Updated on January 26th, 2024 // by Katie Griffin
Your sweet new baby has a discoloration on his or her skin, and you’re not sure what to make of it. From the adorable “stork bites” to the more noticeable hemangiomas, birthmarks are as unique as your little one. Understanding what they are and how to care for them can bring peace of mind and even a sense of wonder at the unique traits your baby brings into the world.
Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
Table of contents
- What is a Birthmark?
- Vascular Birthmarks
- Pigmented Birthmarks
- When Should I Be Worried About My Baby’s Birthmark?
What is a Birthmark?
Birthmarks are a discoloration of the skin that are visible at birth or soon after. They come in various shapes, sizes, and colors, can occur anywhere on your baby’s body, and vary drastically depending on the baby and the birthmark. Most are harmless, but some need to be treated. If you have any questions or concerns about your baby’s birthmark, be sure to see a doctor and have it checked out.
Do Birthmarks on Babies Go Away?
Some people may be confused that a mark their child was born with doesn’t seem to be there anymore. This is because some types of birthmarks do, in fact, tend to fade over time.
Some birthmarks are caused by extra blood vessels that didn’t fully form, clustered together beneath the surface of the skin. These are called vascular birthmarks. Despite their differences, all vascular birthmarks will be a shade of red or blue. (The blue color is for the same reason that your veins look blue — it’s how it looks when looking at the red blood through the skin.)
Vascular birthmarks are often warm to the touch because of the blood circulating through them. For this reason, you will probably notice that your baby’s birthmark will deepen in color when they are upset or energetic because their heart is pumping more blood to the area.
Nevus Simplex or “Stork Bite”
What They Are: This type of birthmark is very common (80% of babies are born with one). You may have heard them referred to as angel kisses, stork bites, or salmon patches. They appear as flat red or pink blotches, usually on the forehead in between the eyes or on the back of the neck at the hairline. They can also be found other places on the face, head, and even the lower back.
Care: These birthmarks are harmless and will usually fade or completely disappear by the time a child is 1 to 2 years old.
Nevus Falmmeus (Port Wine Stain)
What They Are: These birthmarks are fairly rare, with only .3% of babies affected. They are smooth patches of some pink, red or purple skin. They range in size from a few centimeters to patches that cover significant areas of the face or body. Unlike some other birthmarks, they do not fade or go away in time. In fact, as your child grows, their birthmark will grow with them and may darken and thicken.
Care: Unlike some other birthmarks, port-wine stains do not fade over time and may even become darker or thicker. Treatment options include laser therapy for cosmetic reasons or if they’re associated with health issues.
What They Are: This birthmark is often referred to as a “strawberry” birthmark because the growths often resemble strawberries. They, like other vascular birthmarks, are a cluster of blood vessels, but these go through a special period of rapid growth before they eventually flatten and fade. When they form on the surface of the skin, they cause a growth that is red and looks like a berry. When they form deep under the skin, they cause a lump that often appears bruised and swollen.
Care: Most hemangiomas shrink and disappear by the time a child is 5 to 10 years old. However, if the hemangioma is large or in a problematic area, treatment might be necessary.
When a Hemangioma needs to be treated:
- It is in danger of interfering with vital functions such as your ability to eat, see, breathe, hear, etc.
- The skin has broken down and there is bleeding or an open sore. If left untreated this could lead to infection or loss of blood.
- There is a risk of permanent damage to the area where the growth is located.
Treatments for Hemangiomas usually involve oral or topical medications like steroids to shrink or restrict their growth. In some cases, surgery or laser treatments may be necessary. If you think your child may have a hemangioma, call your doctor right away. Early detection and close monitoring are the two most important steps to take for the best possible outcome.
Babies born with this birthmark will have a large rounded lump or mass under the skin. The lumps are usually blue or purple and may have a white ring around the base. You may also see blood vessels on the surface. Sometimes they will go away on their own, but others need to be surgically removed. The one in the image above was treated with Propranolol.
What They Are: These raised patches of skin, caused by an overgrowth of skin cells, can vary greatly depending on the type of cell affected. The patches range from hairless and waxy to raised and velvety, and will differ in color from baby to baby. They are found on the face, neck, forehead, or scalp as well as the torso and limbs.
Care: Most are harmless, but they can be removed with varying degrees of success through laser therapy, surgery, medications, etc. In rare cases tumors can develop in the area, so be aware of any changes and report them to your doctor.
What They Are: Sometimes veins that did not form correctly during development will cluster together and form these blue and purple birthmarks. Some are hardly noticeable, while others can be painful and make certain activities and movements difficult. Many become larger and more painful with increased activity or in certain positions because of the increased blood flow to the area.
Care: Talk to a doctor, especially if your child seems to be in pain. Sometimes medications, surgery, or other procedures can help.
Melanocytes are the cells that produce pigment or color in the skin. When there are an unusually high amount of melanocytes in one area, it will cause the skin to darken. Pigmented birthmarks are simply these darkened areas of skin.
Congenital Melanocytic Nevi (Moles)
What They Are: As you have probably noticed, moles come in many different shapes, sizes, and colors. What you may not know is that while most moles are small, there are moles so big that they cover large areas of the body. Moles can be present at birth or appear anytime during the first year of your baby’s life.
Care: While most are harmless, there is a higher risk of skin cancer, especially in adulthood, so they need to be monitored for any changes in size, color, shape, or thickness.
What They Are: The name of this birthmark refers to its light brown color (the color of coffee with milk). They are flat, rounded spots that usually darken with exposure to the sun.
Care: These spots are generally harmless, but in some cases can be an indicator of a more serious condition. Check with your doctor if your baby has a particularly large spot, more than five spots, or spots clustered in the armpits or groin area.
Dermal Melanocytosis (Mongolian Spots)
What They Are: Dermal Melanocytosis is a collection of extra melanocytes deep in the skin. This buildup of pigment in the tissue causes the birthmark to look dark — usually grey, blue, or black. They are common, especially in babies with highly pigmented skin, and are usually found on the lower back or bottom.
Care: Most are harmless and will fade as your child grows. However, if you see several of these birthmarks on your baby, check with your doctor.
What They Are: Mosaicism refers to the presence of two or more genetically different types of cells in the same person. When this occurs in skin cells, some cells will have more pigment than others, causing two distinct colors of skin. Although babies are born with this condition, it may not be obvious in the beginning. Often the difference becomes more obvious with exposure to the sun.
When Should I Be Worried About My Baby’s Birthmark?
Most birthmarks won’t need any kind of treatment, but let your doctor know about any that you find on your baby. It is important to monitor birthmarks over time for changes in size, color, shape, and texture. If you see a change, tell the doctor, and make sure to keep having it checked throughout your child’s life. While most birthmarks pose no threat, some may need to be removed or treated. Your doctor may recommend surgery, medication, or a form of therapy such as laser therapy. If this is the case, it is usually most effective if done during infancy. Check with your baby’s doctor to determine the best treatment options.
Remember, birthmarks are a part of what makes your baby unique. In most cases, they are simply another aspect of your baby’s individual beauty. Whether they fade over time or stay as a lifelong characteristic, they are a special part of your little one’s story.
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- American Academy of Pediatrics. (2019 December). Infantile Hemangiomas: About Strawberry Baby Birthmarks. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/bathing-skin-care/Pages/Infantile-Hemangiomas-Baby-Birthmarks.aspx
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