My Baby’s Nasty Cradle Cap and Eczema Fed My Anxiety and Guilt

Another stressor that caused a rise in my anxiety levels in the weeks following childbirth that helped pave the way for postpartum depression to rear its ugly head was my daughter’s eczema and cradle cap.  They got so bad that my mother, mother-in-law and friends couldn’t refrain from voicing their concern, which at the time felt like criticism directed at me for letting her skin get so bad.  I felt like a bad mother.  After all, a good mother never would’ve let the eczema and cradle cap get so out of control.   I didn’t know better at the time.  Well, in retrospect, I think I would not have been so ready to blame myself if I had received advice and support from someone experienced with eczema and cradle cap from the get go.   If the books I read had in-depth information about why they happen and how to treat.  If I was referred to a pediatric dermatologist early on.  More than likely, I wouldn’t have been so hard on myself and so anxious through it all.

Here’s a picture of the little girl with her cradle cap at its worst…and before all her hair fell out in clumps along with the patches of disgusting cradle cap until she was– much to our dismay –completely bald.  And did I mention she was born with a complete head of hair?  So, it was doubly hard for me to cope with knowing that I had anything to do with her hair loss.  I felt so, so guilty and such a lousy mom.

And here’s a photo of that same little girl a couple months later, after we bid good babyriddance to the cradle cap.  I am including these pictures to reassure other parents out there who are struggling with cradle cap that, even though it may never seem to want to go away, it will.

Looking back now, I think to myself: “How the heck was I supposed to know what to do?”  I was depending on the pediatrician’s expertise, and if she didn’t have expertise with skin, she should have referred me to a dermatologist that specializes in children.  Instead, for the eczema, she told me and my husband that there was no need to bathe her daily, that every other day was fine.  Even 3 times a week was fine.  She advised us to use Dreft to wash our clothes and avoid using Bounce or any other fragrance or anti-cling sheets.  She advised us to avoid using soap, and if we absolutely felt the need to use soap, it should be Johnson & Johnson’s baby soap.  She also advised us against using baby oil, since what our daughter needed was a moisturizer.  She recommended Neutrogena, a hand lotion of all things.

For the cradle cap, she advised us to use a cradle cap shampoo.  For the time in which her cradle cap was at its worst, she even advised us to apply mineral oil to her head and gently brush her hair.  That ultimately did work, as the gross skin patches would gradually come off as you brushed.  This was after we tried cradle cap treatment, to no avail.

Ultimately, the eczema got so bad the doctor was finally willing to refer us to a dermatologist who was nice but did not specialize in children.  Her examination rooms were equipped for adults going in for cosmetic surgery and Botox injections.  She prescribed a topical ointment called Aclovit, which is one of the few eczema ointments out there that contain the least amount of steroid.  She warned us to use it very sparingly on her skin (but not scalp) and for only a short period of time, since steroids have the tendency to stunt growth.

It was through pure trial and error and a half dozen lotions later before we discovered that Cetaphil worked best on her skin.  Having those large jars made it easier for us to, as our pediatrician put it, butter the little girl up from head to toe (or actually face to toes…we didn’t use it on her head).  When her cradle cap finally disappeared, we started to use a hypoallergenic, completely non-fragrant Huggies shampoo.

Until we found a really good dermatology group in 2007, we didn’t realize how critical it was for a pediatrician to be able to recommend a dermatologist that specializes in children.  It’s too bad we did not know about the dermatologist when my daughter was an infant.  Just as with everything else, you learn as you go. You gain experiences over time, not all at once.

The pediatric dermatologist prescribed a mixture of over the counter Cetaphil with a dermatological compound containing a mild steroid.  Today, at nearly 6 years of age, we still use the Cetaphil on her from face to toes.  The weekly exposure to chlorine from the time she started swim classes when she was 9 months old doesn’t help the eczema that stubbornly refuses to go away even today.

8 thoughts on “My Baby’s Nasty Cradle Cap and Eczema Fed My Anxiety and Guilt

  1. Hi Ivy,
    I am in the same boat at the moment, my 3 month old son is having nasty cradle cap and ezcema. May I know how long did your daughter cradle cap finally go away without any treatment?
    I am battling with his ezcema with 1% hydrocontisone cream, but it only controls when I applied the cream but it always flare up again once I stopped. Really worried about him.

    • Hi, my daughter’s cradle crap finally went away before the 2nd photo in my post. She was about 6 mos old at the time. Have you tried using baby oil to gently scrape/lift the scaly skin patches off your son’s scalp with a comb? Things will get better. Your son’s skin and scalp just need some time.

  2. Thank you for the article. At least I am not alone. My three month old daughter is battling a bad case of cradle cap that spread down to her forehead and cheek. I felt like its my fault to let it get to this state!

