This post is from contributing writer Elissa Dias. Find all her posts HERE.
Elissa emailed me a question regarding the Kids Cook Real Food eCourse, and I was so struck by her writing style and story-telling that I wrote back not only with an answer, but an offer to contribute to the team here! I know you’ll enjoy her stories as well and give her a warm welcome to the KS team. ~Katie
How many times have you stared hopelessly at the angry red sores on your baby’s bottom and felt utterly lost as to how to get rid of the ever-worsening rash? How many times have you stood in the pharmacy aisle comparing the active ingredients of generic yeast infection creams to Monostat 7®, wishing that the $15 you are about to spend could go towards a hot cup of tea and a shoulder massage instead?
It started innocently enough. The day got away from you. The baby was content to eat breakfast, play with the kitchen pots and pans, tag along with Big Sister to the sandbox and by the time Baby’s nap rolls around it hits you – I forgot to change his diaper this morning! You cringe as you pull back the diaper to find two rosy, puffy cheeks. Whew – at least it isn’t bleeding.
You stay on top of the next few wet diapers and the redness hasn’t worsened a bit…
…in fact, it is looking like the edges of the inflamed area are the only ring of red remaining.
But after dinner baby is getting fussy and irritable… you check his diaper… it’s dirty. Time for another diaper change. And despite your quick action, the rash is back with a vengeance. Red sores have appeared and pink, puffy splotches play tag up towards his belly and down towards his thighs. Time for the diaper-rash ointment.
With a slippery, pasty-white bum and a kiss from Mommy, baby is ready to be tucked into bed. The cycle continues for several days: the rash starts to fade and then it returns looking worse than it had before. Soon a few of the sore spots begin to bleed when they are wiped. Baby is becoming afraid of getting his diaper changed because it hurts so much.
You have switched diaper cream brands twice and you are ready to cry.
Nothing seems to be helping.
You lay in bed wondering how other mothers do it. The diaper rash isn’t enough to send you into a panic, but on top of everything else you are juggling to keep your family safe and well… it is just too much. You wonder if your baby’s little bum will scar. You realize that his 9-month check-up is on Monday and you wonder if the nurse will report you for neglect. Tears burn your eyes and you squeeze them shut and beg for sleep.
In the morning you wake up to a familiar, little itch. The itch becomes completely aggravating and the hot, stinging, burn begins. It’s your turn for a “diaper rash.” You have a yeast infection.
Before you head over to the local pharmacy for your vaginal steroid cream or for a new tube of Desitin®, finish reading this article. It may save you the trip out this time around – and prevent the need for these supplies in the future as well.
The Root of the Problem
What is a diaper rash?
- A diaper rash is a normal part of every baby’s life. Right?
- It is not preventable, and only temporarily treatable with specialized ointments. Right?
- A diaper rash does not bother the baby as much as it bothers the worried parents. Right?
- A rash-covered bottom can be soothed with a warm soak in a bubble bath. Right?
Actually, every one of these statements are misleading and distracting from the real issue. Or just plain WRONG.
So what is a diaper rash?
A diaper rash is simply evidence that the skin on and around your baby’s bottom is being compromised.
Irritation is our first key to understanding diaper rashes. Irritation is most commonly understood as an adverse reaction to a stimuli or damage to a cell’s lining. In the case of a diaper rash, something has damaged the lining of the baby’s skin cells or otherwise invoked their body’s reaction of inflammation. Usually, it begins with the fact that urine and poop have a different pH than skin. Prolonged contact with the waste will irritate the nearby skin cells. Irritation (identified by redness, itching or stinging) is a message that there is something bothering your baby’s skin.
Inflammation is our second key to understanding rashes. When our body comes into contact with harmful stimuli, our body’s immediate reaction is to send a large army of fighting cells and fixing cells via our bloodstream to that area. This causes inflammation: our skin gets swollen because of the influx of immune cells that have rushed to the problem area. Those newly arrived cells first attack the original cause of the problem – for a diaper rash this is usually bacteria from the waste in baby’s diaper that has breached the outermost layer of cells and penetrated into baby’s skin.
Once the bacteria have been killed, the fixing cells get to work removing the damaged and infected skin cells. Finally our body is ready to rebuild what was lost and it stimulates new growth of replacement cells. Inflammation tells us that number one: there is a problem, and number two: your body is already at the scene trying to resolve the problem.
Our body heals itself from the inside out, so a rash will disappear on the outside once the problem has been fixed on the inside. Thankfully with diaper rashes, the problem is usually only skin deep.
