Reasons for Newborn Skin Color Changes

Newborn Skin Colour Changes

Newborn skin color changes vary from one baby to another depending on ethnic background, baby's age, temperature and even simple things like whether the baby is crying or not.

Why Newborn Skin Color Changes

A baby's skin color often changes with environment and health. In fact, right after a baby is born the color if his skin may appear dark red or purple, but as the infant breathes his color brightens to a red. This redness should fade during the first 24 hours, but the baby's feet and hands may continue to have a bluish hint for several days. This bluish cast to a newborn skin color changes as the baby matures and the infant's immature blood circulation changes. However, the rest of the body should not show evidence of this bluish color. If it does, be sure to contact your doctor immediately.


When newborn skin color changes to a yellowish color, this is known as jaundice. Over half of all newborns develop jaundice to some extent during the first week of life. If you think your baby may be jaundiced, gently press the baby's forehead or chest and watch the color return. In some cases laboratory tests are necessary to assess jaundice which may occur for a number of reasons.

Most often jaundice is only a temporary condition, but it's important to note that it can also be a sign of a more serious illness. Jaundice occurs as old red blood cells break down and hemoglobin is changed into bilirubin. Bilirubin is then removed by the liver. The build-up of bilirubin in the blood is called hyperbilirubinemia. It is because of bilirubin pigment that a yellowing of the baby's skin and tissues results. Jaundice goes away as the baby's liver matures.

If your baby is premature, he is likely to develop jaundice.

Types of Jaundice

  • Physiologic jaundice - normal response to the newborn's limited capability to expel bilirubin in the first days of life.
  • Breast milk jaundice - Around 2 percent of breastfed babies develop jaundice after the first seven days. Others develop breast milk jaundice in the first week because of low calorie intake or dehydration.
  • Jaundice from hemolysis - Jaundice can also be the result of the breakdown of red blood cells due to Rh disease (hemolytic disease) of the newborn because they have too many red blood cells or bleeding.
  • Jaundice related to inadequate liver function - This jaundice may be due to infection or other factors.

Treatment for Jaundice

Because there are varying reasons for the occurrence of jaundice, treatment depends on several factors. Treatments include:

  • Phototherapy
  • In severe cases newborns may require hospitalization and blood transfusions.

Other Problems Associated with Jaundice

  • Feeding problems
  • Irritability
  • Listlessness

If you note any of these symptoms, it's important to contact your doctor immediately.

Blue Skin Color

Earlier we discussed the immature blood circulation causing a blue cast to a newborn's skin, but this color gives way to healthy red which fades to pink within a day or two. However, if the blue coloring is not limited to the baby's hands and feet, this is a warning that something may be wrong.

Sometimes when a baby cries hard his lips, mouth or face might turn a purplish color, but when the crying stops, everything should go back to pink. If it doesn't or if the baby's skin tone holds a bluish tint, this signals a possible problem.

The blue coloring that occurs in infants with a heart defect is called cyanosis. The baby's skin color changes because the heart is not pumping oxygenated blood to the rest of the body, or because a breathing problem exists.

Mongolian Spots

One last skin color change worth mentioning is Mongolian spots. These blue or purple-colored splotches appear on the infant's lower back and buttocks. More than 80 percent of African-American, Asian, and Indian babies have Mongolian spots, but they can also show up in dark-skinned babies of any race. These spots are the result of a concentration of pigmented cells, but they often disappear in the first four years of life.

Skin Color and the Health of Your Newborn

Every newborn is different from the shape of her head, size, color of her skin and more. Some differences are temporary and change as your baby adjusts to being in this world. Other things like birthmarks are often permanent. Understanding normal newborn skin color changes can help you recognize if your baby is healthy.


Reasons for Newborn Skin Color Changes