Written by Sherrie Cook, Contributing Writer

There are many reasons to choose cloth diapers for your baby. Many mums choose cloth to aid in the prevention of diaper rashes. Cloth diapers are breathable, allowing air to flow freely through them. This  constant air movement provides a natural, dry environment without using harsh chemicals next to baby’s skin. In most cases, rashes are “gone with the wind”.

Unfortunately, not even using cloth guarantees a rash-free childhood for your little one. Rashes in the diaper area can be caused and/or made worse by a variety of different things.

Some of the most common irritants include:

  • moisture trapped against the skin from heavy wetters, infrequent diaper changes or insufficient diaper absorbency
  • irritation from urine and feces (pH is raised with this combo to a higher alkalinity allowing baby’s delicate skin to break down more rapidly)
  • chemical irritants from detergents/soaps
  • allergic reactions from dyes, fragrances, fibers, etc.
  • friction/chaffing
  • restricted air flow
  • oral antibiotics (kill the “good” bacteria and leave the “yeasty” bacteria to run a muck)
  • microorganisms
  • diarrhea
  • introduction of new foods
  • commercial wipes

How do you know which one(s) of these factors is causing your child’s rash?

Unfortunately, it’s basically a process of elimination (no pun intended). In the meantime, while you solve the mystery of the rash, it is extremely important to give your baby’s skin a helping hand while it heals. This does NOT mean you will be forced to dig into the far reaches of the hall closet for that dusty, left-over disposable diaper (now two sizes too small) from last May!

Here are a few ideas to give you hope for finding more natural solutions:

:: Ointments

Most diapering systems suggest that you do NOT use creams and ointments since these products can coat the fabric of your diapers and cause repelling issues. Nobody wants that! What I suggest to concerned moms is two-fold.

Choose a cloth diaper friendly ointment. A couple of my favorites are petroleum-free Baby Bottom Better Salve and Grandma El’s Rash Cream. (Many moms really like Northern Essence Diaper Salves, too, though I haven’t needed to try the latter because the first two always worked well for my babies.)  Used sparingly, a little goes a long way, these ointments should not clog your diaper fabric.

If you are still concerned that the use of ointments might ruin your diapers, place a piece of fabric (i.e. flannel, fleece, a cloth wipey, a prefold diaper, or even a strip ripped from an old tee shirt) between your baby’s bum and the cloth diaper.

This additional layer will serve as a barrier and will keep most ointment residue from transferring onto your favorite diapers. Once used, you may launder the fabric with your cloth diapers or, for cautious parents, with a load of jeans. If you think yeast may be involved secondary to your child’s rash, this may be one case where tossing the barrier fabric might be your best bet.

*Be sure to check your manufacturers warranty prior to the use of any diapering ointments listed here.

:: Naked Time

(If your babies are like mine, they’re cheering already!)  Babies generally LOVE to be freed from all things that bind them – including diapers!

Right after a bath or diaper change, consider letting your little one air out a bit before replacing the diaper. Make sure all baby’s cracks and crevices are patted completely dry.

Resist the urge to use talcum powder (bad for the lungs if inhaled) or cornstarch (cornstarch rings the dinner bell for yeast – you don’t ever want to encourage the presence of yeast by setting out a yummy treat) in the diaper area, especially when the skin is already broken and vulnerable with a rash.

An absorbent prefold placed under your baby (if he’s not yet mobile) will provide ample coverage for a few minutes . If your baby is on the run, a loose fitting prefold, soft diaper cover or trainer will do the trick for a few minutes – just don’t forget he’s not leak proof and start dinner. 🙂

Happy Rash-Free Diapering!

Photos courtesy of:  Ozrix, La Grande Farmer’s Market & crimfants