I recently had a facebook fan of mine reach out to me saying that she wants to cloth diaper her newborn baby but afraid of cloth diaper rashes. Diaper rashes with babies are a pretty common issue whether you use disposable diapers or cloth diapers. In fact, I would argue that there are more chances for babies to react to the chemicals and artificial fragrances in disposable diapers compared to cloth diapers.

Before we dive deep into discussing cloth diapers and diaper rashes, I wanted to clarify some common questions that are floating around.

Can cloth diapers cause diaper rashes?

Yes and No! There are various reasons why your baby gets a diaper rash. It can be due to a particular food they ate, can be due to teething or even due to the detergent you used to wash the cloth diapers.  If your baby gets diaper rashes only when you are using cloth diapers, then chances are that cloth diapers are the culprit. In most of the cases, it can be a simple fix,  changing the laundry detergent, making sure the diapers are washed thoroughly or making sure that your baby is changed often, can help solve the issue.

Can Cloth diapers help with Diaper rashes?

Good question! The answer is again Yes and No! If the reason for your baby’s ongoing outbreaks is due the chemicals present in the disposable diapers, then Yes!, Cloths diaper can help solve that issue. However, I would highly recommend, starting cloth diapers once the rash has cleared up that way there is one less thing to question when the rash reappears.
So don’t jump into cloth diapers thinking it would solve your diaper rash issues. Sometimes it might, sometimes might not.

The best way to figure out the reason for diaper rashes is by identifying and eliminating the possible triggers. Some of the typical reason why cloth diapered babies get rashes are outlined below. Try ruling out each scenario and if the rashes still appear, get in touch with a pediatrician to understand if your baby is allergic to anything else.

Common Causes of Cloth Diaper Rash & How to Prevent them:

1. Not changing too often:

Cloth diapers are not like disposable diapers. You would have to change cloth diapers more frequently than a disposable. Otherwise, your baby is going to be sitting under a pool of pee that can irritate the skin and break out into rashes. As a general rule, newborns need changing every 2 hours, and as they grow, you can change diapers anywhere between 2 – 4 hours. In my opinion, you should never go more than 4 hours before changing a baby during the daytime. When baby starts to sleep longer stretches make sure that there is enough absorbency to pull the pee in. And always change if there is poop as soon as you can.

 

2. Allergic to a particular material :

Babies can be allergic to a lot of different materials. Some babies react to man-made fibers used in cloth diapers like PUL, microfleece or microsuede. Opting out of these materials, and switching to brands that use natural fibers like cotton, hemp, and bamboo will resolve this issue for you. Wool is another natural alternative for babies allergic to other cloth diaper materials.

3. Allergic to Laundry detergent:

Similar to the cloth diaper materials, some ingredients in your washing detergent can be bothering your baby. In my (humble) opinion, you should use fragrance and dye free detergent for all your washing needs.  Some of the common chemicals that cause skin allergies are sodium lauryl sulfate, fragrances, and coconut diethanolamide.  Using fabric softeners and dryer sheets are not only a no-no when it comes to cloth diapers, but they contain chemicals that can irritate baby’s skin.

Your baby might develop red, itchy spots or rashes, especially around the waist and thighs where the cloth diaper is sitting tight to the skin. The reaction to a detergent can be all of a sudden or it might even take time to build up, either case switching to a gentler detergent will help you troubleshoot the issue. My top recommendation is Tide Free and Gentle that works great on cloth diapers yet gentle on skin. I do undertstand mainstream detergents don’t work for everyone, Rock and Green is another popular residue free detergent that many moms have said worked for them.

How to deal with Cloth Diaper rashes

4. Bothered by wetness:

Some babies don’t like the feeling of being wet. Many cloth diapers come with a stay dry top layer that removes the moisture in, keeping the baby’s skin feel dry. You can even make your own fleece liners and use them as a stay dry layer. Usually, in most of the cases, this type of rashes will go away with some diaper free time. Wiping baby’s bum, patting them dry and applying a cloth diaper safe diaper cream will also help.

Talking about wipes, there are too many nasty chemicals in disposable wipes, that can also irritate baby’s skin. If you cloth diaper, I always recommend switching to cloth wipes for cleaning baby’s bum.

Best Cloth Diaper Safe Creams to reduce Diaper Rashes:

I asked my Facebook friends what there favorite everyday cloth safe diaper creams were and I put together a list for you. Using cloth safe diaper creams for every diaper change can help prevent diaper rashes. If you think its too much work, I suggest you at least use them for naps and at night time.

