Health Library

Health Library

Birthmarks in Infants

A baby's skin coloring can vary greatly, depending 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 health. Some of these differences are just temporary. Others, such as certain birthmarks, may be permanent.

What are birthmarks?

Birthmarks are areas of discolored and/or raised skin that are apparent 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 is not known, most of them are benign and do not require treatment. Babies with birthmarks should be examined by your child's doctor, especially if the marks are located over the sacral area (lower back). These birthmarks can be associates with abnormalities of the underlying spinal cord. Large birthmarks over the head or neck should be evaluated by a doctor, as well as any marks or swelling that seem to interfere with a baby's activities, such as a swelling of the eyelid that could interfere with vision. 

Some of the common variations in skin color and birthmarks are described below.

Stork bites or salmon patches

These are small pink or red patches often found on a baby's eyelids, between the eyes, upper lip, and back of the neck. The 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 are 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.

Mongolian spots

Mongolian spots are blue or purple-colored splotches on the baby's lower back and buttocks. African-American, Asian, and Indian babies have Mongolian spots, but they occur in dark-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. Strawberry hemangiomas are more common in premature babies and in girls. These birthmarks often grow in size for several months, and then gradually begin to fade. Nearly all strawberry hemangiomas completely disappear by 9 years of age.

Port-wine stain

A port-wine stain is a flat, pink, red, or purple colored birthmark. These are caused by a concentration of dilated tiny blood vessels called capillaries. They usually occur on the head or neck. They may be small, or they may cover large areas of the body. Port-wine stains do not change color when gently pressed and do not disappear over time. They may become darker and may bleed when the child is older or as an adult. Port-wine stains on the face may be associated with 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.

Birthmarks in Infants - WellSpan Health

Online Medical Reviewer: Grantham, Paula, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
© 2014 WellSpan Health. 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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