In common usage, the two terms are often mistakenly used interchangeably. Both are non-threatening skin diseases, although unpleasant for your little one.
Headgear affects about 5% of all infants and usually occurs from the 2nd week of life to the 6th month of life. The cause is a hormone-related increased production of the sebaceous glands. Typically, the soft yellow-brown scales are found on the middle of the front of the head. Itching is only mild, if at all. There is usually no need for treatment. If you still want to remove the dandruff, you should soak it with olive or almond oil in consultation with your midwife and/or pediatrician and then carefully wash the head with a gentle shampoo.
In contrast, cradle cap occurs from the 3rd month of life and the causes are not yet fully understood. As an early form of neurodermatitis, a hereditary component is suspected. In addition to the scalp, the forehead and cheeks are often affected, and more rarely the arms and legs. Typical is a scaly-crusty changed and reddened (head) skin which often leads to agonizing itching. The painful, scratched skin areas cause the children to be generally restless and sleep worse. In addition, there is a risk of infection due to colonization with germs. But there is no reason to despair: as a rule, the symptoms disappear during infancy. As parents, you can have a positive influence on the symptoms by wearing soft, temperature-balancing clothing made of natural materials. In addition, you should refrain from bathing too frequently in order not to dry out the skin even more. After bathing, the skin should be protected with an oily cream. Cooling compresses and lotions can also help, and if the symptoms do not improve, your pediatrician may prescribe a preparation containing cortisone or an antihistamine for short-term use.
I wish you and your minis a wonderful Advent season.
PS. If you like, have a look at KinderHelden - we offer training for children's emergencies.