How to Treat Diaper Rash Naturally (& What Causes It)

Diapering your baby comes with a lot of decisions, from going with cloth, to picking the best green disposables. But you probably didn’t consider that your choice could be causing… diaper rash. Luckily, there are ways to treat diaper rash naturally so that you can go back to your preferred diapering method. Every baby is different, and some will get diaper rash often, while others hardly get it at all.

In this post, we’ll break down the most likely causes of diaper rash, as well as how you can easily and naturally treat it at home.

What causes diaper rash?

Diaper rash is a red bumpy rash typically in the diaper area, but it can spread to the legs or back. Almost all babies get a diaper rash at some time or another, while some seem to get it often.

Many things can cause diaper rash since baby’s skin is very sensitive, especially in the first few weeks and months. Most often, diaper rash is caused by the combination of sensitive skin, urine, and a chafing diaper. Luckily, it’s easy to take care of at home. Other reasons for diaper rash can include:

  1. Sensitivity to the chemicals or fragrances in his disposable diapers, or the laundry detergent you wash cloth diapers in.
  2. Sensitivity to something that baby ate, particularly when he begins eating solids. This doesn’t necessarily mean he is allergic to that food, but it may indicate he’s not quite ready to eat it. If it’s a true allergy or sensitivity, there will be other signs, like gas and eczema, to look out for.
  3. Wet or poopy diaper. It seems pretty obvious that skin that stays wet, especially with urine or stool, can become inflamed and irritated. Diaper rashes can pop up when baby starts sleeping through the night and has a dirty diaper on longer than normal. You can either use a double or triple cloth liner or even consider a extra absorbent disposable to wear at night until diaper rash heals.
  4. Diarrhea. When baby has diarrhea, the skin is more likely to become inflamed due to the acids in the stool.
  5. Chaffing of skin. If the rash is localized in skin creases around the buttocks and inner thighs, this could just be due to the chaffing causing irritation. Consider going without a diaper or putting special ointments in those sensitive areas (see below.)
  6. Bacteria or yeast infection. Yes, diaper rash may be due to bacteria or yeast issues. It usually has a different appearance than regular diaper rashes and doesn’t go away quickly (see photos below!) This often happens if your child has thrush or just had a course of antibiotics. It can also happen to babies whose moms received IV antibiotics during labor.

Natural diaper rash treatment

Diaper rash really does come with the territory of parenting. Often it’s a mild case, or comes and goes infrequently—not something to worry about. However, conventional treatments for diaper rash contain harmful ingredients like parabens and are usually made with petroleum (a byproduct of oil refinery), so they’re not sustainable or eco-friendly options. Petroleum products can also make the skin actually dry out more. So what’s a natural mama to do? Well, there are lots of choices! If you need a fix right away, here are some at-home and DIY treatments.

Switch diapers – Maybe one brand is causing the problem (especially if the rash keeps coming back). Conventional disposables often have chemicals and fragrances that can irritate baby’s bum. Try a more natural disposable or a cloth diaper and see if that helps. Likewise (and believe it or not!), if you’re cloth diapering, sometimes you need to take a break from cloth to let the rash heal fully. (This was the case with my daughter.) You’ll also want to strip your cloth diapers so they are nice and clean for when baby is ready to return to cloth diapers.

Here are some things you’ll want to do to get rid of baby’s diaper rash. Start with the easy changes first. See if rash improves.

Here are 8 more natural remedies for diaper rash

  1. Switch laundry detergent – If you’re cloth diapering and believe the detergent could be the problem. Be sure your laundry detergent is free of dyes, fragrances and  harsh chemicals. Switch to a gentle, diaper safe detergent like this one.
  2. Coconut oil – This favorite oil is naturally antimicrobial and anti-fungal. It also gives a nice layer of protection if dampness is the cause of the rash. You can add a bit of arrowroot powder too as an all-natural baby powder.
  3. Olive oil – This oil is also wonderful for soothing the skin, and is even better at moisturizing rough skin. It provides a nice barrier so that baby’s tushie can heal. Coconut oil and olive oil are safe for cloth diapers (meaning they typically won’t cause urine to repel) but should be used sparingly since they are oils and can potentially cause the diapers to not absorb as well. To be safe, use a liner or disposable diaper instead.
  4. Breast milk – Not a good choice if you suspect yeast as a cause, as the milk sugars can spur yeast growth; however, with standard diaper rash, breast milk can soothe and heal the skin. Express milk onto the rash and allow to dry.
  5. Baking soda – Diaper rash can be a result of acidic urine and poop (but it can also be due to too alkaline urine… more on that soon!) Mix a couple of tablespoons of baking soda into her bath. The alkalinity can neutralize the acidity of the rash in some children.
  6. Raw apple cider vinegar – As mentioned above, some diaper rashes are due to too alkaline urine causing irritation and imbalance in the skin mantle. If this is the case for your child, mix 2-3 TB of apple cider vinegar into a luke warm bath and soak her bum for 15 minutes. If this kicks out your child’s rash, you could also create a spray mixing 1 TB apple cider vinegar with 8 ounces of filtered water and apply after each diaper change for rash prevention.
  7. Organic corn starch – Moms swear by corn starch to wipe out diaper rash! Mix a tablespoon of organic corn starch into 2 TB of coconut oil. Be sure to get non-GMO corn starch like this one.
  8. Consider diet – If baby is old enough for solids and you think they could be to blame, consider pulling back on solids or sticking with well-tolerated ones. Babies are usually just fine with breast milk (or formula) alone until 6 months, and even as long as 9 months. Also consider improving overall gut health if rashes recur, by upping probiotics and eliminating gut-wrecking foods like gluten, sugar, certain grains, and processed foods.

