing cloth diapers
If you use cloth diapers, careful washing can help prevent diaper rash. Washing methods vary and many routines work well. They key is to clean, disinfect and remove soap residue. Here's one effective method:
- Pre-soak heavily soiled cloth diapers in cold water.
- Wash diapers in hot water with a mild detergent and bleach. Bleach kills germs. You could also add vinegar to the wash cycle to eliminate odors and rinse out soap residue.
- Double rinse the diapers in cold water to remove traces of chemicals and soap.
- Skip fabric softener and dryer sheets because they can contain fragrances that may irritate your baby's skin.