It is typical for a newborn’s skin colour to be different from what it will end up in the future.
This can happen because of the changes that occur to your baby’s skin as they grow. In general, babies are born with a pinkish-red hue on their hairless skin, which gradually fades over time.
Some parents may notice some lightening in their child’s complexion after being born due to erythema toxicum, which is caused by exposure to maternal hormones during pregnancy and typically goes away within two weeks of birth.
In newborns, skin colour changes are often due to something happening inside the body. Some colour changes are expected.
Others are signs of problems. The changes described below can happen to any newborn.
But skin colour changes may be more evident in babies born early or prematurely, who have thinner skin than full-term babies.
Newborn skin colour changes vary from one baby to another depending on ethnic background, baby’s age, temperature and even simple things like whether the baby is crying or not.
Why Newborn Skin Colour Changes?
A baby’s skin colour often changes with the environment and health.
Right after a baby is born, the colour of his skin may appear dark red or purple. However, as the infant breathes, his colour brightens to a red.
This redness should fade during the first 24 hours, but the baby’s feet and hands may continue to have a bluish tint for several days.
This bluish cast to newborn skin changes as the baby matures, and the infant’s immature blood circulation changes.
However, the rest of the body should not show evidence of this bluish colour. If it does, be sure to contact your doctor immediately.
When Does a Newborn’s Skin Colour Change?
It is not unusual for your newborn baby’s skin colour to change over the coming months. It can take up to six months for your baby’s permanent skin colour to develop.
This is primarily due to genetics. Your baby’s skin pigmentation is controlled by genetics and the various genes that they inherit from mom and dad.
The baby’s skin colour can be affected by many different genetic substances. The pigment melanin is the most critical genetic substance that will determine your baby’s actual skin colour.
Keep in mind that these inherited genes can ultimately result in a wide variety of skin tones for your baby.
What do Might Skin Colour Changes indicate in a Newborn?
The colour of a baby’s skin can often help identify possible problems in another area of the body.
You need to detect and notify your baby’s doctor if the following skin colour changes should occur:
Check out our range of playmats for baby nursery here.
Increasing Yellow Colour.
Over half of all newborns develop some amount of jaundice, a yellow colouring in their skin and eyes, during the first week.
This is usually a temporary condition but maybe a more serious sign of another illness. The breakdown of red blood cells causes jaundice.
As the old cells are broken down, hemoglobin is changed into bilirubin and usually removed by the liver. In a newborn baby, this removal process is not fully developed.
The buildup of bilirubin in the blood is called hyperbilirubinemia. Because bilirubin has a pigment or colouring, it causes a yellowing of the baby’s eyes, skin, and tissues. As liver function matures, jaundice goes away.
A premature infant is more likely to develop jaundice. The yellow tint to the skin can often be seen by gently pressing the baby’s forehead or chest and watching the colour return.
There are several types of jaundice:
Physiologic jaundice occurs as a “normal” response to the baby’s limited ability to excrete bilirubin in the first days of life.
Breast Milk Jaundice.
About 2% of breastfed babies develop jaundice after the first 3 to 5 days. It peaks at about two weeks of age and can persist up to three to 12 weeks.
Breast milk jaundice is thought to be caused by a factor in the mother’s breast milk that increases the reabsorption of bilirubin through the intestinal tract.
This process is called enterohepatic circulation.
I am breastfeeding failure jaundice. It is caused by failure to initiate breastfeeding, resulting in dehydration, decreased urine and stool production and accumulation of bilirubin.
Late preterm infants, born between 34 weeks and 36 weeks, are more susceptible to this problem.
They do not have the coordination and the strength to maintain successful breastfeeding.
Jaundice from Hemolysis.
Jaundice may occur with the breakdown of red blood cells due to hemolytic disease of the newborn (Rh disease), having too many red blood cells, or bleeding internally.
Jaundice is related to impaired liver function. Jaundice may be related to impaired liver function due to infection or other factors.
Treatment for jaundice depends on many factors, including the cause and the severity of jaundice.
Treatment often includes using unique lights called phototherapy. Babies with severe jaundice may need hospitalization and blood transfusions.
Babies with jaundice may have feeding problems and be irritable or listless. Call your baby’s doctor if your baby has any of these signs.
The blue colour does not go away. When a baby is firstborn, the skin is a dark red to purple colour. As the baby begins to breathe air, the colour changes to red.
This redness typically begins to fade on the first day. A baby’s hands and feet may stay bluish for several days.
This is a normal response to a newborn’s immature blood circulation.
Blue colouring of other parts of the body is not regular. Occasionally, a baby’s face or lips and mouth may turn purplish with very intense crying.
However, this should turn back pink when the baby stops crying. If the baby’s colour does not turn pink again, or there is an overall blue tinge to the baby, this may signal a problem.
