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  • Cradle Cap: Symptoms, Causes & Treatments

    August 10, 2023 3 min read

    As parents, we all want to ensure our babies are healthy, happy, and comfortable. However, sometimes our little ones experience health issues that can cause concern and anxiety. One such common issue among infants is cradle cap. It is a harmless but highly visible skin condition that makes infants uncomfortable.

    Let’s understand this condition in detail.

    What Is a Cradle Cap?

    Cradle cap, medically known as infantile seborrheic dermatitis, appears as scaly and greasy patches on the baby's scalp. It is not a serious condition, but it can be stubborn. Parents often wonder what it is and what they can do to manage it.

    A cradle cap is usually noticed within the first few weeks of a baby's life and can last until they are about a year old. The exact cause of the cradle cap is unknown, but it is believed that it may be due to overactive sebaceous glands in the scalp, a fungal infection, or a reaction to the mother's hormones.

    What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Cradle Cap?

    It could be a sign of a cradle cap if you notice yellow or brown scales or flakes on the baby's scalp. It may also cause redness and greasiness on the scalp. A cradle cap can spread to the forehead, eyebrows, ears, neck, and other body areas.

    The condition is not itchy or painful, but it may cause mild discomfort to the baby. In severe cases, cradle cap may cause inflammation and infection, leading to little bumps and pimple-like eruptions on the scalp and other areas.

    Moreover, scratching the affected area may lead to secondary bacterial or fungal infection. Keeping the affected area clean and dry and avoiding excessive washing is essential, as it can strip the scalp's natural oils and worsen the condition. In some rare cases, cradle cap can persist for more extended periods, and parents may seek medical advice to resolve the issue.

    What Causes Cradle Cap?

    Cradle cap on a baby is caused by the overproduction of oils in the scalp, which leads to the buildup of scales and flakes. It is presumed that the hormones passed from the mother to the baby during pregnancy may stimulate the overproduction of sebum. The condition typically appears within the first few weeks of life and can last for several months. 

    Other factors that can contribute to baby cradle cap include certain medications, a compromised immune system, and environmental factors like harsh shampoos or extreme weather conditions. Left untreated can lead to itchiness, irritation, and even hair loss. However, various natural baby products and at-home treatments can help alleviate symptoms and improve the overall appearance of the scalp.

    How Is Cradle Cap (Seborrheic Dermatitis) Treated?

    Cradle cap may be a temporary condition that can usually be treated at home with proper hygiene and the use of natural baby products.

    One of the most effective ways to treat a cradle cap is regular washing of the baby's scalp with mild baby shampoo. Gently massaging the scalp with a warm washcloth during bath time can help loosen and remove the scales. It is important to avoid excessive scrubbing or picking at the scales, which can irritate the already inflamed skin.

    Another common treatment method is applying baby oil to the affected areas before washing. This helps to soften the scales, making them easier to remove. In severe cases, a medicated shampoo or ointment may be prescribed by a doctor to reduce inflammation and control the growth of yeast.

    When to see a doctor?

    While cradle cap is harmless and usually goes away on its own within a few weeks or months, there are instances when medical intervention may be necessary.

    If your baby has a cradle cap, and you notice signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or warmth, you should seek medical attention immediately. Other warning signs may include more extensive scaling or oozing of yellow fluid from the affected areas.

    See a doctor if your baby's cradle cap persists for more than a few months, becomes increasingly severe, or spreads beyond the scalp. In some cases, cradle cap may indicate an underlying condition like atopic dermatitis or an immune system disorder that requires medical management.


    While cradle cap is typically a harmless and self-limiting condition, you should always be alert and seek medical attention if you notice any concerning symptoms. Parents should also follow proper baby skin care practices and avoid using harsh products or excessive force when removing cradle cap scales. With proper care and attention, most cases of cradle cap resolve within a few months, leaving your baby with healthy, smooth, and clear skin.