Baby Basics

Apply ointment, if necessary.
You can apply a barrier ointment at each changing, but if your baby hasn’t had diaper rash, then you may not need it. Fasten the diaper, making sure that it isn’t too tight. And what about that dreaded diaper rash? It isn’t a given that all babies will have it. “Obvious precautionary steps include changing diapers frequently to minimize the contact between moisture and skin,” says Mancini. And using barrier creams or ointments—zinc oxide- or petroleum-based products— helps to accomplish this as well.

Diaper dermatitis (rash) is caused by prolonged contact with urine and feces. If your baby does get a diaper rash, watch it closely. “If there are signs of an infection, such as pustules, whiteheads, drainage, crusting, or intense redness, then secondary yeast or bacterial infection may be present,” says Mancini. If the rash persists, a pediatrician should evaluate it.

Cloth vs. disposable

The decision about which kind of diaper to use is a very personal one. At one time, there were news stories about cloth being the more environmentally sound option. But now it looks like washing cloth diapers has as much environmental impact as disposing of throwaways.

According to the nonprofit Institute for Lifecycle Environmental Assessment, the decision comes down to your community’s situation— in a drought, use disposables; if there are landfill problems, use cloth. That’s the larger environmental impact. On a more personal level, cloth is definitely more natural, while disposables are more convenient. However, when it comes down to your baby’s comfort, Mancini says, “Cloth diapers are not as good as disposables in terms of diaper dermatitis prevention.

Disposable diapers contain absorbent gelling material, which is extremely effective in wicking moisture away from the skin. The incidence of severe diaper dermatitis seems to have fallen significantly since the advent of disposable diaper technology.”