Dry patches on a baby's head are not uncommon, but what can you do about them?
It is quite common for babies to get cradle cap in the early months, and it can often be a feature of winter baby skincare (though it can occur all year round). But what is it?
What s cradle cap?
Cradle cap is not an infection or caused by lack of good hygiene. Instead it is believed that the most likely cause of this very common problem for new babies is that their sebacious glands are still settling down and this causes patches of skin to be over greasy, then dried skin crusts over to form yelllowish patches usually on the baby's head, which look flaky.
It can occur in babies who have lots of hair or who have none, and in most cases it will not cause your baby any discomfort.
Treating cradle cap
Generations ago, mothers would comb off the dried skin, but do not be tempted to pick off the flakes with your fingernail as this will not prevent more of the same appearing and could cause a minor infection is the skin comes away leaving raw skin beneath.
Instead, rub a plain olive oil into your baby's scalp to soften the flakes and then use a mild shampoo when bathing your baby, gently rubbing the scalp or using a very soft baby brush to stroke away at the affected area. (Try to avoid too many baths as this may dry out a new baby's skin, but during bad periods of cradle cap you may want to wash your child's head most nights of the week.)
For most cases, you do not need to buy a medicated shampoo.
Severe cradle cap
Some babies get much more severe cradle cap which scabs over if flakes come off before they are ready, or if the cradle cap persists for longer than two or three months.
If the cradle cap persists and does not just come and go from time to time, you may want to ask your pharmacist for a recommended treatment or go to your doctor to get a medicated shampoo which should help clear up the problem within a week. (The problem can then be kept at bay with occasional use of the same shampoo.)
These shampoos can be expensive so it might be worth getting it on your child's free prescription allowance – even if it is available over the counter at the chemist – as this will save you money.
If your child does have severe cradle cap, it may irritate him (in early months babies will not be able to pick at it, but by about four months a child may attempt to grab at it and make it more sore if he has long fingernails).
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