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What causes stinky baby feet

Why Do My Baby’s Feet Stink? (With 8 Helpful Remedies!)

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If you are here then you are wondering why your baby has stinky feet and whatever happened to the sweet, sweet new-baby smell that your little one seemed to have just yesterday! Well, babies tend to get pretty stinky over time and you are in the right place to find out how to fix it!

So, why do your baby’s feet stink? The most common reason is that there is too much sweat or bacterial buildup on your baby’s feet. If your baby constantly wears socks or onesies, sweat can accumulate around the foot and in between the toes which creates a breeding ground for smelly bacteria or fungus.

While the cause may sound obvious, many parents struggle with this issue. On the one hand, you don’t want your baby to get cold. On the other hand, you have to let the skin get clean and breathe sometimes! Read on to learn a little more about individual smells and what to do about it!

Why do my baby’s feet smell so bad?

Sometimes it may seem like your baby’s feet smell bad for no reason, but there is always a root cause. 

The most obvious reason that your baby’s feet smell bad is that he needs a bath.

Mind blown, right?

But hear me out. When he was first born, you probably only had to bathe him every week or so, but eventually, that won’t cut it. Especially for an overwhelmed first-time parent, it may be hard to keep track of when your baby’s last bath was, but a stinky baby is a sure sign the time to make baths more frequent has come.

One of the many interesting things about babies is that there is a good chance they can only sweat from their foreheads at birth. If they are born premature, they might not be able to sweat at all! That’s one of the reasons that newborns are so tricky to take care of – they can’t regulate their body temperature very well for at least the first month or so. After that, they start to sweat all over their body, shiver, and do all of the things that adults do when they get hot or cold!

As parents, we just have to understand that our baby is constantly changing in the beginning and we shouldn’t be too alarmed when we encounter something new – especially smells!

So, why would our babies start to get sweaty and stinky?

Even if your baby is dressed appropriately for the weather, his socks and/or shoes may restrict airflow and not allow his feet to breathe. This will either cause them to sweat or not allow that moisture to evaporate. Something as seemingly insignificant as the fabric his socks (or footie pajamas) are made of can have a major effect on whether or not the moisture is trapped.

Let’s take a look at some individual smells and see what could cause them.

Sweaty smell

We all know what sweaty feet smell like, but it might be surprising to find that odor coming from tiny feet. Our noses are incredibly sensitive to the bacteria that makes feet smell sweaty, so even the small amount on little feet can make a big stink.

Interestingly, baby sweat still doesn’t stink as much as adult sweat because they don’t yet have activated apocrine glands (that happens during puberty). So for now, at least, it’ll just be a little musty!

There are several things that can cause your baby’s feet to get (and smell) sweaty. If he’s overdressed, very active, or if it is particularly warm, your baby’s feet are likely to sweat, and if his socks or shoes don’t breathe, that sweat is just going to get trapped. When it’s warm inside (or out!) be sure to take the socks off and let those stinkers breathe!

Cheesy smell

The bacteria that causes feet to smell cheesy is the same one used to make certain, usually very smelly, cheeses. 

This bacteria feeds off of skin and dead skin cells, so it is likely that your baby’s feet are either simply dirty or maybe they aren’t getting much attention during the bath, allowing dead skin to accumulate on the surface!

Vinegary smell

When feet start to smell like vinegar, it is a sign that the bacteria that created the sweaty smell has started to break down and ferment. If that sounds a little gross, that’s because it is! Luckily, this still isn’t a huge cause for concern as long as you tackle it quickly!

Cabbage-like smell

If your baby’s feet smell sour or like rancid cabbage, there is a mild version of rot happening.

But don’t panic.

Just move on to the next section to look at some simple ways to keep those feet from stinking (or rotting!).

How to fix a baby’s stinky feet

Since the potential smells emanating from your baby’s stinky feet are often different stages of the same issue, you may have to try a few solutions before you hit on the one that cures your baby’s smelly feet, but it will definitely be worth it!

Bathe your baby

It may seem obvious, but the first thing you can do to fix your baby’s stinky feet is to give him a bath.

