Ugh. Diaper rash has taken over, and it is not pretty.
I am a crazy diaper rash remedy lady.
Left to right above: diluted Bragg’s raw organic unfiltered apple cider vinegar with the mother, coconut oil, Honest Healing Balm, Nystatin, Boudreaux’s Maximum Strength Butt Paste, Badger Calendula & Zinc Oxide Diaper Cream, Desitin Maximum Strength, Kissaluv’s Diaper Lotion Potion Spray, plain water.
I never predicted that this would be my life.
When I was pregnant, I did not give any serious thought to diaper rash. I was going to use cloth diapers on my baby, and everyone knows that cloth-diapered babies never get diaper rash because cloth is breathable and free of irritating chemicals … which is lucky because regular diaper creams are not compatible with cloth diapers anyway. On the off-chance that my perfect organic baby did get a hint of diaper rash, I would just slather on some raw, cold-pressed, unrefined coconut oil and watch the redness magically disappear.
In preparation for using coconut oil to solve every possible problem that new parenthood could bring, I ordered a gallon of it on amazon and then spent a blissfully ignorant pregnant Thursday night parcelling it into smaller recycled jars and dreaming about how I was going to save the world one drop at a time.
We started using our cloth diapers when Beatrice was two days old after running out of the disposables we had swiped from the hospital.
I was using the coconut oil preventively at every diaper change, along with plain water on a cloth wipe with a spritz of the diaper lotion potion spray.
At 10 days, I noticed the teeniest bit of a diaper rash developing, so we started doing some air time.
Our pediatrician recommended a more intense barrier diaper cream to protect Bea’s sensitive skin from acidic breastmilk poop, so I looked around and landed on a recipe for diaper cream made from coconut oil + shea butter + corn starch. I had all the ingredients on hand, so I whipped up a batch using tapioca starch in place of corn starch. The rash was gone within the day. I continued using this recipe preventively for the next two months with no issues at all. On the maybe two occasions that I noticed a bit of bumpy redness, some airtime and a squirt of breastmilk cleared it up almost immediately. Bea was waking up for only one or two brief feedings at night, so we were even able to leave her in the same diaper all night long with no rash in the morning.
When Bea was just over three months old, I noticed a patch of bumpy redness that was more stubborn and did not respond as quickly to my usual tricks. The rash would almost disappear and then be back again the next day. I tried using tapioca starch alone in case too much moisture was the issue, and that approach worked for a weekend, but the rash still came back a few days later. I cut a fleece blanket into strips to use as stay-dry diaper liners, but the situation got a bit worse and I started to worry that she was having a reaction to the polyester. I put her in an adorably too-large wool diaper cover (instead of the usual PUL cover) overnight for breathability.
After about two weeks of this cycle, I caved and set out to buy an official diaper rash cream. I landed on the Badger Zinc Oxide cream because it was petroleum-free, almost all organic, and likely safe to use with cloth diapers.
At first, the cream seemed to help, but by the second night of using it, the rash was worse again.
I tried plain petroleum jelly from the little foil packs we got at the hospital. No good.
I caved further and bought the Butt Paste, thinking it might stick better and keep her skin more protected. Nope!
At this point, I started to wonder whether my zinc-based cream attempts were to blame. Baby’s skin on zinc:
It looked like an eczema-type reaction to me. I went back to plain coconut oil and air. Rash got better. And then it got worse.
I started to worry that the rash could be yeast since it was so persistent. It did not look as red and beefy as the yeast diaper rashes I saw when I was working in the pediatric clinic, and no broken skin was involved, but we just could not shake this rash! I bought grapefruit seed extract and washed the diapers in that and tea tree oil in an attempt to kill anything nasty they might be harboring.
At Bea’s 4-month checkup, the pediatrician confirmed that the rash was likely yeast due to its behavior, especially because it was not responding to traditional diaper creams. He prescribed Nystatin, and we started using it later that day. The rash seemed to be improving that afternoon, but it was worse again by the next morning! I googled around and found that many people have had success by applying regular diaper cream over the Nystatin. I had a sample tube of Honest Healing Balm, so I started putting that over the Nystatin and noticed improvement. The rash never went away completely and then got worse again after a few days.
I was sleeping, eating, and breathing diaper rash. Every time Bea fell asleep, I was googling new ways to try to solve it. I asked my friends with babies about their rash experiences. I hated using the anti-fungal medication and it did not seem to be helping, so I went back to just coconut oil and air. Better and then worse again.
I whipped up some concoction with the last dregs of the Nystatin and Badger tubes, coconut oil, and a sample of Emily’s Diaper Skin Soother.
I coated Bea in this mix overnight, and it actually seemed to help quite a bit. Sadly, it was a one-of-a-kind blend, and I did not have the ingredients to replicate it. I also assumed that it would not get rid of the rash completely because NOTHING was working.
Are you feeling my pain yet? This was MADDENING. I am sure my crazed state was only exacerbated by the fact that I am currently a nonstop stay-at-home mama with a maximum of five minutes (if even!) to spare at any given time. These brief moments of independence provided just enough time to obsessively google diaper rash cures.
