We know that most mothers start to panic when they notice red marks left on their baby’s skin by the nappies. It’s normal to panic and wonder what’s wrong, is your baby in pain, ah what type of a terrible parent am I. But don’t worry, red marks on baby’s skin are all perfectly normal!
I was a very young mother, and as the youngest sibling had little experience of changing nappies before I had children of my own. On my eldest child, we used disposable nappies, and then on my next two children, we used cloth nappies. So I’ve experience with all types of nappies and marks! The first time I came across them I thought I had done something terrible, but thankfully there were just perfectly normal.
Normal ‘Sock’ Marks on Children made by Nappies
Firstly, its very normal to have marks left by all types of nappies, cloth or disposable. When you take your socks off, you might see indents and marks on your foot, where the elastic on your sock has been held up. These type of marks are very common on babies’ skin, using all types of nappies. So don’t panic!
They should disappear within minutes, usually 15-20. If they don’t then some adjustments may need to be made to the way you fit your nappy. Sock marks are more common with children in reusable nappies, mainly because the elastic at the thighs and around the waist is tighter. This is actually a good thing and what makes cloth nappies better than disposables at containment!
Are diapers supposed to leave marks?
No, but yes. There is a difference between nappies that cause mild irritation and those that leave big red welts all over baby’s skin.
A little bit of pinkness here or there isn’t anything to worry about, not unless it stays for more than twenty minutes.
If, however, the marks are bright red and look like you could have been pinching your baby’s skin for a good minute or two before releasing it again then something is wrong with either how tightly or loosely you’ve fitted your nappy or what type of fabric/material has gone into making it.
Time to Take Action with Marks on Baby
If these appear deeper than sock marks or appear sore or the skin is broken then something is afoot and it’s not normal sock marks. If your marks don’t disappear after 30 minutes, or your child appears in pain, the skin is broken or it hurts them if you touch it, then you need to adjust something in your nappy routine. The NHS guidelines on nappy rash make it clear when its time to do something!
Of you see any darker skin marks, purple welts, blisters then its not normal red marks or red patches.
Cloth Nappy Fit
If the marks just appear deeper than socks marks, it could be just that you need to adjust the nappy fit, you are going a little too tight when fitting the nappy. Make sure you check the thighs and waist elastic are not too tight. Always do the finger test. If you find the red mark is right where the elastic sits you know this is just a case of a normal red marks and as long there is no baby discomfort, it will sort itself out.
When you have put the nappy on, go around the edges with your finger and check between the leg and the nappy. If your finger can fit snugly in, you have the fit right. If your finger is too loose, leaks may occur. If you are struggling to fit your finger in, you need to loosen the nappy.
Remember to check our nappy fit guide. Cloth nappies are worn differently from disposable nappies and fit lower down the back, with a bit of a slingster hip look!
At nappy change time don’t panic about aligning velcro or poppers on either side. Babies can be in between sizes for poppers so might be at odd ones, that’s perfectly fine and normal. Bumgenius nappies are actually great for this because they have that super stretchy tab that allows you to fit the cloth diapers better.
Other Issues Which May Need Fixing
If you have washing powder residue this may cause a reaction on the skin when urine hits it. This is more of a nappy rash, as opposed to marks. The first thing you should always do if you have a red reaction type rash in reusable nappies is to check for washing powder build-up and deal with it accordingly.
Some children may suffer from a heat rash from certain cloth nappy types. One of my children really hated synthetic materials and would get a heat rash when he wore fleece-type liners. It would always go away once we change the nappy and gave him some nappy free time, he just did better with natural organic fabrics. Years later, he still hates synthetic materials! It’s worth knowing what materials nappies are made of, and see if your child reacts to any particular material.
There are two types of rubbing rash. One from velcro rubbing against the skin. This again is down to fit, so adjust your fit and make sure the front panel of the nappy is flat.
Wet nappy rub – if you leave a baby for a longer time in a wet nappy, the elastic can rub against the wet and cause a reaction or rash. Make sure you change your nappy more often and consider using stay dry liners.
For nighttime, you might want to consider other nappy types. Fitted are softer and less likely to leave sock marks, especially if you cover with a fleece wrap or wool longies. I always use a motherese airflow wrap as it does what it says on the tin, lets air flow more, and is much more loosely fitting.
A baby’s skin is softest when they are newborns so ts vital to get a soft fitting nappy and ensure the nappies fit snugly but not too tightly.
Red patches or marks left from disposables maybe something else. They could be reaction to the chemicals and gels included. Try and switch to a fragrance-free baby’s diaper and see if that helps.
Check the weight range on the disposables to see if they have not gone up a size and need the next size up.
How do I know if nappies are too small?
If you can’t fit your finger between the nappy and your baby’s body then it might be too tight. If you are struggling to close the nappy easily then it might be too small.
If you are struggling to get the poppers done up then it might be too small.
Remember that cloth nappies can stretch a lot, so they will feel tight when your baby is standing up but loose when lying down on his back. If in doubt go for looser! It’s easier to tighten than loosen later on if needed.
What can I do to prevent disposable nappy marks?
Unfortunately, there is no other way but trial and error. You will have to test different types of cloth diapers or change the type you are using altogether. If your baby’s skin is sensitive make sure that you are not putting on a very thick diaper when it should be thin-fitting instead, but you must also remember that if the diaper is too thin, it will not contain very much. It’s a bit of a balancing act and only after lots of testing should you find your perfect match.
Remember, no matter what the red marks or rashes, you always need to check the nappy fit and make sure it is not too tight. If your baby has a rash which won’t go away try changing nappy types.
Make sure you do the finger test with cloth diapers
Never leave a child in a wet diaper for longer than necessary. Change more frequently if needed.
Ensure your baby always has some naked time each day its good for babies legs to hit the air! Even a few minutes a day at each diaper change makes a huge difference.
For night time use a softer nappy on its loosest setting with a nice wrap.
If a rash does not go away after about two weeks see your GP!
For disposables try a different brand or go fragrance free if the fragrance is leaving red marks.
For cloth detergent residue do the swoosh test on your nappies!
This article was written by: Gian MIller – Full-Time Writer, Baby Whisperer & Dad of 3.
Gian spends a lot of his time writing. A self-proclaimed baby whisperer, Gian has been through it all with his own children and is passionate about sharing his hard-won wisdom with other parents. When he’s not writing or changing diapers, you can find him playing the guitar or watching baseball (or preferably both at the same time).