    We were told its cradle cap by the nurses at first when there was some flaky skin on the forehead and were advised that it is very normal and it should go away on its own. As I am trying to avoid using chemical on my baby girl, I took the advice to apply olive oil on board. It didn’t get any better. it spread to her cheek last week, the nurse practitioner said its fungal and prescribed a shampoo which is not suitable for children under six years old (confirmed by pharmacists when trying to get the prescribed shampoo)?!!!

    My husband and I are desperate to take our baby to see a paediatrician, or at least a reliable GP. It is almost impossible as we were always seen by a nurse practitioner at our clinic (to screen before seeing GP). Perhaps it’s the NHS policy here in the UK. We had no choice but to take our baby to private paediatrician, after a two and a half week wait, we managed to see a private paediatrician. He said its cradle cap but its ezcema on the cheek! Hydrocortisone 1% is prescribed for the scalp and ung Merck moisturising cream for the cheek. I have no choice but to apply the 1% steroid to the scalp. Hopefully it will help to clear the cradle cap.

    I am so upset and started to think that if the ezcema was caught earlier, perhaps it wouldn’t spread to her cheek (it started with a small patch beside her eye). Will her eczema cure? The paediatrician said it should clear after applying the cream, if not, before six months of age and its pretty common for overdue babies (ours overdue two weeks). Due to previous experience, I am skeptical of what the paed said but on the other hand I pray hard to hope what he says is true!

    • Hi Stephy,
      I was upset with my daughter’s eczema and cradle cap getting so out of hand. If I had had the right info from the start from my pediatrician, it may not have gotten that bad. She is 9 now and still battles eczema (what I assumed was only dry skin because when I was little, I only had eczema in my elbows and backs of the knees, but have battled dry skin all my life). For a couple of years, when she was like 5-6 yrs old, we used a shampoo that is by prescription only and shed the layers of skin she periodically got (the chlorine from swimming did not help matters). She still has residual cradle cap that comes and goes (again, I think swimming is the culprit). For my daughter’s eczema, we have been using a Triamcinolone compound (jug of Cerave cream plus a mild steroidal mixture) for the past few years and it has worked very well. Here’s a link to the cream…not sure if this is available in the UK? http://www.cerave.com/our-products/moisturizers/moisturizing-cream?gclid=CLnnjMnFybwCFSYOOgodqxQARQ If it is available, perhaps you can simply use the cream with no steroid in it? Otherwise, consult with the pediatrician.

      Do you have eczema as well? It’s a hereditary condition. Some folks start off w/eczema and outgrow them. When they outgrow differs from one person to the next. I know as mothers, we tend to feel guilty about every little thing that doesn’t go as planned. This was not your fault. We take the info that we obtain and try to do the best we can.

      Please keep me posted, and let me know if you have any other questions. I totally empathize with your situation, having gone through the same thing myself. Hugs to you.
      Warmly,
      Ivy

  3. Hi there. I have been read watching anyone whose baby has cradle cap so bad that her hair falls out in clumps with the big flakes of dry skin. And wondering what other mothers would do to treat and i finally came across yours. My 4 month old daughter has the worst cradle cap and I feel so bad that I didnt go to her pediatrician sooner. She was born with a head full of hair and now her hair especially at the top of her head is falling out when I come through it. And all I can think of is omg her beautiful hair, what have I done!!! She’s going bald in a couple places and I’m so scared her hair won’t grow back!!! Her ped. Told me to put hydrocortisone and clotrimazole on her scalp 2 times a day and it’s getting better but her hair is still falling out. I hope in a couple months her hair will grow back like your little ones.

    • Hi Jamie,
      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment on my blog. Your baby’s hair will grow back, just as my daughter’s did. What my daughter’s dermatologist recommended we do may not be the latest recommendation. That was 8 years ago. Even so, I think it wouldn’t hurt to get a second opinion in your case and have a pediatric dermatologist take a look at your daughter’s cradle cap. I was always told that hydrocortisone (a steroid) should only be used in very limited amounts and in a very mild form for babies. And clotrimazole? I am not a healthcare practitioner, but I seriously recommend you get a second opinion. I would take the advice from a pediatric dermatologist over a pediatrician, but that’s just me.
      Hope your daughter’s cradle cap improves soon!
      Best,
      Ivy

  4. I love Cetaphil – my son also had very bad cradle cap and eczema. My pediatrician gave us some mild topical steriods. I still use those sparingly when he has a flare-up but the Cetaphil, I buy by the tubs!! I grease that kid up every night.

    • Hi Hilary,
      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment! Your situation sounds just like mine! I still do buy Cetaphail buy the tubs and grease my daughter up after her baths.

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