Much like our babies, birthmarks come in all different shapes and sizes. They can be flat or raised, have regular or irregular borders, and can be in a range of colors from red to brown to purple. There is no way to cause or prevent birthmarks, though most are hereditary. Most birthmarks are harmless and some will fade away as your baby grows older, but sometimes birthmarks can be associated with other health issues.
There are two main types of birthmarks– vascular (which means the blood vessels don’t form properly) and pigmented (when the body creates and overgrowth in pigmented skin cells).
Macular stains: These are the most common form of vascular birthmarks. Most will fade away on their own by the first or second year. They’re most often found on the forehead or eyelids, the back of the neck, or on the nose, upper lip, or on the back of the head.
Hemangiomas: These birthmarks are usually bright red and raised from the skin. In the first 6 months, hemangiomas may grow rapidly, but usually disappear between 5 to 10 years old.
Port-wine stains: These birthmarks are discolorations that are most often found on the face, neck, arms, and legs. They grow as the child grows and will never go away on their own. These birthmarks near the eyes should be treated, to avoid eye complications.
Café-au-lait spots: These aptly-named spots are the color of coffee with milk and can be found anywhere on the body. They are usually not harmful, unless your child has more than 6 and they are larger than a pencil eraser.
Moles: Almost everyone gets a mole at some point in their life. Moles can range from tan to black to grey and can be flat or raised. Moles are usually harmless, unless they change shape, texture, or size. You should always keep an eye on any new moles that form on your child’s body.
Mongolian spots: These birthmarks are flat and usually a blue-grey color. They are most often found on darker skin, near the lower back or buttocks.
You should call the doctor if a birthmark ever bleeds, hurts, itches, or becomes infected. Even though they are usually harmless, large birthmarks can also cause distress or embarrassment for young children. It’s important to have answers prepared for any curious parents or children, and to respond calmly and openly. Your children will pick up on your cues, so it’s important show them that they should be proud of their birthmark!