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Newborn baby nappy rash

8 minutes


Newborn baby nappy rash is, unfortunately, something that most babies experience, in fact WaterWipes parenting research revealed that nearly 9 in 10 (88%) said their baby experienced nappy rash. The skin on your baby’s bottom is sensitive and delicate, so it can become sore with all that regular but necessary changing and wiping.

As a wipe born out of a father’s desire to gently care for his daughter’s severe nappy rash, we know it can be worrying to find a rash on your baby’s skin but nappy rash is a fairly common baby skin condition and rash and we’re here to help. In this guide, we share expert advice from the likes of dermatologist Dr. Cairine Wilkinson and Dr. Pixie McKenna, as well as newborn nappy rash tips from the NHS and the Mayo Clinic to help you understand, prevent and treat nappy rash effectively so you can keep your baby happy and healthy.

1. What is newborn baby nappy rash?

Let's begin by addressing the first and foremost question - what is newborn nappy rash? Nappy rash affects many babies and is commonly caused by irritation of the skin.1

Nappy rash can be characterised by red patches on your baby's bottom, or the whole area may be red. Their skin may look sore and feel hot to touch, and there may be spots, pimples, or blisters.2

2. What does newborn baby nappy rash look like? Nappy rash symptoms:

  • Mild nappy rash – Pink or red spots. These spots may merge into blotches, affecting a small part of the nappy area. Your baby may cry when passing pee and poop.

  • Severe nappy rash – You may notice bright red spots and cracked skin affecting a large part of the nappy area. Your baby may be irritable and restless and could have a high temperature.

  • Fungal nappy rash – Inflamed skin and red spots around the edges of the rash. The folds of the skin may also be affected.

Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of what nappy rash looks like and nappy rash symptoms. We know that the symptoms of nappy rash can be very nasty but soon you'll be armed with our tips and be able to better protect your baby's bottom in no time!

3. What are the causes of newborn baby nappy rash?

There are several causes of nappy rash and sometimes it's hard to prevent them. Here are some of the most common reasons2 why your baby may be suffering from the effects of nappy rash:

  • Skin being in contact with pee or poop for long periods – If your little one is going to the toilet more often or not being changed regularly enough this can lead to irritation on their skin. Check out our nappy changing tips article for more info.

  • Bacterial or fungal infection – Sometimes, the cause of nappy rash can be from a bacterial infection and this can then spread around your baby's bottom and genitals. The area covered by a nappy can be a breeding ground for bacteria, as it is warm and moist, and so an infection can quickly develop and spread.

  • Antibiotics – If your baby has been prescribed antibiotics then these can affect bacteria levels that prevent nappy rash from occurring, resulting in the very thing the body is designed to naturally ward off. If you're still breastfeeding and taking antibiotics this can also have a similar effect.

  • Chafing – If your baby's nappy or clothes are too tight they can rub against the skin, causing irritation and nappy rash. A tight nappy also reduces airflow which can lead to the nappy area becoming too moist.

  • New products – If you've decided to try a new baby shampoo or a washing detergent than this may have irritated your baby's skin, which could lead to nappy rash.

  • Sensitive skin – Some babies just have more sensitive skin than others and so regular cleaning, changing, and using products can irritate it.

  • Fragranced wipes – Wipes are great for easy cleaning but those that are perfumed or contain a large number of ingredients could all potentially irritate delicate skin.

  • Diet – Foods that contain high amounts of citric acid could lead to nappy rash, this includes foods like oranges, strawberries, and tomatoes.

Hopefully the above helps you to understand more about the wide-ranging causes of nappy rash.

4. How to help care for newborn nappy rash

Unfortunately, as there are several causes of nappy rash, it can sometimes be hard to prevent it. You can try to prevent nappy rash by ensuring your baby is kept clean and dry when possible. We’ve listed a range of nappy rash tips below on how to help prevent nappy rash so you and your baby stay happy1.

  • Avoid too much soap, bubble bath, and lotion. Wash your baby's bottom with water and avoid any products with ingredients that could potentially irritate your baby's delicate skin.

  • When using wipes, use gentle baby wipes. Check the back of pack to avoid using wipes with fragrance or other unnecessary ingredients. Why? A study, conducted by the University of Salford (UK) showed that using WaterWipes as part of a cleansing routine helped reduce the causes of nappy rash. WaterWipes are purer than cotton wool and water and contain just two ingredients – 99.9% water and a drop of fruit extract, providing parents with the reassurance they are giving their little ones the most gentle and effective clean.

  • Dry skin thoroughly. When changing your baby, dry the skin thoroughly, patting instead of rubbing if the area is sore.

  • At each nappy change apply a thin layer of barrier cream or a barrier spray to dry skin. Ask your health visitor or pharmacist to recommend one.