As with any immune system response, however, there is a battle to be fought. And our immune system does not always win in the first round. In the case of a diaper rash, the continual messing in diapers and frequent wiping can cause the outer layer of skin to be rubbed raw. Since the cells are healing from the inside out, the repeated contact can re-open the wounds more than once before they have a chance to heal. Like any battle, the healing process takes time and proper resources.
So what can be done?
Your baby’s body is the one that will be fighting this battle. Not you.
It is essential to understand that our body was designed to care for itself. The human immune system was designed to be strengthened by practice – not sheltering. It needs to come into contact with many, many stimuli to learn to fight the harmful viruses, bacteria, toxins and diseases that it will face over a lifetime.
Without the multitude of low-dose germs that childhood presents for developing our immune system, our bodies would not have a proper chance at fighting even the smallest virus on its own. As difficult as it is to not rush to our child’s aid at the slightest hint of trouble, we must let their bodies learn how to protect themselves. But that does not mean you shouldn’t do anything about a diaper rash (or any other ailment).
It only means that instead of enlisting something else to fix the problem, you give your baby’s body some extra resources to get the job done itself.
Natural living is about properly equipping our body for the task at hand, not doing the job for it.
In our culture today, we have been taught that our bodies are helpless and protection-seeking sponges that need the coddling of modern medicine to survive and thrive.
That is simply not true.
We are taught that when we get sick, we take medicine and go to the doctor… so without thinking, that is exactly what we do. All the while we wonder why our bodies are so weak and susceptible.. but the answer is right before our eyes: We told our bodies that they couldn’t.
We never gave them a chance to attack diseases and heal wounds. Because we send a hand sanitizer, pain-killer, antibiotic, prescription medication or steroid into the scene to “get the job done right.” Guess what? Those aids can be completely necessary and good – but they are only meant for cases requiring extreme intervention. Not for the day to day “dirt” of life.
Using such methods of external immunity or relief on a regular basis is like telling our bodies to “wait it out… help will come… go back to sleep… nothing will harm you” – when in reality our bodies were designed to actively fight or facilitate these encounters.
Unfortunately, the truth is that those antidotes will not always be available, nor are they guaranteed to work forever.
What Happens if Your Body is Left to Fend for Itself?
Will it have the past experience to know how to care for itself in the present? Will it have the essential supplies in store to wage a war on a little virus or a major disease? Will it have the stamina to win a battle that lasts days, weeks, months or years? Even if you have never considered an option outside of Tylenol® in your life – it is not too late. It is certainly only the beginning for your little one!
Let your first baby step towards equipping (and trusting) your child’s immune system be a more natural approach to diaper rashes.
So here we go! When my little boy got his first diaper rash, my midwife sent me to the fridge instead of the pharmacy!
What could I possibly have in my refrigerator that could help his bottom? I wondered as I plodded towards the tile floor, Maybe she thinks I’m healthier-habited than I am. What does SHE keep in her fridge??
The Secret is Out
It turns out that I did have her suggestion already on the top shelf: PLAIN YOGURT.
Mine was Greek yogurt, so it was even more thick and paste-like than regular slippery yogurt. I smoothed it on Little Boy’s tomato-colored bum and watched for a reaction. He was settling down. No twisting or pulling away. In fact, he looked relieved. Well, at least it doesn’t hurt him. I figured. We’ll see if it really does help.
By the next morning, his rash was gone. Two little scabs were left where the largest blisters had been, and everything else was fresh and flesh toned. Not a touch of swelling or red-rimmed cheeks. He was happy as a clam and I think I was even happier!
This little guy is a toddler now, and we have never looked back at commercial diaper ointments after we started the yogurt. Some rashes have been worse than others, but all have healed fully and quickly. We even put a little yogurt on a teaspoon and let him lick it as a distraction while he gets a diaper change. He loves it.
Give it a try – I think you will be impressed.
- There are no side-effects.
- There are no harmful chemicals or ingredients that disrupt your child’s endocrine system (our endocrine system controls our hormones and is often harmfully influenced by the chemicals found in most personal care products).
- The cold yogurt offers instant relief to the stinging rash and the slippery milk-whey in the yogurt reduces chafing from the diaper fabric.
- The probiotics in the yogurt and live cultures fight the bad bacteria alongside your immune system and repopulates the area with helpful bacteria.
And your baby may even develop a love for plain yogurt instead of only wanting the sweet flavored stuff!
Last but not at all least, the pH of plain yogurt is a completely safe and natural range for your baby’s skin.
The Science of Yogurt as Diaper Cream
The pH of yogurt falls between 4.2-4.9 depending on the brand. Your baby’s skin has a pH of 4.9-5.5 depending on his age and skin health.
Experts recommend that you ONLY use materials with a pH range of 4.0-6.0 on your child’s skin to avoid causing serious damage to their thin and developing epidermis.
