If your baby looks like she has dandruff in her hair, this is a condition called cradle cap, a type of seborrhea that affects infants. Mayo Clinic experts believe that one factor that can cause cradle cap is the hormones that pass from mother to baby while the child is still in utero, resulting in excessive production of sebum (oil) in the baby’s scalp. Dandruff-like symptoms generally resolve on their own in around 6 months.
If your baby has cradle cap, you might notice patchy scales or thick crusts on your child’s scalp. The skin on the scalp may appear greasy, and you may notice redness as well. Unlike dandruff that afflicts adults, cradle cap typically doesn’t cause itchiness, says Mayo Clinic experts. Cradle cap isn’t contagious, and it’s not a reflection of poor hygiene; however, you may want to treat it so your baby looks his best.
If you choose to treat your infant’s cradle cap, start simple. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends cleansing your child’s hair once a day using a mild shampoo formulated for babies. Prior to rinsing, you may choose to gently loosen the scales using your fingertips or a soft-bristled brush. MedlinePlus advises brushing the infant’s hair with a clean, soft brush several times a day, as well as after every shampoo.
Stubborn Cradle Cap
If your baby’s seborrhea is stubborn, there are a couple of other home treatments you can try. The Mayo Clinic advises rubbing a few drops of mineral oil or petroleum jelly onto your child’s scalp. Let it sit for a few minutes before shampooing. As another alternative, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration suggests applying mineral oil to the infant’s scalp and swathing it with warm, damp cloths for up to an hour before washing it out. If you use the damp cloth method, check your baby often to make sure that he hasn’t grown cold; this could affect his body temperature.
If you use petroleum jelly or mineral oil on your baby’s scalp, be mindful to shampoo and rinse out these substances well. Oily residue that gets left behind in her hair can cause scale buildup and make the situation far worse.
Contact your baby’s pediatrician if you’ve tried home treatment to no avail, your baby seems uncomfortable, or you notice that scaly patches have spread to his face or other body part. The AAP states that a doctor may recommend use of a dandruff shampoo formulated for adults.