Chubby infants are irresistible which leaves parents wanting to hug, hold and cuddle with them all the time. There are a few things, however, that might make you cuddle a little less with your baby and one of those things is a bad case of baby neck cheese!
Baby neck cheese, otherwise known as milk neck, is a common issue for newborn babies that causes a sour odor, irritation, redness, itchiness, and even bleeding around the folds of their neck. Getting rid of it and preventing it from coming back requires proper attention to hygiene and skin care.
Read on below to find out everything you need to know about baby neck cheese, including what it is and how to treat the redness and bleeding. I have also compiled a list of practical tips on how to prevent baby neck cheese in the future.
What Is Baby Neck Cheese?
Does your baby have deep creases on their neck or a double chin? Have you picked up on a sour smell coming from their neck folds? Have you spotted some redness or bleeding in the creases as well?
If your answer to any, or all, of the above questions is “Yes!” then you have come to the right place.
To ensure that we are all on the same page, I will start by defining this common condition. Baby neck cheese, also referred to as milk neck, occurs when your infant develops a sour smell in the creases of their neck or double chin. This condition is usually seen in infants that are younger than four months.
What causes baby neck cheese?
Infants that are less than six months old are not strong enough to stretch their necks. This usually causes the chubby flesh around their neck and chin area to form deep folds. These folds repeatedly rub against each other, irritating their gentle skin. These folds also accommodate any extra milk, spit and drool escaping the baby’s mouth.
When left unchecked, all these factors combine leading to baby neck cheese. With time, a milk neck can lead to serious skin irritation, cause redness and even bleeding in some cases. It can also lead to a more serious yeast infection!
Now that you have a clear idea of what this condition is, let us take a look at what you can do to make it go away, and prevent any recurrence in the future, i.e. until your newborn gets past this period of their growth.
How To Get Rid Of Baby Neck Cheese?
If you are already picking up on a sour smell coming from your baby’s neck, I recommend that you act quickly, and get rid of the underlying causes to ensure that it does not escalate to redness and bleeding; two things that most parents consider to be quite scary.
Here’s a short list of tips that parents can use to get rid of baby neck cheese:
1. Proper Hygiene
One of the best ways to combat milk neck in newborns is through practicing proper hygiene and bathing is top on the agenda. In my experience, bath time is the best time to clean out any milk, spit or drool that has found its way into your baby’s neck folds. Bathing a newborn is always a tricky affair as they tend to be fragile, slippery and splashy. To get things done properly, you need to take your time and follow the right approach.
By the way, my absolute favorite baby soap right now is hands down the Babyganics baby shampoo + baby soap pump. It has a natural ingredient list, works great, and comes out as a foam lather that makes it easy to use with a washcloth. By the way, it also LASTS FOREVER! Check it out right here.
Having the right equipment for the job at hand also helps a lot when it comes to getting to those hard-to-reach areas, deep in their neck folds. In my opinion, the two most important things to bring to your baby’s bath besides a high-quality soap is a baby bathtub (check out my favorite style here) and a rinser that keeps the soapy water out of your baby’s eyes (like this one).
After that, just have fun!
P.S – I have also found that using a peri bottle (or any kind of squeeze bottle that is easy to handle and spray accurately) helps make it easier for you to clean out neck cheese. As opposed to a washcloth or cup of water, a peri bottle filled with warm water makes it easier for you to accurately aim a gentle jet of water at the folds.
2. Apply Vaseline/Coconut Oil Or Lotion
Once your baby is clean and dry, and all of the neck cheese has been cleared out, I recommend that you apply some coconut oil, Vaseline or a gentle lotion to the affected area. Just to emphasize, this should be done after every bath. I highly recommend the Puracy brand and my wife and I particularly enjoy the Calming Lavender and Grapefruit scented lotion that you can find here. It’s safe, effective, and natural!
Coconut oil is a personal favorite as well it not only soothes the skin but also helps treat any symptoms of irritation, such as redness or bleeding, thanks to its natural microbial properties. We like this particular product here by Baby Bum because it’s a coconut balm that is less messy than dealing with raw coconut oil.