We had to buy disposable diapers for an upcoming trip, so we picked up an extra pack just in case the cloth diapers were somehow continuing to re-infect her. I did several heavy duty washes of the diapers alternately using grapefruit seed extract, tea tree oil, vinegar, and even bleach … and then I sadly set them aside.
In my last desperate attempt to conquer the yeast (or so I thought), I slathered yogurt all over Bea’s bum and slapped on a ‘sposie. I was out of Nystatin, and it didn’t work anyway, so I left a message for the pediatrician and waited for a return call.
When the pediatrician called back at the end of the day, he suggested trying over-the-counter Lotrimin and slathering a thick layer of heavy-duty diaper cream over it. He told me to stop the air time and to prioritize keeping Bea’s skin protected so that it could heal. He suggested that I keep her covered in so much diaper cream that I would not be able to see her skin for several days.
At the crack of dawn the next morning, Bea and I took a sunrise walk to Walgreens to purchase our latest rash attack strategy.
Taking the pediatrician’s advice nearly killed me. I worried that I was subjecting my baby to a long list of mystery ingredients, all in the name of clearing up a silly diaper rash that did not seem to be bothering her anyway. But it was bothering me! And although Bea was not complaining, the rash did not look comfortable, and I was scared it would keep getting worse. I was willing to do anything if that rash would just go away.
I followed the pediatrician’s advice for 1.5 miserable days, which is all the time it took for me to deplete both tubes. Man, diaper rash is EXPENSIVE! And no matter how much diaper cream I put on Bea, it would all rub off in the diaper. The cream actually seemed to be causing the diapers to dissolve, and I was constantly battling leaks and blowouts, which were rarely issues with the cloth.
Midway through day two of this regimen, with no improvement to be found, I threw it all out the window. We went back to cloth diapers, and I stuck to using the prefolds because they can better withstand the washing machine abuse necessary to rid them of the diaper cream residues. I had some cheap Gerber prefolds that I had been using as burp cloths, and I worked them into the rotation as well.
I left Bea diaper-cover-free most of the time to allow for sufficient air circulation. I changed her diaper every hour. I started using diluted apple cider vinegar (1 tsp mixed with 1/2 c water) to pat her down at each diaper change. I tried quitting the Lotrimin, but the rash spread more, so I kept using it. I stopped using the zinc creams that made her skin angry and started using Alba un-petroleum jelly (best stuff ever).
We went on a family trip to Atlanta for the weekend and had to use disposables, but we kept using generic Lotrimin with the un-petroleum jelly all weekend and were SO close to being rash-free. And then, all of a sudden, the rash was back with a vengeance!
When we got home, I went back to the cotton-only cloth regimen and the diluted ACV wipes. I added in some warm water baking soda bath soaks. I tried some diluted way-too-expensive oregano oil that was supposed to be a miracle yeast killer.
I bought new tubes of Lotrimin and un-petroleum and started applying them at every diaper change.
My amazon package arrived, so I prepared my diaper rash cream lab.
Inspired by a couple recipes I found online (this one and this one), I crafted my own miracle rash cure with 1/4 c coconut oil, 1/4 cup shea butter, 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp beeswax, 1 tbsp bentonite clay, 5 evening primrose oil capsules, 7 drops tea tree/lavender oil, and 7 drops chamomile oil.
I opened Bea’s diaper the next morning expecting a miracle, obviously.
THERE WAS NO CHANGE.
This diaper rash cream had everything necessary to protect, heal, remove toxins, disinfect, and soothe her little baby bum. And there was NO change??
My house: where diaper rash creams go to die.
I gave her a baking soda soak, figuring it would at least be soothing. She had started a new style of tortured screaming, and I was worried she was in actual pain. After the soak, her rash looked worse than ever! I called Erik into the room, and we both stared at our poor baby’s bum, baffled. Why wouldn’t the rash quit??!!!
Near tears, I called the pediatrician again (thank goodness for Saturday hours!) and the secretary told us we could come right in.
He took one look at Bea’s bum and told us the issue was no longer yeast (was it ever yeast in the first place?!) but was eczema instead. ECZEMA. Probably exacerbated by all the yeast remedies we kept throwing at it. OMG.
He suggested we keep using the Lotrimin 2x per day just in case, try to treat the eczema with hydrocortisone 3x per day, and continue using a moisturizing barrier like un-petroleum over the whole thing.
I was the opposite of thrilled about adding hydrocortisone to the mix, but we dutifully went to CVS and picked up a tube of it.
I kid you not, the rash was nearly gone after ONE application of hydrocortisone. ONE APPLICATION! Of $5 hydrocortisone! After two months and a small fortune spent on every other possible remedy.
A few days later, I have phased out the Lotrimin and the hydrocortisone and am just using a homemade “un-petroleum” blend with 1/4 c olive oil, 1/4 c coconut oil, 1/4 c shea butter, 1 tbsp beeswax, and 5 evening primrose oil capsules. I can tell this eczema spot is going to be tricky and return at the slightest provocation, so I am going to work on perfecting my un-petroleum recipe to be a more effective barrier because hydrocortisone is not ok to use long-term. (Edited to add: You can find my perfected recipe here!)
The moral of this long and windy story is that no one ever actually knows wtf is going on.
And everyone loves a happy and comfortable baby.