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When should I use baby powder?

Kori Ellis is an editor and writer based in San Antonio, TX, where she lives with her husband and four children. At SheKnows, she writes about parenting, fashion, beauty and other lifestyle topics. Additionally, Kori has been published i...

Baby basics

When preparing for the arrival of a new baby, parents have a million questions running through their minds. When it comes to diapering, moms often ask about baby powder and diaper creams.

Baby powder

Baby powder smells nice, but you don't really need it. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics and most pediatricians recommend not using baby powder.

Dangers of baby powder

Baby powder created with talc can cause breathing issues and lung damage. Avoid talc-based powders altogether as the small particles can easily be inhaled. Cornstarch powder, with its larger particles, is not as easily inhaled.

However, cornstarch isn't without its problems, either. Cornstarch can worsen a yeast infection of the skin, creating a really bad diaper rash that will have to be treated with anti-fungal cream.

Battling diaper rash

If you're worried about diaper rash, change your baby's diaper often and reduce irritation by using fragrance-free wipes. As a preventive strategy, clean your baby thoroughly and then pat- or air-dry her bottom before applying a layer of diaper ointment or cream.

Many moms swear by zinc oxide creams such as Desitin to treat diaper rash, while others use petroleum ointment (like A+D Original Ointment) to prevent rashes. Triple Paste, Acid Mantle, Aquaphor and Boudreaux's Butt Paste are also popular options. Clotrimazole anti-fungal cream can be used for diaper rashes caused by yeast infections. When your baby does (inevitably) get a rash, try to allow her to go without a diaper when you can. This will allow the rash to dry out and reduce chafing from the diaper rubbing against her irritated skin.

Many babies get rashes between 8 and 12 months of age, when their diet changes. If your baby is constantly battling diaper rash, minimize consumption of acidic foods -- citrus fruit and juice, tomato products, etc. Also consider changing your brand of diapers, diaper liners and/or wipes. Some disposable diapers are more absorbent and fit better than others.

Never use any powder on your baby if the infant's skin is raw or oozing. Use a diaper ointment or cream and consult your doctor if it hasn't cleared up in a few days.

Beyond the bum

Some moms choose cornstarch or medicated cornstarch-based powders for parts of the body other than the diaper area. This can be particularly useful in humid climates. Use a light amount of powder in armpits, neck creases, leg folds and other areas, but don't allow it to build up. Clean any powder in the folds each and every time you change your baby's diaper.

How to use baby powder

If you decide to use powder, remember to select the safer cornstarch-based powder -- not talc. To apply, step away from your baby and shake the powder into your hand. Don't shake it directly on her or nearby. Then apply gently to avoid producing a cloud of powder. Store the powder out of your baby's reach.

More tips for new moms

The do's and don'ts of diapers
Protect your baby from UTIs and diaper rash
How to bottle-feed baby without the guilt

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