What exactly is red diaper syndrome?

Posted on July 26th, 2019

Finding a pinkish stain on your baby’s nappy is frightening, but here’s why you don’t need to worry.

Red diaper syndrome

Before you contact your paediatrician for an emergency appointment, you need to know that your baby is going to be just fine. Red diaper syndrome might be a rare, and especially frightening condition (what mom isn’t terrified at the sight of what she believes to be blood on a baby’s nappy), but it’s not actually that serious.

 ALSO SEE: 5 newborn health concerns you shouldn’t ignore

What is red diaper syndrome?

Firstly, your baby is not suffering from internal bleeding. If you’re breastfeeding and red or pink stains appear on your baby’s nappies, she might have been infected by Serratia marcescens bacteria. This is an opportunistic bacteria that may be present in paediatric units.  Because your little one has no immune system to speak of as yet, it’s easy for it to take root in her tiny body. As for the pink? That comes about because of the bacteria’s pink pigment.

Is it dangerous?

No. Its results might be very disturbing to look at, but the bacteria itself is neither life-threatening, nor can it cause any harm.

Should you take your baby to the doctor?

There is no treatment for S. Marcescens infection – so, your doctor won’t be able to prescribe an antibiotic to treat the symptoms. That’s not a bad thing, though. Studies on infants affected with the condition have shown that it goes away by itself, without any medical intervention. That said, it might be a good idea to see a doctor just to rule out any other possible infections or issues. Remember that the condition usually presents in breastfed babies, so you might also want to make sure that the staining hasn’t been caused by anything you’re eating. You can probably get away with a visit to your GP for this, though, rather than a considerably more expensive paed appointment.

ALSO SEE: Avoid these 8 things when breastfeeding

What else do you need to know?

Don’t stop breastfeeding! If you’re able to do it, breastfeeding is best for your baby. There’s no need to put things on pause until the staining disappears. Especially since babies can get fussy if their routines are changed.  If you are pumping, make sure you clean your pump especially well; otherwise, carry on as normal.

Lisa Witepski

About Lisa Witepski

In her 16 years as journalist, Lisa Witepski’s work has appeared in most of South Africa’s leading publications, including the Mail & Guardian, Sunday Times, Entrepreneur and Financial Mail. She has written for a number of women’s magazines, including Living & Loving, Essentials and many others, across topics from lifestyle to travel, wellness, business and finance. She is a former acting Johannesburg Bureau Chief for Cosmopolitan, and former Features Editor at Travel News Weekly, but, above all, a besotted mom to Leya and Jessica. Lisa blogs at whydoialwayscravecake.blogspot.com and lisa.witepski.blogspot.com, and tweets at @LisaWitepski.