  • Delish Naturals
  • Les Produits De Maya Liniment
  • CJ Body Butter
  • GrandMa’s EI
  • Earth Mama Angel Baby
  • GroVia Magic Stick
  • Burt Bee’s Multi Purpose Ointment
  • Anointment Baby Balm
  • Honest Company Healing Balm
  • Weleda Diaper cream
  • Live Clean (with liner)
  • Bare Organics Baby Balm

Don’t want to spend money on buying diaper creams? There are some amazing natural alternatives that you can try.

  • Breast Milk
  • Virgin Coconut Oil

I should say that these creams are great on a regular basis and will help prevent rashes and even cure mild diaper rashes. But when you are dealing with terrible rashes especially ones that are bacterial or fungal in nature, you would need to pull the big guns. You can use store-bought creams like Zincofax, Suedocream or even the ones prescribed by your doctor to treat severe and persistent rashes. These creams usually contain Zinc Oxide, and you should remember to use liners when you are using medicated creams.

But, What if you forgot to add a liner? That happens to the best of us. Don’t worry! You haven’t ruined your diaper once and for all.

Can you remove diaper cream from cloth diapers? yes! you can!

Washing them in hot water will bring some of the residue out. Try cleaning the diaper with a tooth brush to get the cream out. If nothing works, then use a little bit of Dawn(the blue one) and scrub it with a tooth paste.

5. Wash routine :

If you are new to cloth diapering, it might take a while for you to figure out the right wash routine. In general, washed diapers should not have any smell to it. If it smells like poop, then it means your diapers are not clean after the wash. If they smell soapy, then it says you have used too much detergent, and the diapers were not thoroughly rinsed. Both these scenarios are not right. Washing cloth diapers is indeed an art; it does take a couple of tries to get it right.

  • Ammonia Build Up – As I mentioned earlier, this is caused when your washing routine is not right resulting in diapers not getting clean after each wash. The easiest way to figure out if there is ammonia build up is to smell the diaper right after its pee’d. The diaper will have a strong urine smell, can have a pungent odor that irritates your nose and can even burn your eyes. Continuing to use cloth diapers with ammonia issues can cause blisters and burn your baby’s skin.
  • Detergent Build Up: Choosing the right detergent that will work for your water conditions is the key to avoid mineral build up. Making sure that your diapers are rinsed thoroughly is also very important. Hard water, detergent type, and dosage should be taken into account to choose the right detergent and to avoid further mineral build ups.
  • Used or Second hand diapers – Buying second hand aka used diapers are a great way to save money. But, you should make sure that you are buying from a reliable source and make sure to disinfect any diaper before using them.

6. Bacterial /Fungal/ Viral rashes :

Some rashes can start as a mild diaper rash but can develop into an infection. Diaper rashes usually make babies itch, and when there is an open wound, there are risks for bacterial contamination. Also, when your babies have diarrhea or take antibacterial medications, their medication can kill good bacteria causing a possible yeast infection. In either case, the doctor might recommend some medical ointments or creams to reduce rashes.

While using these ointments, some choose to switch to disposable diapers until the rash clears up. But if you decide you to use cloth diapers, make sure to use a liner, as these creams may not be necessarily safe for cloth diapers and can cause diapers to leak by forming a barrier layer.  Also, keep in mind, that bacterial or yeast infection can require disinfecting (bleaching) your diapers and everything that got in contact with the diapers. You will have to make sure to kill these microbial to prevent further infections.

 

Infographic on common cloth diaper rashes

There it is! All the possible reason why your cloth diapered baby can get rashes. Do you feel overwhelmed and scared to the point that you want to give up on cloth diapers? Don’t worry! Diaper rashes are very common and you will most likely deal with them even if you use disposable diapers. In my three years of cloth diapering two kids, we have had rashes only twice. Once when my son had a stomach flu and right now as I’m writing this post as they both came down with hand , foot and mouth virus.

Diaper rashes shouldn’t be your concern if you want to try cloth diapers. If you have any questions or concerns about cloth diapers ,feel free to leave a comment or send me a message on my Facebook page and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

I would appreciate if you can pin this post and share it with your friends. There are so much misconception about cloth diapers , so sharing this information with others can help them make the best choices for their baby.

 

Stack of cloth diapers with cloth safe diaper cream