Diaper rash spray

If your baby has a particularly sore bottom, you may want to go with a diaper rash spray to eliminate touching the rash. To make your own diaper rash spray, you’ll need:

Put in a spray bottle, and spray onto baby’s bottom as needed. If you’d prefer to skip the DIY, you can buy one instead.

Diaper rash cream

A cream is a better solution if you want to be sure every inch of the rash is covered, or to use as a barrier. To make your own natural diaper rash cream, you’ll need the following:

Gently melt your beeswax and coconut oil in a saucepan. Mix together well and let cool. Add in your zinc powder and stir thoroughly. Store in a glass jar and apply liberally to rash, several times per day.

If you’d prefer to buy a natural diaper rash cream, this one is excellent and very effective!

Yeast diaper rash

So how do you know the difference between a regular diaper rash and a yeast diaper rash?

Typically, a yeast rash is:

  • Much more red and inflamed looking
  • Made up of well defined patches
  • Encased by raised edges
  • Sometimes a series of “satellite” rashes on other parts of body
  • Harder to treat and lasts longer despite your best efforts

Most moms will treat a diaper rash as if it’s a regular rash, and then if it doesn’t go away, assume it’s a yeast rash and begin treating for yeast. You may also assume it’s yeast if your baby has thrush or you or he have been on antibiotics. If this is the case, you’ll need to deal with the yeast overgrowth to prevent the rashes from coming back (the ones due to yeast, anyway).

Here are some things you could try. Again, start with what is easiest and go from there…

  1. Dab kefir, live (plain) yogurt, or diluted raw apple cider vinegar onto the rash.
  2. Use the diaper cream listed above as zinc is very powerful against yeast.
  3. You can also use this DIY cream (don’t let the title fool you!) as the coconut oil and probiotics will fight yeast.
  4. Or, you could open capsule of this cod liver oil (you can find cheaper at a local chiropractor) and apply directly to rash. Vitamin A is excellent for skin repair and cellular growth. It also fights against pathogens.
  5. Or, spread some of this liquid bentonite clay on the rash after each diaper change. Clay can draw out harmful substances.

Finally, if rash will not go away, your doctor may want to prescribe Nystatin cream. You could look into using colloidal silver instead, as it’s a natural antibiotic. You could use this spray or gel. Of course, always get doctor’s approval before using products on baby!

Prevent diaper rash

Of course, the best treatment for diaper rash is prevention. Here are some tips for keeping your baby diaper rash-free:

  1. Change diapers often. Of course we all know this, but we still have those days when a wet diaper stays on longer than it should. If your child is particularly sensitive you may need to stay right on top of this. Cloth diapers need to be changed more often than disposables since they don’t wick moisture away as well.
  2. Be sure to clean and dry thoroughly when changing diapers.
  3. Don’t use too much ointment. Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing. Also, if you trap moisture below the cream you’re doing more harm than good.
  4. Let baby’s tushie air out as often as you can.
  5. Cloth wipes can help if your baby is sensitive to the chemicals in disposable wipes. Cloth wipes with just water should do. Or a squirt of apple cider vinegar. If you don’t want to do cloth, I’d recommend these Water Wipes since they contain zero extra ingredients and are very pure.
  6. Don’t give your baby food he isn’t ready for or doesn’t seem to be able to tolerate. Remember, if it comes out whole, he’s not breaking it down adequately or getting the nutrition from it anyway.
  7. Consider giving baby infant probiotics or a teaspoon of naturally fermented sauerkraut or kefir if baby is on solid foods. Particularly if you suspect the yeast is from past or recent antibiotic use, baby will need to re-balance his gut flora.

Saying sayonara to diaper rash

Whether it’s a sensitivity to a wipe or diaper, an illness, or a course of antibiotics that caused the rash, there are many natural ways to deal with it and keep it gone—for good. Diaper rash is pretty standard in the baby-raising world, but if the rash keeps coming back, you may want to go back through this list and see if there is something causing it to recur. Baby shouldn’t always be suffering from a painful, irritated bum! It could be a sign something’s not quite right, and you should consult a holistic health practitioner.

What about you? What helped your little one’s diaper rashes? Share with us in the comments!

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4 Comments

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  1. This article is informative and really gives a wide range of natural remedies and great advice. I only wish I’d read this when I was having to deal with my babys diaper rash. I really felt I was not getting the proper advice. Thank goodness I took it upon myself to try and sort out my baby’s diaper rash as goodness knows how it would have ended up. Tiny troubles by mama nature (your namesake!) came to the rescue of my baby AND me. It has the beeswax and coconut oil you so rightly mention in your article and it has been marvellous. It is expensive and I still apply a thin layer even although the rash has gone. It is expensive but it lasts longer than any other creams I’ve used before. Tip – make sure babies bottom is completely dry before applying this and it should work wonders.

  2. My lo had a yeast diaper rash and multiple times a day when i changed her diaper, I lightly wiped it with 1:3 ACV and water let it air dry, then poured some breastmilk on her rash front and back, rubbed it in. Lastly, I rubbed a generous amount of unrefined coconut oil on it. I tried my best not to use wipes, but that was a little difficult when out. But it cleared up within a week.

  3. Great article. I’ve just been using my own breast milk to clear up my 8 mo pink eye and even using it on my older kids too who have also become infected. I’m glad it made the list in helping clear up diaper rash.

    • My 3 week old grand daughter is breast fed. She seems to poop after every feeding…has a lil redness…How do u use the breast milk for diaper rash? & are you talking about coconut oil u cook with?

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