So what about your regular diaper rash ointment? Do your homework before testing products on your baby. Regular soaps and petroleum based products (which accounts for most of the off-the-shelf creams and lotions) have a pH of 7.1-12.0! Products with these pH ranges will thin and injure your child’s still developing skin layers.
Because your child’s skin takes several years to fully thicken and form, his cells are much more permeable than your adult skin cells, causing the toxins (including ingredients in soaps or creams) that he comes into contact with quick and easy access to his bloodstream. His body is also MUCH smaller than yours, so the same soap you use will be more than triple its toxicity in his little body.
If your child is having issues with skin rashes or sensitivities, begin your research with understanding pH levels. Many Moms don’t have to look any further than that.
So back to the yogurt: I use Trader Joe’s Plain Whole-milk Greek Yogurt or my own homemade whole-milk Greek yogurt. The important thing is that the yogurt still has lots of live cultures in it.
DISCLAIMER: A word about milk allergies: If your child has milk allergies, whole-milk yogurt may not be a good option for you. For children with severe allergies, allergens can be just as problematic when entering through the skin as they are when ingested.
Instead, look for another means of obtaining probiotics for your little one. Diluted Lavender Essential Oil is also a very good method of promoting skin healing when used appropriately. Mix 1-2 drops of lavender with 1 Tablespoon coconut oil (use the code STEWARDSHIP for 10% off at that site!) and apply directly to the skin as needed. See notes below on Lavender uses and warnings. See Katie’s handy essential oil dilution printable!
Please note: Lavender essential oil is considered safe for children and babies, but I would not use it for an infant under 6 months. It is also important to realize that some individuals react poorly to lavender essential oil and break out in a rash where the oil touched their skin. Keep a close eye on your baby’s bum to be sure that you are not compounding the issue with a new rash.
Yogurt isn’t only an aid for diaper rashes. You guessed it. It also works for yeast infections!
How to Naturally Fight Yeast Infections
The two most common types of vaginal infections are Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) and yeast infections.
Our bodies have a natural balancing of bacteria going on continually. Our birth canal naturally contains both helpful bacteria and smaller numbers of harmful bacteria and yeasts (fungi). Good bacteria keeps the yeast and harmful bacteria in check.
But sometimes sugars, stress or other factors over-feed the yeast and it begins to take over. In women, the result is often a yeast infection. Yogurt is loaded with good bacteria. When our immune system is weakened in any way, it can have difficulty fighting the yeast and replenishing the good bacteria in a timely manner
The yogurt comes in as extra artillery. It does not take over the fight nor does it add chemicals that can disrupt or hormones like a steroid cream might, but does give our body an extra boost of ammunition.
And oohhhhh, the immediate relief of the cold thick yogurt on your skin is worth so much more than the 10 cents it cost to purchase that teaspoon of dairy. I would not apply it internally, like you would for a suppository, rather just as a liberal slathering externally.
Slap a pad on so that the moisture is sucked away from your body as it warms, and you may wish to rinse off any remaining yogurt after a few hours. Continue to treat externally with yogurt until your symptoms are completely gone. For me, this usually means applying the yogurt right before bed for 2-3 nights in a row and rinsing off with warm water each morning. I don’t like to mess with the yogurt during the day and the break gives my body time to work on its own for a while.
Avoid sugars while you are recovering from a yeast infection, as the sugar will feed the yeast and will weaken your immune system. Candida is also an example of excess yeast in the body.
As with your baby’s bum, plain yogurt is also compatible with the pH level of our birth canal and vaginal area. In healthy women, the pH level of this part of the body is 3.5-4.5. Yogurt has a pH of 4.2-4.9.
(NOTE: Bacterial Vaginosis is caused by harmful bacteria outnumbering the good bacteria. In order to correct this type of infection, the pH of the birth canal must be brought back down to a healthy range so that the good bacteria can regain control. Yogurt alone is not usually enough to combat BV. There is a simple, natural, non-antibiotic answer to treating BV, but that must be saved for another post.)
Preventing Diaper Rash
These are mainly common sense, but at 3 AM when you are bleary-eyed and fervently googling “home remedies for diaper rashes,” common sense may not prevail. So here you have them, in no particular order.
- Change baby’s diaper often. Especially if any redness begins, don’t let poop or pee sit against your little one’s bum longer than necessary. It wasn’t meant to be there and it only does damage.
- Anytime baby has diarrhea change their diaper immediately. They may go again in 5 minutes. It’s ok. That acid is a killer and will leave a raw bleeding bottom in no time.
- Consider cloth diapering or organic disposable diapering. Some babies react to the diapers themselves, without any help from diaper messing. The dyes, bleaches and synthetic materials in most disposable diapers are unnatural to say the least, and some babies simply cannot handle them.
