Why Baby Keeps Getting Diaper Rash at Daycare & What to Do About It

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No matter which daycare we’ve used for our kids…

… and we’ve used a bunch! Including Primrose and Kids R Kids

We’ve had one problem over, and over, and over.

Diaper rash at daycare!

I can’t tell you how many times we’ve spent all weekend powdering a rash, applying diaper cream, and changing frequently, only for one of our babies to come home on Monday evening with yet another screaming red diaper rash.

So why do babies seem to get diaper rash so often at daycare? Why is it so severe? And what can be done about it?

Diaper rash at daycare is a huge problem for some babies because children at daycare are changed on a set schedule, usually every 1-2 hours, instead of as needed. That means a child may be sitting in a dirty diaper for over an hour, depending on the timing! That much exposure is a recipe for a wicked diaper rash, every time.

Your best bet is to request that your child be checked or changed more frequently, every 30 minutes to an hour or so, if diaper rash is a chronic problem.

But there are other reasons diaper rash can occur at daycare, and more to learn about treating and preventing it. So let’s take a look!

What exactly is diaper rash and what causes it?

Daycare diaper rash gets a little easier to understand once you know more about how diaper rashes (and things like yeast rashes) work.

Diaper rash is a skin irritation characterized by red, tender-looking skin in the area covered by a diaper including the buttocks, thighs, and genitals.

This skin irritation can be linked to several causes, including the following:

  • Prolonged contact with stool or urine. Chemicals from urine and feces aggravate the skin, putting it under chemical pressure, eventually causing the skin to breakout and a rash to appear.
  • Chafing or rubbing. Diapers or clothes that are too tight can rub against the skin, leading to a rash. This can be more problematic when children first begin crawling or walking due to increased friction at the leg openings of the diaper.
  • Irritation from a new product. Introduction of a new brand of diaper, wipes, lotion, laundry detergent or fabric softener can cause skin irritation.
  • Bacterial or yeast (fungal) infection. The warm and moist area covered by a diaper is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria and yeast. Bacterial or yeast infections generally have some visible red dots in addition to red and tender skin.
  • Introduction of new foods. In breast-fed babies, when the mother eats new foods, this can result in more frequent stools or changes in the pH of the baby’s stool, which can cause irritation. The introduction of solid foods and thereafter, when any new solid foods are added it can change the frequency, consistency, and acidity of stools, which can trigger diaper rash.
  • Medication (especially antibiotics). Any medication could affect a child’s digestive system and possibly cause diaper rash. Antibiotics have two unappealing side effects that can cause diaper rash, which are diarrhea and depleting the good bacteria that prevent yeast infections.

The most common reason for a diaper rash, especially from daycare, is usually too much time spent sitting in a wet or dirty diaper, irritating the skin.

All babies get diaper rash every now and then, even with a super predictable diet and frequent changes.

But chronic diaper rash can happen once babies start daycare, and that’s when it becomes a big problem.

It can turn the simple act of a diaper change into an all-out brawl with screaming, tears, medications, and more. As a parent, it’s really frustrating to deal with this every single week.

So why does diaper rash happen so often at daycare, and what can we do to prevent it?

Why does diaper rash happen at daycare?

Here’s why babies and toddlers are more likely to get diaper rash and yeast rashes at daycare than they are at home.

At daycare,diapers are changed on schedule, not “on demand”. 

Here’s the big reason:

Because daycare providers are often managing several infants per one caregiver, they usually have a schedule of changing diapers every 1 or 2 hours instead of checking diapers to see if they are soiled and changing them immediately.

It sounds like madness to parents who are used to dealing with just one or two kids at a time, but it’d be really difficult for daycare teachers/caregivers to check every baby constantly throughout the day!

Depending on how frequently a child is urinating or having stools, this may result in moisture being against the skin for a longer period of time than it typically is when the child is at home.

But there are other reasons chronic daycare rashes can occur.

Products at daycare are different than those at home. 

If the daycare provides diapers or wipes as part of the fees, they are likely not the same brand that parents are using at home and a child may be sensitive to an ingredient in them that causes irritation.

Foods at daycare are different than those at home. 

If foods (even just snacks) are provided at daycare as part of the tuition/fee, then there may be new foods being introduced that cause a change in digestion and stool habits.

(Learn about whether daycares provide food here.)

Positioning of babies/toddlers may exacerbate rashes. 

To manage and maintain the safety of multiple infants and toddlers during feeding or changing times at daycare, some children may be in swings or bouncers for longer stretches of time than they would be at home.

This results in them being in a position where there is increased pressure between their skin and a moist diaper.

Knowing the causes of diaper rash and specifically the reasons it can be more frequent when a child is in daycare, what can parents do to work alongside daycare providers to help keep diaper rash at bay?

How to prevent and treat diaper rash at daycare

It might seem like there’s nothing you can do when your child is out of your care for the day, but here are a few tips that can help prevent this chronic problem.

Ask for more frequent changes.

The best thing you can do is request that your baby or toddler get changed more frequently, since sitting in a dirty diaper is probably what’s causing their rash.

Yes, this will cause you to go through more diapers, but it’ll save you a ton of fussy nights!

Most daycare providers should be able to accommodate checking or changing your child every 30 minutes to an hour.

Always use ointment or diaper cream. 

Thicker ointments or barrier creams can provide another layer of protection between the skin and a diaper.

Oftentimes, these products are only part of the changing routine when a diaper rash is present, but use of them consistently may prevent the rash from appearing in the first place.

Thus, it is beneficial to apply ointment with each diaper change at home and send the ointment or diaper cream to daycare and instruct staff to use it with every change as well.

(Learn about Aquaphor vs Vaseline here.)

Allow your baby to be diaper free more often. 

This is difficult to incorporate in a daycare setting, but is something you can do at home to help rashes heal and prevent them from getting worse.

Perhaps after bath time or just after changing time instead of immediately applying a new diaper, let your child crawl around or have tummy time on a large towel or easily washable blanket.

Use consistent products.

If possible, make sure that the brand of diapers, wipes, and creams you use at home that keep your child rash free are what are used at daycare as well.

Request that you receive notice when there are enough supplies for one more day so that you can always be sure that the facility never runs out.

Use only water and a washcloth (or plain, unscented wipes) for cleaning during diaper changes. 

Many wipes can have fragrances and chemicals that can cause irritation.

Discuss with your daycare provider if providing washcloths and cleaning your baby’s bottom with a cloth and water only is an option.

If not, try to send plain, unscented, chemical-free wipes.

Track introduction of new foods. 

Many daycares provide some sort of daily report that includes an amount and description of what your child ate that day.

Keep track of when new foods are introduced and take note of whether onset of diaper rash occurs within 24 hours of eating that food.

If you notice a pattern, request that your child not be fed that food and send alternatives she can eat instead.

Wrapping Up

Many times, parents who have a child in daycare already feel some level of guilt that they can’t spend more time with their little one.

We’ve been there!

When the early days of daycare come with the addition of the onset of diaper rash, parents may feel even more anxiety, guilt, or worry.

Fortunately, there are many ways that parents and daycare providers can work as a team to resolve diaper rash and prevent it from recurring.

Request more frequent diaper checks and changes, and send plenty of treatment and prevention creams to school with your child for good measure.

For most parents, these simple changes will help significantly.

For more, check out:

Hope this helps!