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Dealing with Diaper Rash and Cloth Diapers

Diaper rash doesn't mark you as a negligent parent. In fact, it is one of the most common dermatologic conditions in the United States and the most common skin disorder of early childhood. And while diaper rash isn't as common among cloth-diapered babies, it does happen. Below are the 6 most common diaper rashes that can occur in cloth diapers and how you can treat them.

For more details and pictures of the rashes, check out our Ultimate Guide to Diaper Rash.


Top 6 Most Common Diaper Rashes in Cloth Diapers


1. Contact Rash
- Bright red, flat and blotchy, in the diaper area only


  • Check for fabric sensitivity: While this is less common, some babies are sensitive to certain synthetic fabric such as suede cloth, which is commonly used in pocket diapers. But before you switch your diapers, check for this sensitivity by lining the diaper with cotton (you can cut up an old t-shrit or flour sack towels) and see if the rash goes away.


  • Buy looser fitting diapers: This rash will only appear around the waist and/or legs and usually happens if the diaper is too tight (common for babies with chunky legs). To avoid this rash, choose diapers with a larger / looser fit and covered elastic on the leg openings. Some recommended brands for babies with chunky legs include Anne Marie Padorie (AMD) pockets, Pooters fitteds, and Softbums AI2s. -For a more complete list of recommended diapers for chunky legs, click here.


  • Strip and change your wash routine: Many people just start out using way too much detergent (or not the right amount of water) when they wash their diapers and this can lead to a rash in the diaper area. To avoid this, first strip your diapers using the stripping method found here and then resume a normal washing routine.
    Note: Charlie’s detergent is known for leaving residue on cloth diapers


    2. Yeast Rash or HMD
    - Raised red bumps similar to acne or pimples, all over the bum that does not seem to get better after 2 days


  • Run a culture: Your doctor can run a culture to determine if it’s HFMD (Hand, foot and mouth) or Yeast (the rashes look very similar). If it’s HFMD, you can apply a cream with natural anti-bacterial ingredients like coconut oil. For yeast rashes, you will need to use creams with anti-fungal properties like tea tree oil (we suggest Pooters Skin Therapy or Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Balm), or your doctor may prescribe an antifungal cream like Clotrimazole or prescription Nystatin. If you use the prescriptions creams, be sure to use a liner or switch to disposable diapers so the cream won’t harm your cloth diapers.


  • Bleach your diapers: In addition to treating the rash, you will need to add bleach to every wash while the rash is present and 7 days AFTER symptoms have gone, to prevent reoccurrence.


    3. Acidic rash
    - Red ring around the anal opening or where urine touches the skin


  • Restrict the diet: Acidic food like citrus fruits and berries or allergy-related foods like honey, milk, eggs, gluten or shellfish can cause this type of rash. To treat, remove these foods from the diet, apply a cloth diaper friendly rash cream until the rash clears, and add probiotics to baby’s diet to help balance the pH in baby’s gut and reduce acidity.


    4. Eczema
    - Red or dark, itchy and scaly patches. Skin may also be cracked, bleeding or oozing. Often appears on the bum, cheeks, and in the folds of the skin


  • Eliminate trigger foods & moisturize: While the cause of eczema is mostly unknown, it can be triggered by certain foods. To help calm eczema, eliminate things from baby’s diet that may cause flare ups like dairy, soy and gluten and heavily moisturize the skin with creams that include natural anti-inflammatories like coconut oil, chamomile, and calendula. We recommend Pooters Skin Therapy.


    5. Detergent Allergy
    - Small, tiny bumps all over baby’s body


  • Switch detergents: Harsh detergents or detergents with fragrances can irritate your baby's skin and cause a rash. Additionally, powder detergents tend to rinse out easier better than liquid detergents. Check out our list of recommended detergents.


    6. Ammonia / Bacteria burn
    - Red, carpet-like burn and/or blisters on or near the genitals


  • Reduce exposure to urine: Some babies are sensitive to contact with moisture. If you’re using natural fiber diapers such as prefolds or fitted, line the diaper with a rectangle piece of fleece fabric. This will keep wick the urine away from baby’s skin to leave him feeling dry.


  • Strip your diapers and change your wash routine: To clean your diapers properly you’ll need to remove the bacteria and disinfect them. Enzymes help to disinfect them by “eating” the bacteria. Unfortunately, most natural detergents don’t have enzymes and this can cause your diapers to not get truly clean - ultimately causing a bacteria burn on your baby. To get your diapers back to a “good” state, strip your diapers using the stripping method found here and then resume a normal washing routine.


    Note: Most diaper rashes should improve or disappear within 7 days. If the rash persists, spreads, is sensitive to the touch, blisters, bleeds or causes a fever, please contact a pediatrician immediately.

    For more details and pictures of the rashes, check out our Ultimate Guide to Diaper Rash.

  • April 04, 2016 by Majaliwa Bass

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