  • Leave your baby’s nappy off for as long as you can to let fresh air get to their skin. If this isn’t feasible, ensure dirty nappies are changed as soon as possible.

  • Bathe baby three times a week. It is fine to bathe your baby every day (especially if they have baby eczema) but three times a week is usually enough to keep the skin clean. A pure wipe such as WaterWipes can be used to gently and effectively cleanse in between bath times.

Using only gentle products on your baby’s bottom can help prevent nappy rash and help care for the skin, so before you buy anything, read the ingredients list and make sure you know what each one does. Where wipes are concerned, that’s easy. WaterWipes are made from just two ingredients - 99.9% water and a drop of fruit extract.

“The best way to deal with nappy rash is to try to prevent your baby from getting it in the first place. But, if your baby gets nappy rash, you can usually treat their skin yourself,” dermatologist Dr. Cairine Wilkinson claims.

Follow these tips on how to help nappy rash and read our nappy changing tips article to be sure you'll have a happy baby come nappy changing time. However, we understand that sometimes these things can't be prevented so if you're dealing with a dreaded case of nappy rash, here are our top tips for handling it.

5. Nappy rash treatment tips - how to treat newborn baby nappy rash

You can treat nappy rash at home with over-the-counter medicines and a little extra TLC3. Here are our nappy rash tips on how to treat and care for nappy rash and get your baby back to their usual happy self.

Let your baby's skin breathe

Try to air out your baby's skin regularly with no nappy time for short periods. It's also a good idea to use nappies that are a little larger than your baby needs while treating nappy rash. This allows your baby's skin plenty of air to heal and dry out a little to stop the rash from getting worse.

Check and change their nappy regularly

Ensure they don't sit in wet or soiled nappies for longer than necessary – try to change them as soon as they have peed or pooped. This does mean you will need to keep a very close eye on them and check their nappies regularly throughout the day.

Carefully clean the affected area

Use gentle products, like WaterWipes to clean your baby's bottom after each change, then dry with a clean towel. Pat the area rather than rubbing to ensure you don't irritate the skin further. You could also use a soft cotton wool ball and warm water.

Bathe your baby every day

While you may use wipes in between baths, we recommend bathing your little one every day while treating nappy rash. Use a fragrance-free soap to avoid any potential irritation and soak their skin in warm water before gently drying after.

Apply an over the counter cream or ointment

Speak to your pharmacist or doctor about the best ointments to treat nappy rash. A cream or ointment that contains zinc oxide is a good choice as this creates a protective layer on skin and relieves irritation. Check the ingredients list and become familiar with the ingredients you are putting on their skin.

6. How long does newborn baby nappy rash last?

If you're in the position that your baby already has nappy rash then we're sure you're eager to know how long this nappy rash may last.

“Nappy rash should clear up after about three days1.’ Dr. Pixie McKenna assured us. “However, if you are at all concerned about the rash, if you think your baby has something that is not nappy rash and has lingered longer than three days or if it is causing your baby discomfort, get advice from a doctor.”

7. When to see a GP for newborn baby nappy rash

If you've done all you can to clear up that case of nappy rash but it doesn't seem to be going away or has got worse, it may be time to visit the GP. Here's when to consider booking that appointment2:

  • If your baby's skin bleeds, itches, or is oozing.

  • If your baby has a fever.

  • If your baby appears to be experiencing discomfort when peeing or pooping.

  • If the nappy rash gets worse after home treatment.

You know your baby better than anyone, so if you feel that something isn't right, get them to a professional as soon as you can for guidance. Your GP may prescribe you a mild steroid (hydrocortisone) cream if home remedies aren't working or topical or oral antibiotics for more severe infections.

We know that dealing with newborn nappy rash is never a fun job and all the above questions are very normal to have. But now you know what nappy rash is, what nappy rash looks like, nappy rash symptoms, nappy rash causes, how long nappy rash lasts, and how to treat and prevent future nappy rash so now you can face that dreaded irritation with ease. If you found our newborn nappy rash tips useful, be sure to take a look at our other baby skin articles on our Parenting Hub below:

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  1. NHS. Nappy Rash. Available at: Last accessed 14th May 2021.

  2. Mayo Clinic. Diaper Rash. Available at: Last accessed 14th May 2021.

  3. Mayo Clinic. Diaper Rash. Available at: Last accessed 14th May 2021.

  4. Price AD et al. The BaSICS (Baby Skin Integrity Comparison Survey) study: A prospective experimental study using maternal observations to report the effect of baby wipes on the incidence of irritant diaper dermatitis in infants, from birth to eight weeks of age. Pediatrics and Neonatology. Available at: Last accessed 14th May 2021.

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