Some newborn bath cushions may not keep your baby’s feet in the water, so you should either ensure that they are completely submerged and washed or be diligent about wiping and rinsing thoroughly.

I always recommend that parents select a safe and natural soap meant to clean up dirty babies without irritating their sensitive skin. One of my favorite products is this baby soap and shampoo combo from Puracy. It has a fantastic ingredient list, smells great, and lasts a long time!

Although bathing your baby too regularly (more than a few times a week) is not recommended because it can dry out his skin, you should still wipe his face, neck, hands, and feet down daily to keep him clean and smelling nice.

If you are interested, I just created a whole resource about bathing your baby in the kitchen sink! This method allows you to give your little stinker a quick bath with a little less hassle than using the tub!

Either way, be sure to scrub those feet!

Wash baby’s feet

Sometimes just soap and water is not enough to relieve the stink coming from your baby’s feet. Plus, most people tend to neglect actually scrubbing the feet during baths which can cause issues over time.

To help reduce the bacteria that leads to smelly feet, try giving your baby’s feet a daily vinegar soak for a while until the smell goes away. Use two parts water and one part distilled white vinegar. Although this will help with the bacterial foot smells, it will leave a vinegar scent, which may or may not be an improvement.

If you want to avoid a lingering smell altogether, make a foot soak using one tablespoon of baking soda per cup of warm water. The baking soda will neutralize the pH in sweat and help decrease the bacteria that cause that smell.

Reduce moisture with baby powder or cornstarch

Since the bacteria that creates smelly feet feeds on sweat, the best way to stop the process is to reduce or eliminate the moisture itself. Before putting on his socks, dust your baby’s feet in a thin layer of either baby powder or cornstarch (don’t forget between his toes!). This will help absorb the sweat and neutralize the odor.

I just took a good look at what exactly baby powder is, whether or not it’s safe, and how it compares to a natural product like cornstarch. Check it out right here!

If you do use baby powder, make sure you store it out of your baby’s reach as it can cause breathing problems and lung damage if inhaled.

Clean socks and shoes more regularly

Just like yours, your baby’s socks should be changed and washed daily to avoid the build-up of sweat, dead skin, and any potential debris.

Although it can be difficult to clean little shoes, the soft-soled ones can usually be thrown in the washer on the delicate cycle. Instead of running them through the dryer, put them in direct sunlight if possible and use a little bit of baking soda on the insoles to pull out all the moisture and deodorize at the same time!

Since babies are always getting themselves into (and making) messes, be sure to dry out any shoes that have gotten wet!

Check your baby’s shoes

The type of shoe your baby wears is important for avoiding a regular recurrence of stinky feet. Breathable sandals are ideal since they allow feet to breathe and any sweat to dry instead of building up. No matter what type of shoe you choose, get them in a breathable material like leather, canvas, or cloth – better yet, get a couple of pairs. You may not want to pick up a lot of shoes that he will just be outgrowing shortly, but have a couple of options in rotation so that each pair can air out between wears.

Change to all-natural cotton socks

Whether your baby has advanced to wearing shoes or not, if his feet are regularly stinky, consider investing in all-natural cotton socks. While synthetic fabrics are cheaper to produce, but they do not allow your baby’s feet to breathe the same way natural materials do. 

Avoid lotion or oils on the feet

Before putting your baby’s socks on, his feet should be completely dry.

Since many lotions can block pores, this could actually serve to make things worse. If you think your baby definitely needs some extra moisture, try waiting until later and applying the lotion when his feet are already dry, but make sure that let the lotion completely soak in instead of immediately slipping on his socks.

Go barefoot more often

Maybe the easiest thing you can do to help keep your baby’s feet from smelling bad in the first place is just to let him go barefoot as often as possible.

This allows his feet to breathe and not accumulate the moisture that causes most of the bad smells. Of course, you don’t want to let him go barefoot outside too often as that could expose him to picking up other bacteria (or stepping on something dangerous), but leaving him barefoot around the house is typically a safe choice.

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!

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