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Diaper Rash: What's causing it and why?

Posted by Julie on 10/20/2014 to Troubleshooting
diaper rash

Statistically speaking, babies who are cloth-diapered have fewer occurrences of diaper rashes than babies who wear disposables. Many cloth diapering moms are surprised when their cloth-diapered little one presents with a diaper rash, but it can happen.

Why does it happen and what can you do about it? Read on to find out!

Teething Rashes

Teething causes an increase in saliva production. Your baby swallowing this excessive saliva can lead to tummy troubles, specifically loose stools and frequent bowel movements. Both of these may lead to diaper rash. Applying a cloth-diaper safe rash cream after every diaper change creates a preventative barrier between the diaper and skin that can reduce the chance of a rash developing. Also, be sure to change your little one often and as soon as possible after they have soiled their diaper.

Introducing New Foods

This is a common cause of diaper rash in older babies because your baby is beginning to eat solid foods. Some foods (fruits, tomatoes, citrus juices) may cause bowel movements to become loose or more acidic, which can lead to diaper rash. A food allergy (to wheat, dairy, or soy, for example) can also cause redness and irritation. Make sure to introduce one new food at a time and wait 4 days between foods. If a reaction occurs and there are no other signs of a true allergy (systemic rash, breathing difficulties, etc), wait and try introducing that food again later on.


Various medications, particularly antibiotics, can cause diaper rash. Typically this is contact rash, due to diarrhea caused by these medications. Make sure you are changing your baby as soon as possible after a bowel movement and use cloth-diaper safe rash cream after every change as a precaution. You may also want to encourage the growth of good bacteria in the gut by giving your child probiotics every day while taking the medication, particularly with longer courses of antibiotics.

Yeast Rash

Sometimes antibiotic use can lead to a yeast rash, which is caused by the disruption of the natural state of the intestines. A yeast rash can also be caused by too much sugar in the diet or a reaction to dairy or gluten. A yeast rash looks different from a typical diaper rash; it presents with raised, pimple-like bumps or splotches and is very red. If your child has a yeast infection, you will need to sanitize all of your diapers, wipes, and liners as yeast can be harbored in any of these and will re-infect your child. Options include bleach, grapefruit seed extract, vinegar, or sunning. Keep in mind that topical creams used to treat yeast rashes are not cloth diaper safe, and you will need to use flushable liners, hybrid diaper inserts or sometimes disposables until the rash has been gone for at least 5 days.


Unlike disposable diapers that pull wetness away from your baby, some cloth diapers require a liner to make them stay-dry or feel dry against your baby’s skin and in general, cloth diapers need to be changed more often than disposables. Simply having a wet diaper against their skin for an extended period of time can cause redness. Make sure to change your baby often, use a fleece liner to keep baby’s skin as dry as possible, and allow them to have some air time when they are not wearing a diaper to make sure they are completely drying out between diaper changes.

Allergy (diaper component, detergent)

You may notice your baby seems to get a rash more often in one kind of cloth diaper versus another. Some babies have a sensitivity to PUL, a material often used as a wetness barrier in cloth diapers, or other synthetic materials. An allergic reaction to a detergent or diaper cream can also cause a rash. If you are unsure of what is causing your baby’s rash, make sure you haven’t made any changes to your laundry routine or products you use that may be causing a problem. Sometimes it is simply a build up of detergent in the diapers that causes irritation. Stripping your diapers and either switching detergents or using less detergent in your diaper laundry can help.

Has your cloth-diapered baby ever had diaper rash? What tips do you have for dealing with it?