3. Breast Milk
Breast milk also has amazing natural healing properties and can be used as a natural remedy for skin irritation associated with baby neck cheese. However, since breast milk is also one of the main causes of the fouls smell you are trying to get rid of, you need to take a lot of care when using this approach. For the best results, just squirt some milk over your infant’s clean and dry neck skin, making sure that you keep the folds open until the milk is dry.
Bleeding Baby Folds
As previously mentioned, in severe cases, baby neck cheese may cause bleeding along the affected creases. While this is alarming to any parent and is bound to have you rushing to the doctor’s office, I suggest that you try out the above-mentioned tips first.
However, as I am not a qualified medical professional, I recommend that you consult your doctor if the skin irritation, bleeding or rashes around the neck folds does not show any signs of disappearing. These professionals are best suited to recommending stronger medical products for treating the condition in cases where natural remedies have proven to be ineffective.
If the neck cheese goes away but keeps coming back it could also be a sign of a yeast infection. In this case, you will likely need a prescription anti-fungal from a doctor!
Tips To Prevent Baby Neck Cheese
Dealing with baby neck cheese and its nasty effects can be quite scary especially if this is your first encounter. To help save yourself from the physical, mental and emotional stress that it puts on you and your newborn, I have compiled a list of practical tips you can follow to prevent the occurrence or re-occurrence of baby neck cheese.
1. Proper daily hygiene
I will not dwell on this point any more than I need to as it has already been addressed above. However, I believe that it is important to reiterate the essential nature of proper hygiene when it comes to preventing and resolving baby neck cheese.
It’s completely normal for saliva, milk, dirt, and sweat to accumulate in the skin folds of a newborn so you just have to be ready to keep cleaning them out!
If you don’t have the time or ability to bathe your baby every day then at least go to town with a baby wipe several times per day!
2. Keep the baby dry
After cleaning your baby’s neck folds, air dry the skin or use a damp cloth or dab dry methods to clear any remaining moisture. Since the folds have a hard time getting air circulation, in general, this might be an active process.
3. Loose-fitting clothes changed often
Tight clothing can irritate your newborn’s skin, and even cause rashes, by rubbing on their rolls. If the neck opening is too tight, this might irritate the skin around the neck folds, further aggravating the situation.
Dressing your baby in loose-fitting comfortable clothing is an easy and affordable way to prevent baby neck cheese and any associated skin irritation. Also be sure to change your baby’s clothing when it gets dirty because it will likely help deposit food, milk, and other substances in your baby’s neck folds if you aren’t careful!
4. Feed more slowly and clean up afterward!
It is true that milk, from a bottle or breast, is one of the main causes of baby cheese neck. In my experience, more milk spills from the side of a baby’s mouth when feeding is done too fast. While it might not be possible for you to completely keep your baby from spilling any milk when feeding, pacing yourself may reduce the amount that spills as they have enough time to swallow.
For those of you that are breastfeeding it can be even more difficult to avoid milk dribbling down your baby’s neck but the flow should be slower overall compared to a formula bottle. Focus on wiping down your baby’s neck right after a feeding and taking care to change clothes or bibs that might have gotten dirty!
5. Baby bib or burp cloth
This might seem obvious, but many people don’t use bibs or burp cloths when feeding their babies. By having one of these in place it will be less likely that milk or formula will drip down and find a way to accumulate in the creases of your baby’s skin.
6. Baby exercises
Finally, with the blessing and guidance of your doctor, you can use simple baby exercises to strengthen your newborn’s neck and hence make it possible for them to straighten their neck. Whenever your newborn straightens their neck even for a brief amount of time, air circulates around the folds, drying out any excess moisture in the process.
The good news is that your baby’s neck will strengthen over time and help prevent neck cheese naturally. When your baby is old enough for tummy time make sure they get many opportunities to enjoy it throughout the day. In this position her neck will be stretched out the other way, letting those neck folds air out!