Diaper rash is characterized by bright red, inflamed skin on a baby’s bottom. Most parents attribute it to environmental factors, such as sensitivity to dyes or perfumes, infrequently changed diapers, and chafing. But did you know that itching and inflammation could actually be caused from something in your little one’s diet?
"Baby skin rashes can worsen with exposure to certain foods," warns Latanya Benjamin, M.D., clinical assistant professor of pediatrics and clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Stanford University Hospital in Palo Alto, California. "However, babies tend to have food sensitivities, rather than true food allergies. There is a difference, and your dermatologist and allergist can help you distinguish between the two."
Here’s everything you need to know about the link between diet and diaper rash.
Foods That Cause Diaper Rash
When babies start eating solid foods, the frequency and content of their bowel movements changes. All those new foods can make diaper rash more likely, especially in babies 9 months or older. Acidic foods such as citrus and tomato-based sauces are often to blame for irritating baby's skin and creating a red, sore ring around the anus—and often around the mouth as well.
Here are the top four foods that cause diaper rash:
Citrus fruits and juices: These items are very acidic, which can be tough on Baby’s digestive system. Things to avoid include oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruits, and juices made from any type of citrus.
Tomatoes and tomato-based products: Tomatoes are another highly acidic ingredient that can exaggerate symptoms of diaper rash. Your baby should also avoid spaghetti sauce, tomato soup, ketchup, and anything else that has a tomato base.
Strawberries: Even though strawberries have a pleasing flavor, the acidity of the fruit can irritate your baby’s digestive system.
Pineapples and other tart fruits: Just because pineapple is acidic doesn’t mean Baby needs to avoid all tropical fruit. Consider trying mango or papaya instead.
What’s more, if your baby has frequent loose stools, she might develop diaper rash. It’s smart, then, to also avoid common diarrhea triggers such as dairy, fruit juice, peaches, plums, prunes, and more.
Preventing and Treating Diaper Rash Through Diet
Many babies try plenty of new foods when they start solids, which makes it hard to discern exactly what's causing the negative reaction. Here’s a solution: Introduce new foods one at a time, then watch your baby for three to four days as her digestive system adapts. If you notice any negative reaction to the food, such as diaper rash, she might have a sensitivity. Consult your doctor regarding next steps; if the reaction is small, he might suggest re-introducing the food at a later date.
If your baby does develop diaper rash, feed her starchy foods that digest easily. Reliable options include pasta, bread, rice, whole grain cereal, and crackers. These will ward of diarrhea (which makes diaper rash worse) and bulk up your baby’s stool.
You can also help diaper rash in other ways besides changing your baby’s diet. For example, you should keep the area clean and dry through frequent diaper changes, cleanse with neutral pH non-soap cleansers, and use zinc oxide-based pastes. Visit your doctor for severe diaper rash that spreads, develops blisters, or accompanies a fever.