Cradle Cap: What is It and How Breast Milk Can Help Treat It

If your baby is showing signs of cradle cap, don't worry! This condition is fairly common in babies. Learn what cradle cap is, how it's caused, how to prevent it, and ways to treat it using your liquid gold.

Infants are known for having sensitive skin, especially as they adjust to life outside of your cozy womb. Between the ages of three weeks to 12 months, they can experience a variety of mild skin issues, including cradle cap. If you're a new parent, don't stress about this condition (we know, it can be hard!) as it's typically temporary and easily treatable. With a little extra TLC, this means your newborn's scalp can be back to normal in no time!

What is Cradle Cap?

Seborrheic Dermatitis, more commonly known as cradle cap, are crusting white or yellow scales that appear on a baby’s scalp. The condition looks similar to adult dandruff. These flakes of skin can also be present on the ears, eyelids, nose, and groin. While it may be distressing to see your beautiful baby exhibit this sometimes-unsightly condition, you can breathe easy knowing that it doesn’t hurt your baby and usually clears up on its own within a few months.

Cradle Cap Causes

The cause of cradle cap is unknown. However, some medical professionals believe hormones from the mother cross the placenta before birth and pass to the baby, which can cause overproduction of oil in the oil glands and hair follicles. Another theory is that yeast (fungus), along with bacteria, grow in the oil glands and hair follicles.

Cradle cap is not caused by poor hygiene and it is not contagious, so breathe a big sigh of relief and rest assured that you're doing a great job.

Cradle Cap Treatment

Good news - Cradle cap is easily treatable! Simply wash your baby’s hair once a day with a mild baby shampoo. There are many parents who have found breast milk to be an effective cradle cap treatment. Add a small amount of breast milk to your baby’s shampoo and gently massage the scalp with the mixture. Brush the scalp lightly afterward to loosen scaly skin. You can also apply breast milk to the scalp separately after washing the hair.

Preventing Cradle Cap

Washing your baby’s hair every day or two with a mild baby shampoo can help prevent cradle cap. Gently massage the scalp and brush the hair afterward to loosen any scales. Because breast milk contains omega-3 fatty acids, it’s similar to emollients found in lotions and some parents swear that applying it regularly can work to prevent cradle cap.

When To Consult a Doctor

Cradle cap can sometimes be confused with another skin condition called atopic dermatitis. The difference between the two is that the latter usually causes significant itching. If your baby appears to be distressed by the condition, home remedies have been unsuccessful, or the patches have spread to your baby’s face or body, consult your pediatrician right away.

Your doctor will want to know how long your baby has had cradle cap and what home remedies you’ve used to treat it. They will also likely ask how often you wash your baby’s hair and what products you’ve used. Your doctor may prescribe a low-potency hydrocortisone cream or a shampoo with 2% antifungal ketoconazole medication, depending on the severity of your little one’s condition.

Cradle cap is a common condition in infants and is generally not a cause for concern. In fact, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) states that approximately 10% of boys and 9.5% of girls develop cradle cap. If your baby develops the condition, try not to let it worry you. After all, you likely have more than enough on your mind already! Instead, apply a home treatment, chat with your little one’s pediatrician if needed, and just enjoy your sweet baby.