Your infant may have one or more marks, spots, or bumps on their skin that you notice after childbirth or months later. This may be a birthmark or mole, both of which are common in babies.
Birthmarks appear at birth or in the weeks following birth and occur because blood vessels or pigment cells are not formed correctly. Moles, on the other hand, can appear at birth or any time throughout your child’s life.
A mole can be a birthmark (if it’s present at birth or soon after), but not all birthmarks are moles.
There are several types of moles, and they can be small or large, occur anywhere on the body, and appear in many colors, including brown, tan, pink, blue, or white. Moles form in areas that have more pigment cells than the rest of the skin.
Your doctor can examine your infant’s skin to diagnose a birthmark or mole. In general, moles are not a cause for concern, but some may need to be watched or treated if they get in the way of your infant’s functioning or pose a risk for a serious health condition.
There are several different types of moles, called “nevus” (singular) or “nevi” (plural) in the medical community. These include:
- Congenital moles. These appear on the body at birth or shortly after birth. Congenital moles can range in size, shape, and color, though they often are tan, brown, or black. Hair may grow from the mole. Approximately 1 out of every 100 babies has a congenital mole (or more than one) at birth.
- Large or giant congenital moles. These rare moles appear at birth but are much bigger in size than a typical mole. Large moles can be 7 inches or larger and giant moles can grow larger than 15 inches, but may not be that big when your child is born. These moles can grow as your child grows. These moles increase the risk for melanoma and other health conditions.
- Acquired moles. These appear after birth and throughout one’s life. These moles may appear in areas more frequently exposed to sunlight. These moles are very common, and you may develop several of them over the course of your life. Those with fairer skin may end up with between 10 and 40 of these moles in their lifetime.
- Spitz nevus. These moles are raised and round. They can be many colors, including pink, red, tan, or brown, or even a mixture of colors. You don’t need to worry about these moles generally, and they occur most often in older children and teens.
Moles are common in infants and children and are generally harmless. Infants may be born with a mole or develop them over time, and they can change in color and size as they grow without any significant health implications.
You should keep an eye on your infant’s moles and talk to your doctor if you notice any changes to them. Sometimes a mole may be melanoma, though this is much less common in children than adults.
when to have a mole checked by your baby’s doctor
- Moles with certain characteristics on the “ABCDE” scale should be examined by your infant’s doctor. This scale encompasses moles that are asymmetrical, moles with an odd border, moles with varied colors, moles with a diameter larger than 6 millimeters, and moles that have evolved in size or shape or changed color.
- Moles that bleed, itch, or are painful.
- Moles that number more than 50 on your infant’s body. Your child may be at higher risk for melanoma.
- Large or giant congenital moles should be monitored regularly by your doctor, as they have a higher potential to become melanoma.
Often, your doctor can diagnose a mole on your infant by a physical examination. In rare cases, your doctor may recommend further testing to diagnose a more serious health condition like melanoma. This may include a biopsy.
Your doctor will have the biopsy tested under a microscope to determine if it contains melanoma cells.
Often moles require no treatment, but you should monitor your infant’s moles for any unusual changes and see a doctor if any occur. Your doctor may also take pictures of your infant’s moles to track any changes to them over time.
Your doctor may recommend removing a mole on your infant if it gets in the way of their development or functioning. Your doctor may also recommend the removal of large moles to decrease your child’s risk for melanoma.
Often, your doctor can remove a mole or moles in their office with local anesthesia by cutting the mole out of the skin or shaving it off. Your infant may need a stitch or two to close the incision.
In some cases, your doctor may recommend you see a specialist like a dermatologist or plastic surgeon. This may be more common for infants with large or giant moles. In these cases, your child may need to grow more skin tissue or receive a higher level of care for mole removal.
Never remove your infant’s mole at home.
Moles that are not congenital may appear on your infant because of sun exposure. Generally, infants should not be exposed to the sun, especially if they are less than 6 months old.
If you take your infant into the sun, make sure to use protection like hats, lightweight clothing and blankets, and shade.
The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to always use sunscreen for infants no matter their age if it’s impossible to keep them out of the sun.
Use a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher. Apply only the necessary minimal amount to a young infant. Avoid direct sunlight for any infant or child between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when possible.
Moles are a common skin condition in infants. Your child may be born with moles or develop them in the proceeding months or years.
Large or giant congenital moles should be monitored and treated by a doctor. Seek medical care for moles that change dramatically in symmetry, border, color, and size.