What Causes Cradle Cap?

Cradle cap (infantile seborrheic dermatitis) is a skin condition that commonly presents in baby’s first few months of life and up to roughly 12 months.

While harmless, cradle cap can be dismaying to parents–particularly new parents who have never seen it before. Cradle cap looks like a thick yellowish crust or grouping of scales on Baby’s head and can sometimes be seen around the ears, nose and armpits too.

Some important facts about cradle cap:

  1. It is not contagious.
  2. It doesn’t hurt Baby, although if it becomes severe it might get itchy.
  3. Cradle cap is not caused by poor hygiene.

In fact, we still don’t know what causes Cradle Cap. Some health care experts chalk it up to hormones passed from Mother to Baby during the late stages of pregnancy. It is thought that these hormones may over-stimulate the sebaceous glands, which are the oil producing glands that secrete oil into the hair follicles.

Another potential culprit is a yeast growing in the sebum – the oil produced by the sebaceous glands.

How to treat Cradle Cap

While Cradle Cap typically clears up on its own you may want to try some of these treatment ideas.

  1. Gently massage Baby’s scalp to help loosen the scales.
  2. A gentle, soft-bristled brush can also be used to help loosen the scales too.
  3. Shampoo with a mild shampoo and follow with a brushing.
  4. If the above methods don’t help, consider using an oil treatment. Try coconut oil–ever so slightly warmed up so as not to be hot, but to be liquefied at a little more than room temperature. Massage the oil onto Baby’s scalp and leave for 15 minutes before washing with a gentle shampoo.
  5. Remember that the condition is normal and will pass in time: the key to any treatment is that it be gentle, and not to expect the cradle cap to go away after a single attempt.

When to Visit “the Dr.”

If you find that the Cradle Cap is severe enough to cause inflammation or bleeding, you may want to see your family doctor for a cortisone cream or anti-fungal medication.

BabySarah Cosman