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How to Prevent Baby Neck Cheese

How to Prevent Baby Neck Cheese (Red, Raw, and Smelly Folds)

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Nicole Nabatkhorian
Dr. Nicole Nabatkhorian

MD / PGY-2 Pediatrics

Disclosure: Some of our articles contain links to recommended products or services in which we may receive a commission if you make a purchase.

Chubby infants are irresistible which leaves parents wanting to hug, hold and cuddle with them all the time. If your baby has red, raw, and smelly folds around her neck then you might be wondering how to get rid of this neck cheese (or milk neck) and prevent it from coming back.

Get rid of baby neck cheese (red and smelly neck folds) by gently cleaning the affected area after each feeding using mild baby soap, substituting a squirt bottle for a washcloth, and ensuring that the area is dry. Baby lotion, coconut oil, or Vaseline can be used to keep baby neck folds dry and prevent baby neck cheese from occurring again.

Read on for more detail on how to clean baby neck folds and rolls, how to keep baby neck folds dry, how to get rid of baby neck cheese, and how to prevent your baby’s neck from becoming red and smelly.

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?

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 skincare.

This condition is usually seen in infants that are younger than four months but it can occur later as well.

Baby neck cheese is most problematic in the first four months.

Keep in mind that there is really nothing special about baby neck cheese – it is really just a skin rash that develops around the folds and rolls of your baby’s neck because they trap moisture and it is quite easy for drool, milk, formula, sweat, and other things to accumulate there.

As a result, treating a baby’s red and smelly neck is straightforward – clean the area multiple times per day (after feedings) and ensure that the skin stays dry and protected. The red rash will normally heal quickly with this proper hygiene in place.

What causes baby neck cheese?

Importantly, it is incredibly common for babies to have issues with red, raw, and smelly neck cheese so you shouldn’t feel bad as a parent if your baby is struggling with this issue.

In fact, there are many reasons why your baby might be dealing with baby neck cheese:

  • Milk or formula tends to dribble down to the neck during feeding
  • Newborns and infants tend to be bathed less frequently
  • Many babies are constantly bundled up and may sweat around their clothes
  • Extra fat tends to accumulate around a baby’s neck, legs, and arms which creates folds

Keep in mind that infants that are less than six months old are not strong enough to stretch their necks and spend most of their time on their backs. 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 more serious skin irritation and even bleeding in some cases.

Breaks in the skin caused by the rash also open the door to a more serious yeast infection that will could require professional treatment.

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.

The biggest thing to keep in mind is that a few simple changes to your baby’s hygiene along with learning how to properly clean your baby’s neck folds will often get rid of baby neck cheese and keep it from coming back.

Here’s a short list of tips that parents can use to get rid of baby neck cheese:

Start with gentle cleansing to deal with neck cheese.

Proper hygiene can get rid of baby neck cheese

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.

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.

I’ll go into more detail about how to clean your baby’s neck folds throughout the day in the section below.

Use Vaseline, coconut oil, or lotion to keep baby’s skin dry

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.

Breast milk is a natural remedy for red and raw skin irritation

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 foul 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.

Avoid letting your baby’s neck bleed and crack

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!

How do you get rid of cheese on a baby’s neck

I’ve mentioned already that proper hygiene is incredibly important for your baby when it comes to getting rid of or preventing baby neck cheese but if your baby already has a red and raw neck then you might be worried about cleaning the area.

Although your baby will likely be upset about it, it is crucial that you clean and dry the affected area frequently.

Here’s the best way to clean your baby’s neck folds after each meal and during bathtime:

  1. Use a cup, container, or squirt bottle to gently spray warm water over the affected area
  2. Using a mild baby soap, gently wash the affected area and surrounding skin. Be sure to get in and around all of the skin folds
  3. If your baby’s neck is extremely raw and irritated, you can avoid the washcloth and instead squirt warm, soapy water onto the affected area
  4. After washing, gently dab dry the area with a clean towel
  5. Apply baby lotion, coconut oil, or Vaseline to the area to help keep the skin dry and protected

If you would like my personal recommendations for gentle and natural baby products to use during the cleaning, check out the table below:

Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

How do I keep my baby’s skin folds clean

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.

Proper daily hygiene can prevent baby neck cheese

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!

Keep baby’s skin dry so that bacteria can’t grow

After cleaning your baby’s neck folds, airdry the skin or use a damp cloth or dab dry method to clear any remaining moisture.

Since the folds have a hard time getting air circulation, in general, this might be an active process.

Keep in mind that many skin irritation problems, including diaper rash and neck cheese, are more likely when the area

  • is kept moist for long periods of time
  • has a lack of air circulation
  • experience friction between the skin folds

Loose-fitting clothes changed often help reduce sweat accumulation

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!

Try to keep all folds dry and clean.

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!

Use baby bibs or burp cloths to reduce drips

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.

Use baby exercises to encourage movement and air circulation

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!

Joshua Bartlett
Joshua Bartlett

My name is Joshua Bartlett I run this blog with my wife Jarah. We have more than 11 years of parenting experience including three girls and one boy. I started this blog in late 2018 when I realized that I was dealing with baby-related issues on a constant basis…please read more about me here!