Common Skin Conditions in Newborn Babies
One of the true wonders of the world is the perfection of a newborn infant’s skin. It’s unbelievably soft, and you just want to touch and caress it for hours. That’s the point; touch is an important bonding mechanism between parent and child, so it makes sense that newborns are so appealing!
Thus it can be alarming when your brand new, perfect baby has imperfections on their skin; white bumps, skin flakes, even something that looks alarmingly like the pimples you battled during your teen years! Fortunately, most skin conditions on newborn babies are normal, harmless, and go away quickly.
Here are a few of the most common infant skin conditions:
Nearly 50 percent of newborns have milia at birth or shortly after. These are tiny white bumps on your baby’s face, usually around the nose, eyes, and forehead. They are caused when skin pores become clogged. Milia are harmless, painless to the baby, and resolve without treatment in the first few weeks.
Seborrheic dermatitis, or cradle cap, is very common and appears as red or white, scaly skin flakes. Cradle cap mainly appears on the scalp but can extend onto the face and neck. It is usually not itchy and goes away on its own, but if it is widespread or causing discomfort to the baby, your pediatrician might prescribe a special shampoo or topical steroid to help it along.
Those pinkish-red bumps on your baby that look like pimples? That’s actually what they are, and probably result from exposure to maternal hormones in the womb. The hormones cause the baby’s skin to produce more oils, and pores can become clogged. Baby acne is another condition that resolves on its own and does not need any treatment. Baby’s skin is extremely delicate, so do not apply any acne medications to it.
Erythema toxicum is a terrifying-sounding name for a very common and harmless condition. It’s a red rash that appears within a few days of birth, and can show up anywhere on the infant’s body. Its cause is unknown. Erythema appears first as uneven patches of blotchy red skin that may develop pustules (areas filled with fluid). It looks alarming, but is painless. Unless the baby develops a fever along with the rash, no treatment is needed.
Jaundice, or hyperbilirubinemia, is a yellowed appearance to the skin, mucus membranes, and the whites of the eyes. As red blood cells wear out and break down, they release bilirubin into the bloodstream. A normally-functioning liver filters out the bilirubin, but in many newborns, the liver is still in the process of starting up, so bilirubin builds up and causes the yellowish appearance.
Jaundice is common, especially in babies born before full term. It usually resolves on its own, but your doctor will want to watch it in case it is a symptom of more serious liver problems. Hospitals routinely monitor babies for jaundice, and your doctor will advise you on whether your baby has jaundice and any treatment or followup that may be needed.
All of these skin conditions can be concerning to a new parent who wants everything about their baby to be perfect, but it is important to realize that they are all normal and mostly go away on their own.
Keep in mind that baby’s skin is delicate and can’t handle regular soap, lotions, or over-the-counter skin treatments intended for adults. Just follow the instructions from your doctors and nurses and keep to a normal cleansing routine. If the skin condition does not resolve in a few weeks after birth, check back with your pediatrician.