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 riddance 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.