previously published in KC Baby magazine (fall issue 2011)
by Stacey Hatton, RN
When you first look at your newborn’s face, a parent only sees perfection. But then after you know your child is healthy and all body parts and digits are accounted for, details may start getting noticed and the questions start popping out. There are numbers of rashes and skin conditions that can worry even the seasoned parent, so it is a good idea to know what is normal for your infant and what deserves a call to your primary provider.
The majority are not problematic. A number of birthmarks develop after birth; some will fade, and others are permanent. “Stork bites” or “angel kisses” are other names for these marks that often appear, especially on fair-skinned infants. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises that “you consult your doctor if you notice that a birthmark develops ‘knots’ or is growing rapidly. Red birthmarks, or hemangiomas, around the eye or that develop sores also require attention.”
This condition comprises yellow, crusty or scaly areas on the newborn’s scalp. It’s not contagious and can clear up on its own. If treatment is recommended, shampoo baby’s scalp once daily with mild baby shampoo. Also, gently loosen crusty areas with a soft-bristle brush while wet, before rinsing. “ If the scales are stubborn,” says the AAP, “ rub a few drops of mineral oil onto the scalp, let sit, and then brush and shampoo the baby’s hair. If cradle cap persists, your pediatrician may recommend an adult dandruff shampoo.” Don’t scrub too vigorously or bleeding can occur and you don’t want to press on the infant’s soft spot.
Christy, a Kansas City mom of one, says her daughter had a pimple-like rash just on her upper arms. “The pediatrician said it was dry skin; and she probably won’t have acne since her skin is more dry and not oily,” Christy says.
Nemours Foundation says, “A yellowish discoloration of the skin and white parts of the eyes is a common condition that normally doesn’t appear until the second or third day after birth and disappears within 1 to 2 weeks.” Jaundice occurs from too much bilirubin collecting in the body and the liver’s inability to effectively clear it out. It’s a serious condition and must be closely monitored by the baby’s doctor.
These common small, raised, white bumps on the chin, nose or cheeks will disappear within a few weeks. Baby acne consists of red or white bumps on the forehead or cheeks. Baby acne appears later, after the first 3 to 4 weeks and is related to hormonal changes which stimulate oil glands. Sometimes this indicates a hormonal problem, but rarely. Wash your baby’s face with water daily, avoiding soaps and lotions, and never pinch or break open the bumps. The AAP says, “If baby acne doesn’t clear up within three months, tell your pediatrician.” Julie, Overland Park mom of three, says that her firstborn developed baby acne. “I was very concerned. So I ‘Googled’ it and read it was from hormones leaving the mom and was worried that it was all my fault,” she says. “Then I talked to some friends and they convinced me it was normal and I felt a lot better.”
These sometimes large, flat, purple-reddish birthmarks don’t always go away by themselves. The mark is commonly found on the base of the skull and rarely causes problems. If the mark is more invasive, a dermatologist may need to be contacted for various removal procedures. Karen, a mother of two from Lawrence, says, “My daughter had one over her eye and one on the upper lip. I had never seen these and I was horrified because I thought it was permanent. I was holding the baby in the hospital and crying and the pediatrician walked in and said those marks will disappear,” Karen says. “They all faded, but still reappear with crying fits or a fever.”
The key to keeping your infant’s skin healthy is to wash it gently with mild or natural products. Your pediatrician should have suggestions for you. Anything that says “for sensitive skin” is great for all babies. They all have sensitive skin and as always, if you are concerned, call your baby’s doctor.
Stacey Hatton is a pediatric RN and freelance writer who is glad the scaly “picking” days of cradle cap are over.