You may have noticed that a baby’s skin looks fair and pale a few days after being born but within a few weeks it takes on a darker shade. Some babies on the other hand are born dark and become fairer with time. Why does this happen though? How does a baby’s skin change from week to week? What factors contribute to this change in colour? Is it just the genes or do many external factors play a huge role in allowing for a baby’s skin colour to change? Let’s find out why a baby’s skin colour changes in this article.
Before we get into the reasons for why a baby’s skin colour changes, it is important to understand what the baby’s skin colour looks like right after he is born. When a baby is first born, his skin looks dark red in colour, almost a hue of purple. As the baby begins to breathe air outside the womb, the colour changes to a lighter shade of red. During the first day itself the redness will start to fade away while the baby’s hands and feet may stay bluish in colour for several days. However, this is normal as your baby’s blood circulation process is still immature.
Many newborn babies develop some amount of jaundice, which makes their skin appear yellow in colour during the first week. The eyes appear yellow as well. This is a temporary condition but should not be taken lightly. With time, the baby’s liver function starts to mature and the jaundice goes away. The yellow colour of the skin can be seen more prominently by pressing on the baby’s forehead or chest and watching the colour return. Jaundice in babies may be caused by many reasons like physiological factors, breast milk, immature liver function etc.
A baby’s skin is paper thin; it’s three times thinner than an adult’s. Hence, it is extremely sensitive and prone to rashes, allergies and other skin issues. As a newborn baby’s skin is still developing, the melanin is also taking its time to mature. Melanin is the pigment that helps absorb the sun’s rays. As there is a lack of melanin, a baby’s skin burns faster and becomes darker sooner than an adult’s.
It is quite a common phenomenon for a baby’s skin colour to change in the first few months. It may even take upto six months for a baby’s permanent skin colour to develop and it is mainly because of genes. The pigmentation of a baby’s skin is largely controlled by the genes he inherits from the parents. Hence, the genes inherited can ultimately be the deciding factor for you baby’s skin tone.
Also read: What toxic chemicals do to your baby’s skin?
Uncontrolled, long duration of crying can also turn a baby’s face, lips and mouth into blue or purple colour. However, once the crying stops, your baby’s skin colour should return to normal in a few minutes. If these parts remain blue or purple for a very long time, consult a doctor immediately. The blue/purple tint in your baby’s skin could mean that the baby is suffering from a heart defect called cyanosis. In cyanosis, the baby’s skin colour changes because the heart is not able to pump oxygenated blood to the rest of the body.
Mongolian spots are quite common in darker-skinned babies, especially in African and Asian countries. Mongolian spots are also a form of birthmark but they tend to disappear within the first 4 years of the baby’s life. These spots usually occur on the back and the buttock area. They are flat and look like dark bruises but they aren’t painful at all. Mongolian spots occur when the skin’s pigment get trapped in deep layers of the skin when the skin is forming. When this pigment does not reach the surface, a Mongolian spot appears.
It may come as a surprise but babies can appear darker if they have lost weight. Along with the weight, the body’s water is also reduced. This in turn can make the baby’s skin look pale and darker. So, set a feeding pattern for your baby as quickly as you can. Consult a breastfeeding specialist if you are having breastfeeding problems.
Most babies have pale skin and it is not a major cause of concern but one should not neglect it altogether as well. If your baby looks pale, it may be due to anemia. However, to identify anemia look out for other symptoms like weakness, fatigue, abnormal body temperature and slow physical movements. If it is an anemia caused by folic acid deficiency, your baby will show signs like breathlessness, being excessively tired and palpitations.
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