The blue colouring is called cyanosis and is often seen in babies with heart defect because the heart cannot pump the oxygenated blood to the rest of the body.
Breathing difficulties may also cause cyanosis. Consult your baby’s pediatrician immediately if your baby has any blue colouring.
Skin Colour Changes in the Newborn
With acrocyanosis, the baby’s hands and feet are blue. This is normal right after birth. Most newborns have some acrocyanosis for their first few hours of life.
It happens because blood and oxygen are circulating to the most critical parts of the body, such as the brain, lungs, and kidneys, rather than to the hands and feet.
The problem goes away as the baby’s body gets used to new blood circulation patterns.
Later, acrocyanosis can come back if the baby is cold (such as after a bath). This is normal and will go away by itself.
Cyanosis can be a blue colour around the mouth or face or over the whole body. It happens when the baby’s red blood cells aren’t carrying as much oxygen as expected.
It may mean the baby is not getting enough oxygen. If you notice cyanosis, tell your baby’s healthcare provider or a nurse right away.
Mottling occurs when the baby’s skin looks blue or pale and blotchy. There may also be a bluish marbled or weblike pattern on the baby’s skin.
The parts of the skin that are not blotchy may be very pale (pallor). Mottling is not uncommon in premature or ill babies in the neonatal intensive care unit.
It could be due to a congenital heart problem, poor blood circulation, or an infection in other babies. Tell your baby’s healthcare provider or a nurse right away if you notice mottling.
Baby with yellow skin and whites of eyes that look yellow because of jaundice.
Jaundice is a yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes. It usually starts in the face, then moves down to the chest, lower belly, and legs.
It happens because the body is breaking down red blood cells (a normal process after birth). The breakdown releases a yellow substance called bilirubin, which causes the yellow colour.
The baby’s liver processes this substance. It leaves the body through the urine or stool.
Jaundice occurs in about half of all babies after birth and usually goes away by itself. But sometimes, a baby’s liver can’t process bilirubin as quickly as needed. This is especially true of babies born early or prematurely.
Treatment may be needed to help the bilirubin break down and get rid of the yellow colour. If your baby is jaundiced, alert your baby’s healthcare provider or a nurse.
We have a wide range of playpens for your baby right here at My Baby Nursery.
Other Skin Colour Changes
Also, tell your baby’s healthcare provider or nurse if you notice:
- Redness around the baby’s umbilical cord or circumcision site, which could be a sign of infection
- Red spots (caused by broken blood vessels), which may be a sign of trauma or disease or could be due to a problem with the blood’s ability to clot
Babies With a Yellow Skin Tone May Have Jaundice
When a newborn’s skin changes to a yellowish colour, this is known as jaundice. If your baby is premature, he is likely to develop jaundice.
Over half of all newborns develop jaundice to some extent during the first week of life.
If you think your baby may be jealous, gently press the baby’s forehead or chest and watch the colour return.
In some cases, laboratory tests are necessary to assess jaundice which may occur for several reasons.
Jaundice is often only a temporary condition, but it’s important to note that it can also be a sign of a more severe illness.
Jaundice occurs as old red blood cells break down and hemoglobin is changed into bilirubin. The liver then removes bilirubin.
The buildup of bilirubin in the blood is called hyperbilirubinemia. It is because of bilirubin pigment that yellowing of the baby’s skin and tissue occurs.
Jaundice goes away as the baby’s liver matures.
Blue Skin Colouring in a Newborn Baby
Blood circulation may cause a blue cast to a newborn’s skin, but this colour gives way to healthy red, fades to pink within a day or two.
However, if the blue colouring is not limited to the baby’s hands and feet, this warning may be wrong.
Blue Colouring When Baby Cries Hard
Sometimes, when a baby cries hard, his lips, mouth, or face might turn a purplish colour, but everything should go back to pink when the crying stops.
If it doesn’t, or if the baby’s skin tone holds a bluish tint, this signals a possible problem.
Lingering Blue Colouring May Indicate Cyanosis
The blue colouring that occurs in infants with a heart defect is called cyanosis. The baby’s skin colour changes because the heart is not pumping oxygenated blood to the rest of the body or because a breathing problem exists.
One last skin colour change worth mentioning is Mongolian spots. These blue or purple-coloured splotches appear on the infant’s lower back and buttocks.
More than 80 per cent of African-American, Asian, and Indian babies have Mongolian spots, but they can also show up in dark-skinned babies of any race.
These spots result from a concentration of pigmented cells, but they often disappear in the first four years of life.
Skin Colour and the Health of Your Newborn
Every newborn is different from the shape of her head, size of her body, colour of her skin and more.
Some differences are temporary and change as your baby adjusts to being in this world. Other things like birthmarks are often permanent.
As a parent, it is essential to understand your newborn’s skin colour changes and how they can affect your baby’s health.
Surprising Facts About Your Baby’s Skin
Surprising Skin Fact #1: It Won’t Be Pretty at First.
