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Cradle cap is very common and usually doesn't bother babies. It normally doesn't require treatment and, if left alone, will eventually go away on its own. But if you want to treat your baby's cradle cap, watch the video to learn how to do so safely and gently.
Dr. Dawn Rosenberg, M.D., FAAP, is a board-certified general pediatrician in San Francisco. She is very committed to teaching and is actively involved in medical student and resident education as an Associate Clinical Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at University of California, San Francisco.
Cradle cap, or seborrheic dermatitis, is really common in babies. It's typical in the first few months of life but can last even up until about a year of age.
What you'll notice is scaly yellow or brown skin on the scalp of your baby. And sometimes the dry skin will extend to around the eyebrows and even around the ears. But don't worry, it's usually harmless, it's not contagious, and generally doesn't even bother your baby.
We don't really know what causes cradle cap. We don't know why some babies get it and others don't. Two possible causes are overstimulation of the baby's oil glands from mom's hormones or overgrowth of fungus on your baby's scalp.
Luckily, cradle cap usually doesn't even need to be treated. It will resolve on its own. If you do want to treat it, you can use some over-the-counter products, like oil, and a soft brush or a fine-toothed comb. I'd recommend massaging your baby's scalp with an oil, like baby oil or coconut oil, or using a thick ointment, like petroleum jelly. And you can massage the ointment or oil into the scalp to loosen up those scales. And then you can use your brush or comb to remove the scales. And you can wash her hair afterwards to remove that oil. Another option is to use a mild baby shampoo every one or two days, leave the shampoo on for a few minutes while massaging the scalp, and then you can remove some of those scales as you rinse out her hair.
I'd recommend calling your doctor if your baby seems uncomfortable, if her scalp is bleeding, or oozing with a yellow discharge. Your doctor may prescribe steroid oils or an ointment for increased inflammation, or even a dandruff or antifungal shampoo or cream if the cradle cap is really severe. But only use these products if it's recommended by your doctor.
Just remember, cradle cap is really more of a nuisance than a real problem. I always tell my families that cradle cap bothers the parents more than it actually bothers the babies.
Video production by Paige Bierma.