You’re right to worry and search for answers after finding red marks, indentations, or other signs of distress on your baby’s skin under their diaper. These things can mean trouble.
However, some marks left behind by cloth diaper elastics aren’t actually a cause for concern.
In this article, I’ll help you figure out if things are normal, or if it’s time to start some home remedies and make an appointment with your pediatrician.
Should Diapers Leave Marks on My Baby?
Diapers shouldn’t leave red marks behind on your baby, but sometimes a mark left behind by a cloth diaper is completely harmless, so it’s important to know what marks are ok, and what ones mean trouble.
What Kind of Red Marks Left by Cloth Nappies Are Normal?
It’s important to put a cloth diaper on properly to avoid leaks, which includes making sure the elastic sits snugly around your baby’s skin at the leg crease, and any back elastic isn’t drooping at your baby’s back.
Sometimes, this can create what’s referred to as “sock marks” on your baby’s skin, where the folds of the fabric along the elastic create slight indentations. Snaps sitting next to your baby’s skin can also leave this type of imprint.
We call it this because it’s the same type of marks left behind by snug-fitting socks after being worn for several hours. You also get them from wearing a hair elastic on your wrist (I know I always do).
Normal sock marks left by cloth nappies will disappear within a few minutes if left open to the air, and do not appear raised or cause welts.
Sock marks are normal, and actually a good thing because you know that the diaper is snug, but if those marks are deep, have a white substance in them, or are blistered or bubbled in any way, that’s something else and I urge you to keep reading.
What Kind of Red Marks Left by Cloth Nappies Are Not Normal?
If your cloth nappy is leaving red marks on your baby that look painful, are bright red or purple, have a white film in them, or are causing blistering or welting on the skin there is a problem. This is especially true if they don’t go away within an hour or so of diaper-free time.
Red marks that aren’t normal can be caused by a number of issues, including:
- The start of ammonia diaper rash
- The start of a yeast diaper rash
- An allergic reaction (possibly from detergent or synthetic fabrics)
- Intertrigo, a common inflammatory skin condition caused by friction (rubbing) and aggravated by heat and moisture. It often causes a rash in folds of the skin (Source)
- A washing problem causing bacteria to remain on the nappy.
- Hard parts of the diaper, such as velcro or snaps, rubbing on baby’s wet skin
If you notice these types of marks on your baby, first off don’t panic or feel bad about it. While they cause us parents to worry about our baby’s discomfort, keep in mind these things happen and your baby will be fine with some intervention.
First off, give your baby some diaper-free time to assess the situation. You can do this by placing them on a waterproof mat, or a large towel over a wet bag to catch any mess that may happen. When it’s time to put on a diaper again, use good diaper cream on the areas that are affected or use disposables if it makes you feel more confident.
Next, make an appointment with your pediatrician. If the rash is caused by yeast or intertrigo, medical intervention will be needed, so it’s best not to rely on guesswork.
While you’re waiting to see your pediatrician double check your wash routine using the Measure Method Diaper Wash Routine Worksheet to make sure you’re using the correct amount of detergent for your diaper load and washing machine.
Also, take stock of any changes that may have happened; have you recently changed detergents (or worse, changed to a homemade detergent or soap) or switched to a different diaper that uses a different fabric against your baby’s skin? Any recent change could be a clue to what’s making these new marks appear.
How Can You Prevent Diaper Elastic Marks (Sock Marks)?
Elastic marks, or sock marks, are totally normal, but I understand wanting to prevent them if possible. Here are a few tips to help you get a great fit during a diaper change without it being too tight.
- Leg elastics should sit flush inside the bikini line crease with no gaps, it should not sit on the thighs or fit so tight you can’t place a finger inside the diaper at the legs.
- Don’t worry if the snaps on your hips and waist are equal, just use the loosest settings you can while also avoiding gaps around the legs.
- Make sure you’re using the correct rise setting, and not worrying about your baby’s age. Keep in mind, babies grow and change shape when they begin walking, so their fit could change often. The diaper should sit just below the belly button at the waist and cover the top of the bum completely in the back.
- Ensure the fabric lies as flat as possible around the waist while still allowing you to be able to easily fit a finger or two in at the top.
Aside from getting the correct fit during a diaper change, you can also cut down on sock marks by making sure your baby’s clothing isn’t too tight as well. Using wool diaper covers, especially at night can also eliminate sock marks as they don’t have elastics or need to be adjusted to size.
Conclusion: It’s Usually Normal
Most often the red marks you see on your baby are simply elastic or snap imprints that are nothing to worry about!
Keep the fit tips above in mind when changing your baby’s cloth diapers and just remember what’s not normal just in case you find something worrying on your baby during a future diaper change.
If you need more information about diaper rash, check out this interview with Dr. Lyndsey Garbi, a board-certified Pediatrician and Neonatologist, and the Chief Pediatrician of Blueberry Pediatrics about diaper rash here.