- Avoid scented or perfumed shampoos, baby washes, bubble baths and creams. In addition to the pH issue, babies and toddlers have very delicate skin which is harmed by the toxic chemicals that we call “perfumes” or “natural scents” in body products. Such products will not only fail to relieve the rash, but can add even more pain and irritation to the area. Stick with a trusted chemical-free brand of baby wash or just use warm water and skip the soaps.
- Let baby run around naked. “Airing out” once in a while is necessary. If you are worried about tinkle messes – or worse! – spend the time together on a tile floor where clean-up is easy. Read books, play blocks, sing songs… enjoy some undistracted time together. 30 minutes is about all you really need to get some good airflow to the bum skin.
- Give kisses and comfort. A loved, secure baby will be holistically more robust than a fearful and neglected child. How our bodies are so closely interwoven with our minds, feelings and emotions, I do not claim to understand. But they are. Note from Katie: Lori totally talked about the science behind THIS last week!
- Boost baby’s vitamin C intake. Vitamin C gives your immune system extra strength and energy for whatever tasks it is facing. A diaper rash is no exception. Vitamin C is even available for infants in the form of tiny dissolvable tongue tablets or drops.
- Research infant and children’s probiotics and decide if that is something that you should invest in for your child’s wellbeing. Many natural Mommies have more than one means of supplying their children with probiotics, but you need to be the one to decide what will be done in your family.
- Wear clean, dry, breathable underwear.
- If you have a reoccurring issue with tissue sensitivity and yeast or other vaginal infections, try switching to bleach-free panty liners and pads (sometimes labeled “chlorine-free.”) ALWAYS avoid the perfumed or scented feminine products, those are just a time bomb waiting to go off. Some women prefer to use washable cloth pads.
- As with baby, stay away from perfumed soaps, vaginal deodorants or scented body washes. Our birth canal has its own system of cleaning itself that includes antibacterial secretions, germ traps, a coating of protective good bacteria, and even hair to wick away moisture and toxins that get onto the skin. Warm water is generally all that is needed to keep your bottom area clean. If you must use a cleaning product, try perfume-free, pH balanced baby shampoo (only externally!) – it is gentle and effective.
- Always wipe from front to back. There is no need to move the waste back into your body!
- Don’t wear underwear at night. If you need to cover for modesty, wear a nightgown or loose 100% cotton pants.
- Watch your sugar intake. An influx in sugar consumption almost always leads to an influx in yeast. Regardless of whether or not it turns into a full blown infection, there will be more harmful yeast in your system for several days. Remember that breads, tortillas, potatoes and other carbohydrates do break down into sugars as well, so don’t just blame the desserts. A healthy, balanced, real-food diet will certainly do a lot to limit your experiences with yeast infections.
- Keep the kissing up! The more relaxed and settled you are mentally, the less your body wears itself out prematurely with stress – taking away energy that could have gone towards fighting the infection. A stressed Mommy also leads to a unhappy household, so both you and baby will suffer physically when your heart is not at rest.
- Take good probiotics. They can be expensive, so they are the last thing on this list… but they are a vital step when you are rebuilding your immune system – especially after years of abuse or neglect. Katie talks a lot about probiotics at KS. This is the brand the KS household uses after it had incredible success kicking candida.
So there you have it, Mommy.
You can do it.
Take this little baby step as a springboard into understanding a little bit more about the amazing abilities and complexities of your own body and your baby’s body. Just like it did yesterday and the day before, your body will continue to work, work, work whether you are aware of its toil or not – but when you have the opportunity to learn how and why things are what they are, you will learn how to work with your body and not against it.
The winners of last week’s Vital Proteins giveaway are:
- Heidi L. – Grand Prize
- Lori B. – Runner Up
Winners have been emailed with redemption instructions. Didn’t win? You can still get 10% off your entire purchase at Vital Proteins with coupon code VPKS10. Enjoy!
Disclosure: This post and website are not to be taken as medical advice. We are not doctors and are sharing what has worked in our experience as moms. Always check with your doctor and take care to do your own research.
Need More Baby Steps?
Here at Kitchen Stewardship, we’ve always been all about the baby steps. But if you’re just starting your real food and natural living journey, sifting through all that we’ve shared here over the years can be totally overwhelming.
That’s why we took the best 10 rookie “Monday Missions” that used to post once a week and got them all spruced up to send to your inbox – once a week on Mondays, so you can learn to be a kitchen steward one baby step at a time, in a doable sequence.
Sign up to get weekly challenges and teaching on key topics like meal planning, homemade foods that save the budget (and don’t take too much time), what to cut out of your pantry, and more.