In a recent piece, I proposed that all serious preppers should invest in a set of cloth diapers. I followed that up with a post on how to wash and dry the diapers. In this installment in the baby care series, I want to focus on preventing and curing diaper rash in a less than ideal world.
Nearly every baby, at one time or another, will get diaper rash. Some seem to have more delicate skin than others and are more prone. If this is a recurrent problem, here are some things to check.
Common Causes of Diaper Rash
One of the most frequent problems causing diaper rash is not changing baby’s diaper often enough. Disposables often have “dry layers” that wick moisture away from the skin to keep the skin surface from staying damp. Cloth diapers are usually made of natural materials that soak up moisture well enough, but it remains closer to the surface of the fabric. It is important that wet and soiled diapers are changed frequently if not immediately.
Once urine and feces are exposed to air, they begin to further break down into irritating substances like ammonia, which not only creates offensive smells, but can also be a strong base chemical.
A second frequent problem is not thoroughly (but gently) cleaning the skin and then allowing it to air dry before another diaper is put on. We’ve had a number of baby boys and cold air on their little parts seems to unleash wild fountains, so I know the temptation to quickly re-cover the source. My solution is to put a waterproof layer underneath him and always keep a burp cloth in one hand to shield myself. Usually, after 2 streams he will be empty and you can let the whole area dry. Some people turn baby over on his stomach on a towel and let him have a minute or two of “tummy time” while he dries.
If you are pretty sure that neither of these is the culprit, it could be that the detergent you are using is irritating his skin (especially when it is made wet again by the urine) or that it is not all rinsing out. Reducing the amount of detergent used may help as well as an extra rinse. Changing brands to something with “free” in the name (no additives, colors, perfumes, etc) may help too. Alternately, it may be something in the “baby wipes” you clean him with that are bothering his skin.
Sometimes, especially if diapers have to wait a bit to be washed, the pH of them may be irritating. You may be able to re-balance that by trying baking soda or 1/4- 1/2 cup vinegar (but not both at once) in the wash water. Baking soda is a weak base, but tends to help neutralize pH. Vinegar is an acid which may counteract the base chemical ammonia. Vinegar can also be helpful in breaking down detergent residue on diapers that may be causing irritation.
A last possibility is that your baby is allergic to something in his diet (or yours, if you are nursing). You may want to go back to blander food and add things back one by one to see if you can pinpoint the cause. Food allergies can show themselves in unusual ways sometimes. One of our newborn sons wheezed terribly. He had to be kept propped up at all times, even sleeping. After relying too much on medical nonsense, I finally went with my intuition and decided to experiment with my diet. It turns out he was allergic to the dairy I was enjoying. I cut it out and he got better. He outgrew the allergy and now can tolerate milk products just fine.
I had planned on addressing the whole topic of diaper rash in one post, but it has gotten excessively long. For this reason, I will divide it up and give your eyes and brains a rest. The next installment will cover the various treatments- OTC, homeopathic, and other- for combating diaper rash.