Cradle cap in infants: All you want to know about it


Becoming a parent and welcoming a baby into this world is a wonderful experience. You are on cloud 9 and will be feeling ecstatic about it. But, along with all the joy and excitement of parenting comes a lot of responsibilities, and what is this on our little one’s head and skin questions that you will have to face. Your newborn might develop a lot of conditions like eczema, dermatitis, and other conditions like cradle cap. These conditions are totally treatable and you do not need to fret about them. Today, we are going to discuss what a cradle cap is for infants. And all you need to know about it. 

What is a cradle cap?

Cradle cap is a form of skin infection called seborrheic dermatitis. The small sebaceous glands present under the layer of our skin secrete lubricating oil called sebum to prevent our skin and hair follicles from drying. The overactivity of the sebaceous gland causes seborrhoea, which leads to seborrheic dermatitis. 

Cradle cap is red or yellow, irritated oily skin, which forms discolored crusty patches. Basically the cradle cap is infant dandruff. The cradle cap does not only appear on the head but also on the baby’s forehead, eyebrows, ears, diaper area, and other areas of the body. 

How does the cradle cap look?

If the intensity is low then the cradle cap just looks like there is slight redness and the skin becomes dry and flaky. But, in more severe cases there is extreme redness accompanied by flaky skin that literally looks like a cap on the head. It looks similar when it appears on the other parts of the body. 

Causes of cradle cap in kids

About 10% of babies develop cradle caps at any time during their childhood. But, the exact cause of cradle cap in kids is still unknown. The condition is pretty common. But, very little knowledge about it leads to insufficient treatment options. But, there are a lot of factors that doctors believe are contributing. Let us have a look at them. 

  • Fungal infection
  • Yeast imbalance
  • Immunodeficiency
  • Maternal hormones

Fungal infection

Some medical professionals believe that cradle cap is a result of some kind of fungal infection and may be related to other skin conditions that are related to fungal infections like athlete’s foot. 

Yeast imbalance

Some other professionals also believe that cradle cap may be the result of yeast imbalance resulting in yeast infection. They believe that malassezia, a particular type of yeast, is responsible for the occurence of cradle cap. They believe that malassezia colonizes on the surface of the baby’s skin resulting in red patchy and scaly skin.


It is also believed that cradle cap may occur due to failure of the immune system called immunodeficiency. In that case, the cradle cap symptoms will also be followed with other symptoms, which your doctor will be able to diagnose. The absence of the immune system is called immunodeficiency. 

Maternal hormones

There is one more theory that the baby’s sebaceous glands will not be working at full strength due to the maternal hormones that enter the baby’s body during gestation and while breastfeeding. The baby’s gland’s overactivity leads to the excessive production of oil. As a result of which, dead skin cells that are shed regularly, get trapped into these oils and lead to cradle cap in kids. 

The best ways to treat cradle cap in kids

Cradle cap is a condition that can come and go at any time. You should follow certain ways to treat cradle caps in are a few tips.

  • Take a vitamin B supplement
  • Keep baths short
  • Bathe the baby only once a day
  • Use the right baby shampoo
  • Apply baby oil on baby’s head
  • Brush the baby’s hair gently

Take a vitamin B supplement

Vitamin B is very important for good and healthy skin. Normally, we get vitamin B from our diet itself. But, there are chances that during pregnancy and breastfeeding a mother might develop vitamin B deficiency. This will lead to deficiency in the baby also. So, if the mother has a deficiency then taking vitamin B supplement will help in the treatment of cradle cap in kids. But, this is still not proven.

Keep baths short

You should keep the baby bathing time relatively short because longer bathing times can dry the baby’s skin which can lead to the development of cradle caps in kids. The temperature of the baby’s bath water also should not be more than 98.6 degree Fahrenheit. 

Bathe the baby only once a day

You may feel that bathing the baby frequently will get rid of the cradle cap. But, this will only increase the problem as giving frequent baths will increase the dryness in the skin, which in turn will lead to secretion of more oil from sebaceous glands.

So, you should bathe your baby once a day. But, you should keep the diaper area of the baby totally clean and dry. Wipe the baby’s but thoroughly with gentle baby wipes and keep it clean. 

Use the right baby shampoo

It is very important to use a good quality mild baby shampoo. You should wash the baby’s hair twice or thrice a week. The gentle shampoo will help rinse off the flakes from the baby’s skin and hair. 

Apply baby oil on baby’s head

The use of baby oil on your baby’s scalp will provide a boost of healing to the cradle cap on your baby’s head. The baby oil can also be used to provide a gentle massage to other parts of the baby’s body which are affected by the cradle cap.

Brush the baby’s hair gently

You should also make a point to brush the baby’s hair gently while giving a bath. This will help remove the excess flakes and also help circulate the hair oil deeper into the baby’s skin to prevent it from drying. If you cannot get a smooth hair brush then use the soft baby bathing towel.  

Is cradle cap painful or contagious?

Cradle cap in infants is very similar to the manifestation of dandruff. Hence, it is not painful. Also, it is not contagious so, bet at ease that your kid will not be infecting other kids. But, in severe cases, it may cause irritation and itching to the baby’s.

If you feel that the cradle cap area in your baby is more red or infected, then you should take the baby to the pediatrician immediately and get it checked. 

So, this is all that we wanted to discuss with you regarding Cradle caps in infants. If you know of anything else then let us know in the comments section below.

Himali Parikh
Himali is Parenting Blogger and founder of She had done M.S in Molecular biology from University of New Haven (US) and was working with various Pharma companies. She had started this motherhood and baby care blog for helping other mothers.

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