Your baby’s skin

Baby's skin can suffer from a range of conditions, most of which are normal and will clear up on their own. Discuss any concerns with your midwife, Plunket nurse, other well child health provider or doctor.

Dry skin

Dry skin is common in the first few weeks, particularly if your baby was overdue. To ease this condition:

  1. Avoid soap or baby bathing liquids

  2. Rub a small amount of a baby moisturising cream on their dry skin

  3. Use a few drops of baby oil in the bath (be careful when as the oil will make baby slippery)

  4. Bath them without soap as warm water is enough.

Baby acne (Hormonal spots)

Most babies get spots that look like acne on their face, head and upper body at about 3–6 weeks of age. They can last for a few weeks and look worse when your baby is hot or has been crying.

The spots are caused by a baby’s hormone levels settling down after the high hormone levels they got from their mother before birth.

No treatment or creams are needed. The spots are best left alone as they do not usually scar or become infected. Do not squeeze them.

Toxic erythema

This looks like an insect bite, red with a yellow centre. It comes and goes all over the body in the first few weeks of life. This is actually a benign type of allergic reaction, the cause of which is unknown. It may be a reaction to mechanical and thermal (heat) stimuli.

No special treatment is needed for toxic erythema because it goes away by itself.

Septic spots (a skin infection)

These are white or yellow pus-filled spots. They can occur anywhere, but are common around the nappy area or in neck, arm or leg creases. They look like small blisters and the skin around them may be red and weepy. Antibiotics may be needed to clear the infection and stop it spreading. Talk to your midwife, Plunket nurse, or doctor if you notice these spots.


Many babies are born with a birthmark (a naevus). There are different sorts of birthmarks:

  • Dark red or pink patches (or ‘stork bites’) - They appear on the eyelids, forehead at the top of the nose, and on back of the neck and usually fade in the first year.

  • Mongolian spots are dark blue patches that are present on the skin at birth. They appear usually on the lower back or the bottom. They’re not bruises and will fade in the first few months. They’re common in children with darker skin.

  • A ‘strawberry’ birthmark starts as a red dot that gets bigger, and forms reddish lumps before fading in the second year.

  • A flat purple birthmark (port wine stain) - present at birth and permanent. They can be treated by a skin specialist when a child is older.


This is a yellowish colour of the skin and whites of the eyes.  Many healthy newborn babies develop a yellowish colour, which usually disappears by the age of 7–10 days. If you notice your baby’s skin and eyes are yellow, tell your midwife.

A blood test can be done if it’s necessary to check the level of jaundice. If the level is high, your midwife will discuss this with you.

You need to see your doctor immediately if your baby:

  • develops dark urine, pale or white bowel motions (poos), yellow colour of the skin and eyes

  • is sleepy and difficult to wake for feeds

  • isn’t feeding well

  • is jaundiced in the first 24 hours of life

  • stays jaundiced after the first 2 weeks of life.

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