Of course, he’s beautiful — but your newborn is also kind of weird, skin-wise.
If you give birth prematurely, his body may be covered with fine hair (called lanugo) for the first few days.
It also might be coated with vernix, a greasy, cheese-like substance that protects a baby’s skin in utero from amniotic fluid and which can take a day or two to wear or wash off.
Another surprising fact about newborn skin: No matter your ethnicity or race, your baby’s skin will be reddish purple for the first few days, thanks to a circulation system that’s just getting up to speed.
(In fact, some babies can take up to six months to develop their permanent skin tone.) All of this not-so-delectable stuff is perfectly normal, but do keep an eye out for a yellow cast to the skin, which could be a sign of jaundice.
Surprising Skin Fact #2: It’s Very Prone to Rashes.
Besides being greasy and hairy, your baby’s skin will probably be blotchy, blemished, and bumpy.
About 30 to 40 per cent of babies are born with milia, those white or yellow dots that look like tiny whiteheads and appear all over their little faces. And about one-fifth of newborns will be more pimply than an eighth-grader, breaking out in what is known as baby acne.
Even if your baby avoids milia and pimples, there’s still a 50/50 chance she’ll develop erythema toxicum — also called flea bites — a harmless, temporary red rash that can cover her itty-bitty body but usually breaks out on the chest and back.
The best thing you can do for baby breakouts is left them alone (no squeezing, no scrubbing), and your darling will be ready for her close-up in no time.
Surprising Skin Fact #3: Your Hormones Affect It.
Your hormones wreaked havoc on your body throughout pregnancy — now they’re doing a number on your newborn’s skin.
As your due date approached, your hormones made their way through the placenta and into your baby, ramping up his oil production.
Happily, your baby’s body will flush them out, usually between a week and a month after his birth.
Your hormones probably caused that crusty cradle cap too. Just remember those scales and flakes on his scalp may bother you, but your cutie is oblivious.
Again, leave it be, Mama, and the cradle cap will go away on its own. For particularly severe or stubborn cases, talk to the pediatrician about treatment, which might include a low-strength corticosteroid cream.
Surprising Skin Fact #4: It’s Paper-Thin.
Those thighs might be deliciously chubby, but right now, your baby’s skin is ultra-thin. You can see most of her blood vessels underneath, which, as it turns out, is one way to gauge your newborn’s temperature and mood.
When her blood boils — if she’s crying, say, or hot — her skin will turn pink and mottled right before your eyes.
And when your baby’s cold, her feet and hands may turn blue, reminding you to cuddle her close or add another layer.
Thin skin means it’s easy for babies to get chilled, so it’s always a good idea to dress your critter in one more layer than you would wear for the weather (and always pop a hat on her except when she’s napping).
After about a year, her skin will thicken enough to keep her naturally insulated, and you won’t have to worry so much about the extra-layer rule.
Surprising Skin Fact #5: it Doesn’t Need to Be Washed That Often.
If your baby’s blissed out by a nightly bath, that’s fine.
But there’s no need to wash your infant every day. Too much washing can dry out a baby’s delicate skin, leaving it more susceptible to rashes and infections.
A quick wipe-down of his neck, legs, arms and diaper area with a damp washcloth is usually good enough most days — at least until he’s stomping through mud puddles and rubbing spaghetti in his hair.
When you do bathe him, opt for a soap-free, fragrance-free cleanser — as a gentle-formulation baby body wash — and only use a squirt or two. And always choose fragrance- and dye-free lotions.
Surprising Skin Fact #6: it Burns Very Easily.
A newborn’s skin is a work in progress — including its melanin, the pigment that helps absorb the sun’s rays.
That means a baby’s skin burns much more quickly than big-kid or grown-up skin, which is serious since sunburns in babies are as harmful as burns from scalding water.
The best way to protect your pipsqueak is to keep her out of direct sunlight as much as possible, especially between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest.
If you do have to run errands during those hours with the baby in tow (and sometimes you will), dress her in light clothing, covering her arms and legs.
Cover that noggin with a hat and dab her cheeks and the tops of her ears with sunscreen, even if she’s younger than six months.
The best sunblocks for sensitive baby skin? Avoid chemical sunscreens favouring physical barrier creams like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide with an SPF of 30.
Surprising Skin Fact #7: There’s an Upside to All This Sensitivity.
Your baby’s thin skin is sensitive to just about everything, including your touch — and that’s a beautiful thing.
Every time you kiss, massage or caress your sweetie’s skin, you stimulate the production of his feel-good hormones — including the “love hormone” oxytocin, which boosts the bonding process.
Most babies love a gentle rubdown, so feel free to massage your munchkin’s back, belly, arms, and legs whenever you want to calm or reassure him or send him off to dreamland. (It’ll make you feel great, too.)
Check out our range of baby playpens at My Baby Nursery.