Anne Geddes may have us believe that babies are born flawless (and also emerge hatching out of watermelons), but actual birth quickly rids us of this folly: newborns come with a spectacular array of weird and icky crustings, oozings, and olfactory curiosities that photoshopped baby art will in no way prepare you for.
Cradle cap is one such unsightly infant-specific phenomenon. The good news is that, while not great for a close-up, it’s totally harmless–and yes, easy to clear up, too.
Cradle cap manifests as yellow, scaly patches, which gradually flake off over time. The scales can cover baby’s entire scalp, and also could appear on the nappy area, as well as in the armpits, around the nose, and behind the ears–when the condition extends to these spots, it is referred to as seborrheic eczema.
Cradle cap isn’t an indication of an underlying condition–only a result of residual perinatal hormones which overstimulate the skin’s oil glands, ‘glueing’ skin cells to the scalp. It’s very common, especially in infants under eight months. It also doesn’t cause any discomfort–unless you try to pick off the scales (which you shouldn’t).
If allergies run in your family, especially eczema–similar to cradle cap but red, cracked and very uncomfortable–there’s a good chance your little one will develop the innocuous yellow scales, too.
If you can’t wait long enough for the scaly bits to slough off naturally, you can try washing your baby’s hair with a baby shampoo regularly, then gently loosen the flakes using a soft brush.
A quicker fix is to rub coconut or almond oil into baby’s scalp, leave a few hours or overnight, then brush. (Avoid using olive oil as it can aggravate eczema.)
Should your baby’s cradle cap look red and swollen, contact your doc, who can prescribe the necessary treatment for possible infection.