Disposable diaper companies would have you believe that rash is caused by feeling wet, but it’s actually caused by a combination of factors, including moisure, heat, and bacteria in the diaper area. Cloth diapers actually breathe better than disposables, and are cooler inside, as well. (And CD families tend to change diapers more frequently, as well, also reducing the moisture and heat inside the diaper.) Desitin has a nice chart showing causes of diaper rash.
Another factor that can contribute to diaper rash is sensitive skin. Disposable diapers contain various chemicals and chemical by-products of the manufacturing process, not to mention the gel substance, which can cause many babies to break out in a rash. Cloth diapers, free from these chemicals, can help clear up rash in babies with sensitive skin.
Even Procter & Gamble’s studies show that diaper rash increases with the increased use of disposable diapers (“A Review of Procter & Gamble’s Environmental Balances for Disposable and Re-usable Nappies” The Landbank Consultancy Limited, 1991).
Regardless of the type of diaper used, newborns should be changed every 2 hours max, and older babies and toddlers should be changed every 2-4 hours. (Generally speaking, disposable diapered babies are changed far less often, partly because it’s hard to tell when they’re wet, and partly because caregivers often feel that the superabsorbent disposables “can hold a lot more” than just one pee.)
Can babies in cloth diapers get a rash? Certainly. Most rashes aren’t attributable to the type of diaper used, and babies in cloth diapers can certainly get rashes just like babies in disposables. There are two types of rashes that are specifically related to cloth diapers – a rash caused by diapers that aren’t getting clean enough or aren’t getting rinsed enough (watch for a future blog post on this subject), and a rash caused by a reaction to the material in the diapers (most commonly, fleece or other synthetics inside the diapers). The solution is a better laundry routine (or different detergent), in the case of the former, or switching the type of diaper you use, in the case of the latter.
Some common causes of rashes are:
– Bacterial infection.
– Not changing diapers with enough frequency.
WebMD has a useful article on rashes.