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Birthmarks in Infants

A baby's skin coloring can vary greatly based on the baby's age, race or ethnic group, temperature, and whether or not the baby is crying. Skin color in babies often changes with both the environment and their health. Some of these differences are just temporary. Others, such as certain birthmarks, may be permanent.

What are birthmarks?

Birthmarks are areas of discolored or raised skin that are present at birth or within a few weeks of birth. Birthmarks are made up of abnormal pigment cells or blood vessels.

Although the cause of birthmarks isn't known, most of them are harmless and don't require treatment. Babies with birthmarks should be examined by your child's healthcare provider, especially if they're:

  • Located in the middle of the back, along the spine (may be related to spinal cord problems)

  • Large and located on the face, head, or neck

  • Interfering with movement or other abilities (for instance a birthmark on the eyelid that makes it hard to see)

Some common birthmarks include:  

Birthmark

What it looks like

Stork bites, angel kisses, or salmon patches

These are small pink or red patches often found between a baby's eyes or on their eyelids, , upper lip, and back of the neck. The stork bite name comes from the marks on the back of the neck where, as the myth goes, a stork may have picked up the baby. They're caused by a concentration of immature blood vessels and may be the most visible when the baby is crying. Most of these fade and disappear completely.

Congenital dermal melanocytosis (also known as Mongolian spots)

These are blue or purple color areas often found on the baby's lower back and buttocks. They can occur in darker-skinned babies of all races. The spots are caused by a concentration of pigmented cells. They usually disappear in the first 4 years of life.

Strawberry hemangioma

This is a bright or dark red, raised or swollen, bumpy area that looks like a strawberry. Hemangiomas are formed by a concentration of tiny, immature blood vessels. Most of these occur on the head. They may not appear at birth, but often develop in the first 2 months of life. Strawberry hemangiomas are more common in premature babies and in girls. These birthmarks often grow in size for a few months and then slowly start to fade. They may bleed or get infected in rare cases. Nearly all strawberry hemangiomas completely disappear by age 9.

Port-wine stain

A port-wine stain is a flat, pink, red, or purple color birthmark often found on the head or neck. They're caused by a concentration of tiny, dilated blood vessels called capillaries. They may be small or cover large areas of the body. Port-wine stains don't change color when gently pressed. They don't go away over time and may become darker and thicker as a child gets older. Port-wine stains on the face may be linked to more serious problems. Skin-colored cosmetics may be used to cover small port-wine stains. The most effective way of treating port-wine stains is with a special type of laser. This is done when the baby is older by a plastic surgery specialist.

Congenital moles

These moles are small (less than 3 inches in diameter) and common. They're found on about 1 out of every 100 newborns. They get bigger as a child grows, but usually don't cause any problems. Your child's healthcare provider will watch them closely as in rare cases they can develop into a cancerous mole.

Online Medical Reviewer: Donna Freeborn PhD CNM FNP
Online Medical Reviewer: Heather M Trevino BSN RNC
Online Medical Reviewer: Liora C Adler MD
Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2021
© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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