Cradle Cap Is Leaking Fluid? (What To Do If Cradle Cap Is Infected & When It’s Time To See Your Pediatrician)

When a baby’s cradle cap starts to ooze, it is a telltale sign of infection. A cradle cap occurs as a scaly patch on the baby’s skin, sometimes with a red rash and yellow crust. Although it is unpleasant to look at, it does not generally bother a baby. But if you notice bleeding, a strange smell, or liquid leaking out of it, it is time to see a pediatrician. A bacterial or fungal infection needs medication to curb its spread and treat the inflammation. 

A cradle cap has nothing to do with hygiene.

It means that no matter how clean the baby is, he is still at risk of getting a cradle cap. The chance is high if he has particularly oily skin.

It is not contagious either, but it can risk spreading in other high-moisture skin areas. 

What is a cradle cap?

Cradle cap, or infant seborrheic dermatitis, is a common infant skin condition characterized by scaly patches of skin.

It appears in the baby’s scalp, eyebrows, and eyelids. It can even extend to the neck, nappy areas, and armpits sometimes.

This condition affects around 4 in every 10 babies under three months of age. The cradle cap resolves on its own after about 6 months of the baby’s age. 

A cradle cap is not contagious and not painful. Some babies may experience mild itching, but it typically does not in most infants. 

What causes cradle caps?

Our skin has sebaceous glands that produce a greasy substance called sebum. It is what keeps the skin slightly waterproof.

Babies have active sebaceous glands because of the nature of the mother’s womb where they came from. 

The baby’s body and system are immature and may only develop into normal processes after three months.

It means that the sebaceous gland is enlarged and active at this time, and it will be until the baby turns three months. 

Enlarged oil glands and hypersecretion of sebum cause inflammation resulting in infant seborrheic dermatitis.

Eventually, they shrink and become inactive from three months until puberty, curing cradle caps at once. 

How can I treat my baby’s cradle cap?

Cradle cap goes away on their own even without treatment after the oil glands have shrunk. Some techniques can prevent infection and lessen its symptoms. 

A picture of the back of a newborn baby boy's head with cradle cap

Sweating worsens a cradle cap. So, the best way of keeping the skin from too much flaking is to keep the baby cool and dry.

A baby hat or bonnet is not necessary when indoors or the weather is hot. Use a hat only when it is sunny or too cold outside. 

You can loosen the scales by gently brushing on the baby’s scalp. Use any soft brush, or you can buy a special cradle cap brush in the pharmacy.

For easy brushing, you may soften the crusts with mild baby oil or coconut oil overnight. Rinse it with water afterward to remove the skin and oil residue. 

But remember, do not force pick the flakes that did not lift, as it may only risk bleeding and infection. 

Products for treating cradle cap

Remember that the baby has sensitive skin and may react to different products.

Perform a patch test before using any products on your baby, even if it indicates that it is hypoallergenic.

You may apply the following non-medicated products:

What to do if the cradle cap gets infected?

Blisters, pustules, and liquid weeping from the cradle cap are typical signs of infection.

It is rare, but it may happen when the skin under the crust is inflamed. The Staphylococcus aureus bacteria can infect it and may lead to impetigo or school sores. 

Watch out for other symptoms of infection:

  • Leaking fluid
  • Bleeding
  • Red and swollen skin area
  • Large crusting
  • Blisters
  • Foul odor

An infected cradle cap will cause your baby to become unwell. He will also get fussier from the itching and irritation. 

Take your baby to the pediatrician if you notice liquid oozing from the cradle cap scale. Aside from topical medications, your little one will also need antibiotics to clear the infection. 

In severe cradle caps, the pediatrician may prescribe 1% hydrocortisone cream as cradle cap treatment.

However, do not use these products or any antifungal cream without talking to the pediatrician first. 

When should you call your baby’s pediatrician?

Infection is an immediate sign that warrants medical intervention. Thus, you must take your baby to the pediatrician if an infection occurs.

A mom is at her baby's pediatricians office to have his cradle cap looked at

Additionally, you should also consult your baby’s pediatrician when the following things happen:

  • The rash does not clear after a week of treatment
  • The rashes spread to other areas of the body
  • Cradle cap that extends after the child’s first birthday


Will breast milk help treat cradle caps?

Many parents claim that breastmilk can treat cradle caps, but science is yet to back this up.

There is no harm in trying this safe home remedy with its immunological properties. Just make sure to rinse the milk off the baby to prevent bacteria and yeast from growing on the skin’s surface. 

Can cradle cap cause baldness?

A cradle cap will not cause baby baldness but only temporary hair loss on the surface of the crust. Rest assured that the hair will grow back as soon as the scabs are gone.

How to prevent cradle caps?

Cradle cap is unpreventable – not even vitamins, breastfeeding, or hygiene can avoid cradle caps in infants.

What kind of oil can I use to lift cradle caps?

A mild baby oil or mineral oil is safe for babies. Avoid using peanut oil to avoid the risk of allergies. 

According to studies, sunflower and olive oil is also not advisable for infants. It can delay the development of a skin barrier that prevents allergies. 


Cradle cap is inevitable and can happen to almost 10% of newborns.

The cause is unknown. But, it often points out the hypersecretion of oil in the sebaceous gland. It will clear away on its own without warranting treatment unless the condition escalates to infection. 

While good hygiene is not responsible for cradle caps, it may help in preventing skin infections.

Keep your baby’s skin clean and dry to shorten the duration of the appearance of crusts. And if you think the cradle cap gets infected, consult your baby’s pediatrician and avoid self-medicating your baby. 

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Ann Marie is a licensed nurse in the Philippines. She experienced handling and assisting deliveries of newborns into the world. She also trained in labor rooms and pediatric wards while in nursing school - helping soon-to-be mothers and little kids in the process. Though not a mother by nature but a mother by heart, Ann Marie loves to take care of her younger cousins as well as nephews and nieces during her free time.

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