What is Cradle Cap?

As a new parent, you probably see a halo around your precious new baby.  Everything about her is absolutely perfect.  Except, what is that scaly stuff on her head?  Are you causing her to have dry skin?  What should you do about it?  You’ve never done this before and you’re freaking out!  Well, you can stop now.  What you are probably seeing is called cradle cap and it is completely normal.


What is Cradle Cap?

Cradle cap

Cradle cap is medically known as infantile seborrheic dermatitis.  It may look like crusty white or yellowy flakes – similar to dandruff – anywhere on your baby’s scalp.  Cradle cap may even present with some oiliness around the affected area.  Some babies are born with it, while others develop it shortly after birth.

Cradle cap is not caused by poor hygiene or baby care and it doesn’t mean your baby has allergies.  It is probably caused by hormones delivered to the baby at the end of pregnancy that stimulates an excess production of oil or it may be due to yeast that develops in the sebum glands.

Cradle cap is not a serious medical condition and is in fact harmless to your baby.  It most likely won’t cause any pain or irritation at all.  Some babies get cradle cap on other areas of their body such as their eyebrows, nose, genitals, armpits and other creases.  Cradle cap is more noticeable on babies with little to no hair.


How to Treat Cradle Cap

The good news is that cradle cap usually resolves itself within a few months after birth.  If it persists, you can do a few things to help get rid of it, however be very careful not to push too hard on any area of your baby’s head, especially her soft spot.  Talk to your pediatrician before using any of these methods to treat cradle cap.

  • Use a mild shampoo to massage the flakes away and cleanse the area.  Do not shampoo more than once a day as this may cause additional dryness.
  • Use a very soft toothbrush to loosen the skin affected by cradle cap.
  • Use olive oil or another natural oil to grease up the area.  Let it set for 15 minutes and then gently comb through the hair.  Beware, you may pull out some hair as well, but it will grow back.
  • If your baby’s cradle cap gets extremely bad and doesn’t show signs of falling off, talk to your pediatrician about a prescription formula shampoo for it.


When to See the Pediatrician

If the cradle cap area does not seem to improve by the time your baby is 12 months, talk to your pediatrician at her one-year appointment.  Also, if you notice the area spreading to her face, definitely see the doctor.  Sometimes what parents believe is cradle cap is actually infant eczema, which is usually marked by red bumps and itchiness.  There are prescription creams available for this condition.