Help! My Baby Has Cradle Cap

Infantile/neonatal seborrhoeic dermatitis is the medical term for cradle cap. Cradle cap is characterized by a crusty, scaly, yellow rash. This rash typically appears on infants and babies and appears on the scalp.

What Causes It?

Cradle cap usually begins to appear within the first three months of a baby’s life, and it is estimated at least 50% of babies get it. There is no clear resolution on how cradle cap is caused, and there are never-ending debates on the subject. Two of the most popular theories are that it is likely caused by either overactive sebaceous glands or a fungal infection.

It is known that cradle cap is not caused by any type of allergy, bacteria, or not bathing enough.

The theory of a fungal infection is completely feasible. Doctors believe that the cradle cap is a result of either antibiotics they received at birth or in their first week, or antibiotics the mother received before birth. Antibiotics can cause fungal infections after killing off all bacteria. Fungal infections are more likely to be on babies on the scalp, diaper area, and ear.

The other hypothesis suggests it is caused by sebaceous (oil-producing) glands that are overactive. This could occur because of the mother’s hormones still circulating throughout the baby’s body. Overactive sebaceous glands could cause the scalp to become oily and making it hold on to dead skin cells instead of letting them fall off.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

While cradle cap isn’t appealing to look at, it is harmless and is not hurting the baby. Cradle cap is usually marked by simple symptoms such as:

Help! My Baby Has Cradle Cap
By: Jesse Davis

Dry skin that is similar to dandruff
● Yellow or brown flakes
● Oily, thick flakes
● Crusty patches of skin or flakes

Usually a doctor will want to do a simple examination of the area to be sure it is cradle cap. There is usually no need for medical intervention unless the scalp begins to bleed, seems to be causing the baby pain, or begins to spread. In that case the doctor will usually prescribe topical ointments.


There isn’t really anything you have to do about cradle cap unless it is really bothering you. There are special shampoos you can buy that are intended for cradle cap, it is unclear if they work or not. Other options are to shampoo the baby’s hair at least once a day and carefully brushing the scalp with a soft bristle brush, or rubbing it with a towel or washcloth.

Overall cradle cap is a very common condition that usually goes away on its own. Some babies have it for only a few weeks, while others may have it for the better part of a year or more. The good news is that there are little to no complications associated with cradle cap, and it isn’t something to worry about.