If you believe the pictures you see in magazines, movies and television, you might think babies are born with creamy, smooth skin. You might think that anything less signals there is something wrong. In reality, however, babies are often born with red, flaky, pimply skin, and the days and weeks following birth might bring about other skin issues. Don’t worry, though; all of these are normal and usually clear up within the first few weeks or months after birth. The following are five common skin conditions that often affect infants.
Some babies develop a small blister on their lips. This is sometimes called a “sucking callus” and results from vigorous sucking on a breast, bottle or fingers. Some babies have this blister at birth because of thumb sucking in the womb. The blister does not cause any pain or discomfort and might be more noticeable some days and less noticeable other days. It usually disappears completely within a few months.
Infantile seborrheic dermatitis, known as cradle cap, shows up as yellowish or brownish scaly patches on your child’s scalp. Its appearance is much more worrisome than the actual rash. Although you don’t need to do anything special, rubbing baby oil on it a few times a week can help loosen the scales. You can then use a fine-toothed comb or a baby brush to scrape off some of the scales. It normally disappears within a few months, but some babies have flare ups from time to time.
It might appear as if your baby’s skin is peeling, similar to what happens after a sunburn. It isn’t really the skin that is peeling, but a white coating, called a vernix, which protects your baby’s skin while in utero from amniotic fluid. Some babies shed the vernix rather quickly, but children born past their due date might appear to be covered in flaky skin. Don’t try to peel it yourself, as you can damage your baby’s sensitive skin. Just let it slowly come off.
Some babies, especially preemies, are born with a fine coating of hair resembling peach fuzz on their backs, shoulders, ears and forehead. This is called Lanugo, and, like the vernix, helps to protect your baby while in the uterus. It doesn’t mean that your baby will be cursed with hairy shoulders and back all through childhood—it usually falls out within a few weeks, although it may last longer on some babies.
You probably didn’t know that there was such a thing as baby acne, but babies can have small bumps or pimples all over their face. These occur when flakes of skin become trapped in small pockets close to the surface of the skin. The small bumps are most noticeable on the nose, forehead or cheeks, and appear within the first few weeks after birth. The bumps should go away on their own, usually by the time your baby is three months old. If it doesn’t, be sure to talk with your pediatrician. Another skin condition called milia looks like white or yellow dots on the face and can appear at birth. These also usually disappear within the first few months.
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Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.