Skin Color Changes
What might skin color changes indicate in a newborn?
The color of a baby's skin can often help identify possible problems in another area
of the body. If your newborn has any of the following skin color changes, tell your
baby’s healthcare provider right away:
Increasing yellow color
Over half of all newborns develop some amount of jaundice during the first week. This
causes a yellow coloring in their skin and eyes. This is usually a short-term (temporary)
condition, but may be a more serious sign of another illness. Jaundice is caused by
the breakdown of red blood cells. As the old cells are broken down, hemoglobin is
changed into bilirubin and normally removed by the liver. In a newborn baby, this
removal process is not fully developed. Because bilirubin has a coloring, it causes
a yellowing of the baby's eyes, skin, and tissues. As liver function matures, the
jaundice goes away. A premature infant is more likely to have jaundice. The yellow
tint to the skin can often be seen by gently pressing on the baby's forehead or chest
and watching the color return. There are several types of jaundice:
Physiologic jaundice. Physiologic jaundice occurs as a "normal" response to the baby's limited ability to
excrete bilirubin in the first days of life.
Breast milk jaundice. A very small number of breastfed babies develop jaundice when they are 2 to 12 weeks
Jaundice from poor breastfeeding. Babies who are born early may have trouble breastfeeding at first and may also develop
Jaundice from hemolysis. Jaundice may occur with the breakdown of red blood cells due to hemolytic disease
of the newborn (Rh disease), having too many red blood cells, or bleeding internally.
Jaundice related to inadequate liver function. Jaundice may be related to poor liver function due to infection or other factors.
Treatment for jaundice depends on many factors, including the cause and the severity
of the jaundice. Treatment often includes using special lights called phototherapy.
Babies with severe jaundice may need hospitalization and blood transfusions.
Babies with jaundice may have feeding problems and be irritable or listless. Call
your baby's healthcare provider if your baby has any of these signs.
Blue color that does not go away
When a baby is first born, the skin is a dark red to purple color. As the baby begins
to breathe air, the color changes to red. This redness normally begins to fade in
the first day. A baby's hands and feet may stay bluish in color for several days.
This is a normal response to a newborn's immature blood circulation.
Blue coloring of other parts of the body is not normal. Occasionally, a baby's face
or lips and mouth may turn purplish with very intense crying. But this should turn
back to pink when the baby stops crying. If the baby's color does not turn pink again,
or the baby has an overall blue tint, this may signal a problem. The blue coloring
is called cyanosis. It is often seen in babies with a heart defect, because the heart
can’t pump the oxygenated blood to the rest of the body. Breathing difficulties may
also cause cyanosis. See your baby's healthcare provider right away if your baby has
any blue coloring.