Your baby’s head should NOT be smelling like sweaty feet or, as some describe, dirty socks.

This means something is wrong. Any foul odor from your baby’s head or scalp is never normal.

“When hair follicles are clogged or infected they release a strong odor,” says Joel Gator Warsh, MD, of Integrative Pediatrics and Medicine, Studio City, CA, and part of the pediatric staff of Cedars-Sinai Hospital.

“Seborrheic dermatitis is a common dermatologic condition with dry, flaky skin of the scalp in babies,” continues Dr. Warsh.

This condition (which also affects older children as well as adults) is the result of overactive sebaceous glands.

In some older kids and adults, the extra oil production can give their hair a sweet, syrupy scent.

The oil is called sebum. But in babies, it may cause an unpleasant odor in their scalp.

“It looks crusty and yellow,” continues Dr. Warsh, referring to the dermatitis patches on the scalp.

If the area has been scratched, it can ooze a yellow-clear liquid from the irritation of the scratching.

The area can itch really bad and cause a baby to keep scratching at it, making it worse.

“It can have all sorts of funky smells; one common smell being dirty socks or sweaty feet.”

How to Get Rid of the Stinky Feet Smell of Your Baby’s Head and Scalp

“Consider using mineral oil and running a comb through the hair and scalp to remove the plaques that have developed,” says Dr. Warsh. “This usually resolves by six months of age.”

Other Causes of Smelly Feet Odor on a Baby’s Head

“Folliculitis is an infection of the hair follicles leading to inflammation and foul smell,” says Dr. Warsh.

“If you notice small red bumps in the hair, consider folliculitis and speak to your doctor about treatment.

“I would also consider a vitamin and nutrient deficiency such as zinc or selenium which can affect the hair growth and smell.”

Premature puberty can cause some of the all too familiar teen smells in young children and should be explored if there are other body changes such as armpit odor, genital hair growth or acne.

Dr. Warsh and his Studio City, Los Angeles clinic treat a wide array of common pediatric issues using holistic and conventional treatments. He works with nutritionists, naturopaths, Ayurvedic practitioners, acupuncturists and more.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer. 
Top image: ©Lorra Garrick