It is a universal fact that newborn babies produce a delightful scent, that is incredibly intoxicating to ALL new parents.
A whiff of a newborn’s head releases a feel-good hormone known as dopamine, making anyone who inhales it feels happy. And I mean anyone – parents and non-parents.
This heavenly scent of a newborn baby will only last for approximately 6 weeks.
After that… erm… the smell may not be so good…
As a matter of fact, babies can also produce some unpleasant smells.
Except for the obvious – the nappy area – the armpits are sometimes the source of foul smells.
Why is that happening?
Allow me to explain everything you need to know about stinky baby armpits.
Why Does My Baby Have Smelly Armpits?
The most common reason for the unpleasant smell coming out of your baby’s armpits is inadequate hygiene. This is because substances such as; food, spit-ups, drool, dust, and sweat can get caught in the fatty folds of skin around the armpits, neck and legs. If the baby skin is not cleaned regularly and dried thoroughly, it may begin to smell. On the other hand, a yeasty smell could indicate a yeast infection caused by a fungus called candida. Occasionally, breastfed baby body scent can be influenced by mom’s diet. And in extremely rare cases, body odour can indicate sweat glance or metabolic disorders.
1. Dirt Trapped In The Baby Fat Folds
Poor hygiene is the most likely reason that your baby has smelly armpits. It’s that simple.
There are two types of odour your baby may emit:
- Sharp and acidic smells can indicate spit-ups, drool, dirt, dust and sweat trapped between the chubby folds of the baby’s skin.
- The smell of cheese is caused by trapped milk in the baby fat folds. This milk, after a while, will get spoiled and become odorous.
Although these substances are usually trapped under the chubby chin, they might accumulate under the armpits too. Hence, the smelly underarms. Moreover, they can cause irritation of a baby’s delicate skin, redness, which can cause bleeding and even infection.
How to get rid of the smell?
There is a quick fix to this problem. You need to keep the baby skin dry and clean.
It may be easier said than done, especially if your baby is on the chubby side.
The soft rolls of skin below the baby’s chin, arms and legs can be difficult to reach during bath time. But that’s the only way to get rid of the smell caused by the milk and spit-ups.
To clean the baby’s skin, follow these steps:
- Use cotton wool or a soft sponge and mild baby wash to reach the areas between the folds in the neck, armpits and groins to wash away all the accumulated dirt.
- Once the skin is washed, you should dry it with a fresh towel. Make sure the folds of the skin are also completely dry.
- Dress your baby in clean, cotton-rich, loose clothing. This will allow for adequate ventilation of small pits and keep these areas dry. Stay away from tight, polyester clothing that may trap moisture.
- You can apply some organic cold-pressed coconut oil or almond oil as conditioners.
Lastly, you should probably make bathing your chubby bundle of joy part of your daily routine.
Maintaining proper hygiene and keeping their fluffy folds clean will help you keep them fresh and healthy.
And most importantly – you should get rid of the smell from your little one’s armpits (and other bits), at least for, well, another eight years until they hit puberty…
How do I bathe my baby? | NHS
2. Yeast / Fungal Infection
Is your cute bundle smelling like freshly baked yeast bread?
Moreover, your baby’s armpits are red and smelly?
The chances are it might be thrush – a yeast infection caused by candida.
Candida is a fungus that lives in harmony with other bacteria in our bodies and is always present. However, if the yeast grows a bit more than it should, it can cause an infection.
Yeast infection is not uncommon in babies, specifically in the skin folds around the armpits, neck, mouth and diaper area. It can cause itching, scaling, swelling, a red rash and general discomfort in babies.
In general, fungus infections aren’t dangerous and can be easily treated – and avoided!
2.1 How do babies get yeast infections?
- Their mothers. Candida is passed from mother to baby during pregnancy and during birth when the baby passes through the birth canal.
- The side effect of antibiotic treatment. Treatment with antibiotics kills both harmful bacteria and “good” bacteria in the baby’s body. This environment allows the candida to multiply, which leads to infection. So, it may be worthwhile to give your baby some probiotics alongside the antibiotic to preserve the friendly bacteria in the gut.
- Health problems. Infants with a low immune system can be prone to fungal infections. In particular, those with low birth weight, premature babies, babies with iron deficiency, or those undergoing long medical treatments.
2.2 How to prevent fungal infection?
Fungus grows in moist and warm areas, such as skin folds and creases. So, armpits are prime spots for it! To prevent the fungus in the armpits, you should take proper care of your baby’s hygiene. Meaning, keep your little one’s armpits clean and dry (refer to point 1 above, about smelly armpits).
If you are not bathing your baby every day, you should at the very least top and tail her daily. And ensure the armpits are wiped down as well.
2.3 How to treat fungal infection?
To treat your baby’s yeast infection, your doctor will likely prescribe anti fungal medication, such as sprays or ointments.
3. Other Causes Of Baby Odour
Generally, improper hygiene and fungus are the two major causes of smelly armpits.
However, other possible reasons and rare medical disorders can cause body odour. This bad body smell may not necessarily be specific to underarms but may be present in general.
- Breastfed babies can emit body odour due to specific, fragrant foods their mothers consume. This is because the food can influence the composition and smell of breast milk. So to minimise the chance of an unpleasant baby scent, you should avoid the following; non-organic dairy food, meat, eggs, spicy food, onion, garlic.
I will also mention some extremely rare medical conditions causing foul body smell:
- Bromhidrosis – is a medical condition causing a sweat-like body odour. It usually develops during puberty because that’s when the sweat glands become active. And it is unlikely in a few months old babies. This condition can be prevented by maintaining proper body hygiene.
- A second very rare disorder related to sweat glands is called hyperhidrosis. Basically, a baby produces excess sweating causing offensive body smell due to hyperactive sweat glances.
- Another rare genetic disease that causes unpleasant scents is trimethylaminuria – “fish odour syndrome”. It is a metabolic disorder caused by a lack of enzymes responsible for breaking down trimethylamine. Therefore, when this chemical accumulates in the body, the fish odour can be detected in a baby’s urine and sweat.
- And finally, there is phenylketonuria – a rare metabolic condition, in which the body fails to process phenylalanine properly. The build-up of this amino acid will cause a foul body smell. To minimise this, babies should avoid eating food containing this enzyme, typically found in protein-rich foods.
Final Few Lines
So to summarise, if your baby emits a sour odour or cheesy smell from her underarms, you should first give her a thorough wash.
A quick dip won’t do, I’m afraid – you will need to scrub all the dirt off between the soft fatty rolls of skin.
The good news is once your baby starts losing this adorable baby fat and becomes leaner, it will be easier to keep the skin nice and clean.
If the problem doesn’t resolve and your little one has other symptoms such as redness or rash, you should visit the doctor to be checked for fungus infection.
Additionally, it is important to rule out rare medical conditions, such as; bromhidrosis, hyperhidrosis, trimethylaminuria or phenylketonuria.