Updated on March 15, 2016
Getting Rid of Yeast in Cloth Diapers
Your baby’s got a persistent diaper rash. It doesn’t seem to improve with your regular diaper cream, and even putting your baby in disposable diapers doesn’t make it go away. Sound familiar? It might be a yeast rash. Your first step should be to visit the doctor to get confirmation that you’re dealing with yeast and a course of treatment, but what about your diapers? That’s what I’m here for. I’m going to walk you through the process of eliminating yeast from your cloth diapers. This is an important step in treating a yeast rash on your baby. If the yeast isn’t removed from the diapers, the yeast will just reinfect baby over and over again. How can you prevent that from happening? It’s actually pretty easy!
What is a yeast rash and what does it look like? A yeast rash in the diaper area is most often caused by an overgrowth of candida albicans. Some candida albicans lives in your digestive system all the time, and it’s totally normal; however, it can overgrow leading to a yeast infection. In your baby, that yeast infection often manifests itself as a yeast rash in the diaper area. Warm moist areas are more prone to yeast overgrowth, so the diaper area is a prime target. Some babies are just more prone to yeast infections, but it can also be caused by antibiotics that baby has taken or that a breastfeeding mom has taken. Some babies can take antibiotics when necessary and have no issues with yeast, others can’t. If your baby has developed a yeast rash after a course of antibiotics before, giving a probiotic after the antibiotics are finished can help prevent an overgrowth of yeast. It doesn’t matter if you use disposable or cloth diapers, yeast happens regardless of your choice of diaper.
So what does it look like? Don’t worry, I’m going to spare you from a photo of a yeast rash, but I will tell you what it might look like on your child. Yeast rashes tend to be pimply in their appearance. You can expect it to be like red dots in the diaper area. Of course not all yeast rashes will look exactly the same, but if your child has a persistent pimply looking rash in the diaper area that does not respond to your regular diaper cream and doesn’t improve in disposable diapers, it’s time to call the doctor. There are a couple of things you do NOT want to do if you suspect your child may have a yeast rash. Don’t put corn starch or any other powder containing corn starch on baby’s bum. Baby powders aren’t recommended for use on babies anyway, but in case someone has told you that the area just needs to stay dry and a baby powder or corn starch will do that, STOP. Yeast feeds on sugar. Corn starch contains naturally occurring sugar. Yeast will feed on the corn starch and the yeast rash will get much worse. The other thing you don’t want to do is put breastmilk on it. I know all the memes will have you believe that breastmilk is the cure all (it sort of is), but when it comes to yeast rashes, it will make it worse. It’s the same principal as the corn starch, naturally occurring sugars in your breastmilk will just feed the yeast and make it worse. The problem with a yeast rash in cloth diapers is that the yeast itself can live in the materials of the diaper. If you don’t actually treat the diapers as well as the child, the diapers can pass the yeast back onto the child’s skin resulting in yet another yeast rash.
How do you get rid of a yeast rash and eliminate the yeast from the diapers? The first step is to make an appointment with your child’s health care provider. You should have the rash looked at and cultured so the doctor can confirm that it is in fact yeast. The doctor will provide you with a prescription for a course of treatment for the child. This may include an antifungal cream. Once the rash has been confirmed as yeast and you’ve been given a course of treatment for the child, it’s time to switch into disposable diapers. You’ll want to keep the child in disposable diapers for the duration of the prescribed treatment, until the rash is completely cleared up, AND for an additional full week after that. Just to be clear, that’s one more week (seven days) in disposables AFTER the rash is gone and the treatment is finished. Why? Yeast is a beast. If there’s any chance that it isn’t fully cleared up, it will resurface quickly. Staying in disposable diapers for an additional week allows the diaper area to fully heal and gives you the time needed to ensure that it’s definitely gone.
Now to eliminate the yeast from the diapers. At some point while the child is in disposables, you’re going to need to treat the entire stash of diapers and cloth wipes (if you’re using them). Yes, I mean the whole stash, not just diapers that were used after the yeast rash showed up. Why? Just because the yeast rash hadn’t made its appearance yet doesn’t mean the candida wasn’t overgrown and starting to develop. It’s really important that all the diapers are treated. If you have two children in diapers and only one child has a yeast rash, you still need to treat the whole stash. If you launder all the diapers together (and I suggest you do for convenience sake anyway), there’s a chance that yeast is on all the diapers from being cross contaminated in the wash. The good news is, it’s pretty quick and simple to treat the diapers, so if a second (or third?) child in diapers does not have a yeast rash, once the diapers are treated, that child can go right back in to cloth. The best way to eliminate yeast from your diapers is with a disinfecting bleach soak. If you have an HE washing machine (ie. any front load washing machine and any HE top loader), you’ll have to do your bleach soak in the bath tub (or a large laundry sink). You want to make sure you’ve bought disinfecting bleach, not deodorizing/splashless/colour guard/fabric guard/etc. bleach. It may surprise you to know that not all bleach disinfects. Weird, right? You’re looking for the word disinfecting on the label and/or at least 5.25% sodium hypochlorite (a higher percentage is perfectly fine). It is safe to bleach cloth diapers and wipes when it’s been properly diluted and the soak lasts for 30 minutes. I’ve written out all the instructions for a disinfecting bleach soak HERE.
Have you ever had to deal with yeast in your baby’s cloth diapers? How did you eliminate it?