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Cradle Cap

By Annie Zimmer, M.D.

Combing your baby’s hair.

​Cradle cap is a common skin condition on a baby's scalp during the first couple of months of life. It can appear as red patches with oily, yellow scales or crusts on the scalp. This is caused by hormones from the mother to the placenta during pregnancy. Oil glands in the skin become overactive and release extra oil, causing dead skin cells to accumulate and stick on the skin. Cradle cap is harmless and will eventually disappear but it may cause slight discomfort for your baby. Boys Town Pediatrics offers parents recommendations to take care of their baby's scalp care needs.

Scalp Care

If the cradle cap is itchy and is bothering your infant, try the following techniques below to care for your baby's needs.

  • Anti-dandruff shampoo. Buy an anti-dandruff shampoo (nonprescription) and wash your baby's hair twice a week. Massage your baby's scalp with a soft brush and softly comb the cradle cap areas.
  • Softening thick crusts. Use baby oil or lotion on the scalp 15 minutes before washing to soften the crust. Make sure to wash all the oil off or it may worsen the cradle cap. If the area is very red and irritated, apply a small amount of 1% hydrocortisone cream (nonprescription) or Aquaphor twice a day. After an hour, wash the area with soap and water. Do this for no more than 7 days.

Cradle cap will eventually go away between 6–12 months of age and usually doesn't cause any symptoms of pain or itching. If the cradle cap lasts more than 12 months or the rash spreads beyond the scalp, contact your pediatrician.