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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?



Steph M
Date: 10/20/2014
Oh man, my lo has had a rash since August. Doc gave her a hydrocortisone cream with antifungal and it didn't do much over three weeks and I stopped because the steroids can be bad for her skin. So I'm basically stuck at this point. (We did use disposables the whole time.) I bleached my diapers back at that point but now I don't see what good it'll do--the rash never went away. We are stuck with it and just trying to manage it and keep it from getting worse. I've been using CJ's + spray which keeps it pretty well managed. I feel terrible for her, though. It sometimes bleeds. :(
Ashley Seymour
Date: 10/20/2014
Thanks for posting! Good info on treating the diapers to prevent reinfection.
Mesha C.
Date: 10/20/2014
This is such a useful guide. I will pin it and save it for later.
Date: 10/21/2014
My son got a rash pretty bad last week. I was so surprised that he got it because we switched to cloth a month ago and he hadn't had any rashes. He also cut two teeth last week. I bet that was the reason!
Nicole Tucker
Date: 10/21/2014
I've noticed with our baby clients that when they take the correct digestive enzymes, eat the most suitable food, and uses topical care such as essential oils, along with the proper diaper there is no rash.
Alicia C.
Date: 10/21/2014
I'm surprised no one has mentioned redness or rashes due to the diapers bit bring cleaned well? We had one bout recently of the LO crying (screaming) in the middle of the night, when we checked his diaper no poop but the most red front I've ever seen on him. I rewashed all his thick overnight diapers just in case, and no redness after. Anyone else experience this? Too much detergent, or not enough, causing a rash?
Date: 10/23/2014
I have been CDing for about 1month. I am worried I'm starting to see a rash but haven't figured out what's causing it.
Date: 10/23/2014
How do you allow air time without accidents?
Date: 10/23/2014
My son is 13 months old and I have been using cloth diapers for about 6 months and he was getting diaper rashes from the detergent residue being left behind in the fabric regardless of what kind I was using then I started to use less detergent but then the I had to start washing his diapers two times. Me being a concerned parent I started to look into alternative solutions and I ran across something called the Wash It. You use a fraction of the amount of detergent while washing your clothes in cold water and my son hasn't had hardly any diaper rashes since. I recommend everyone to look into this, its a miracle for parents who cloth diaper their children!
Michelle Kamm
Date: 10/26/2014
Cloth has made such a huge difference in the frequency, and severity of rashes. My dd has really only had about 3 mild rashes, and when we tried pull ups for potty training she got a bleeding, cracked rash in just a few hours!
Melissa S
Date: 10/27/2014
Our toddler gets diaper rash every time we use cloth at night, despite using stay dry fabrics, stripping the diapers, etc. I'm so frustrated that we can't find a night time solution that keeps him from getting a rash. :(
Petra S
Date: 10/30/2014
Back in the day, when I used "old school" cloth diapers, once in a while the lo would get a rash and both my mother and grandmother said to let the lo go diaperless. We had wall to wall carpet, so I opted to place a large change pad covered with a blanket in a play pen and let the child romp around in there. Play pens were a lot larger those days. At any rate, air works wonders.
Date: 10/30/2014
I didn't realize that there were so many reason why a diaper rash might happen. I think that putting diaper rash cream after every diaper change is a good tip, but then again that's a lot of diaper cream you will be going through. What cloth diaper safe diaper cream do you recommend?
Jessica R
Date: 10/31/2014
I use Alba's Un Petroleum jelly as a barrier to protect my little girls buns. She seems to have sensitive skin so we use pockets for the stay dry aspect and pair it with the jelly for a mostly fail proof method to keep diaper rash away. It is not 100% but a lot better than before.
Date: 11/7/2014
My kids get awful teething rashes! It's usually the first thing I suggest as a cause for rash because it's not always mom & dad's first thought. For teething rashes our main goal is keeping clean and dry and a THICK barrier for preventing the acidic poo from getting on the skin. For cloth we have to use a fleece liner or similar to protect the diapers.
Jete Slaughter
Date: 11/10/2014
We've never had to deal with diaper rash, but I didn't know teething could be a cause. My son has been teething for 3 months now,and while I can say I've noticed the increase in runny stool, I'm glad we haven't had teething rash.
Date: 11/10/2014
My son only got rashes when he was kept in a wet diaper just a tad too long, or when he got older he got them from anything citrus!
Date: 11/17/2014
California baby makes a great cream that is safe with cloth diapers, my second is still too little for the cloth yet, but she had a terrible rash on her entire bum right after coming home from the hospital and it helped clear it up in just a few days. Highly recommend it!
Date: 1/2/2015
we have issues with this and its been a pain to try to figure out. natural sposies have been our best cure for cloth rashes
Date: 2/12/2015
This is a super helpful little guide! Thank you!
Theresa Hover
Date: 3/7/2015
I really didn't know that teething could contribute to a rash, interesting. This is a very helpful list that I'm going to save for the future.
Keara B.
Date: 4/24/2015
It always amazes me how many different things can cause diaper rash! We've been fairly fortunate so far, but my daughter is teething like crazy, and after reading this I think that's causing her some irritation. Thanks for the info!
Jilliann M
Date: 8/5/2015
So many different reasons! Thanks for this guide.

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