Around half of all babies develop small, pearly white spots around the eyes, cheeks, nose and forehead, known as milk spots, or milia. They actually have nothing to do with milk (or breastfeeding) apart from being white.
Some people refer to milk spots as ‘baby acne.’ In the UK, baby acne is more commonly used to describe red-coloured spots resembling normal teenage and adult acne.
What do milk spots look like?
“A milk spot is a small, sealed, seed-like sac placed well under the skin,” explains GP Dr Suni Perera. Your baby may have just a few tiny, subtle spots, or a whole rash of them, as our two images indicate.
The spots are usually 1-2mm in size and hard to the touch as they are filled with a protein called keratin. While they often appear on the face, your baby may have them on their back or chest.
Why do babies get milk spots?
Every mum wants to know the answer to this question – but even the medical professionals are not certain of why milk spots appear.
“It is not really known why newborns get milk spots. Some dermatologists link it to the fact that young babies have undeveloped skin glands which means dead skin gets trapped in little pockets, causing a small cyst,” says Dr Perera.
How long will baby milk spots last?
Milk spots usually only last for a few weeks. “They cause no harm and tend to go naturally,” Dr Perera says.
Can you squeeze milk spots?
Although you might feel tempted to give your baby’s milk spots a gentle squeeze, it’s best not to, as this could lead to scarring. “Unlike a ‘pimple’ there is no opening or pore to squeeze the material out in a milk spot.
“Usually the skin remains intact when they are accidentally knocked and so no harm is done. Parents are encouraged not to try and pick or prise out the spot as it could cause scarring. They will be breaking the skin surface, which is a natural protective barrier,” says Dr Perera.
Should you use any creams or bath products on milk spots?
“Keep your baby clean by washing with water, and if necessary, use a mild baby wash,” Dr Perera adds.
“In general, it’s best to avoid putting any creams on your baby’s delicate facial skin unless you have been advised to do so by a health professional.”
Some of our forum mums were prescribed specific creams – you can read their experiences on MadeForMums’ forum
Should you see your doctor about milk spots?
While Dr Perera says that milk spots rarely get infected, if you think that this may be the case, visit your GP or another NHS professional.
You should also seek advice from a doctor if the spots become widespread or the skin around them looks inflamed or painful.
Your doctor may say that your baby doesn’t have milk spots but one of the following:
Signs of a cow’s milk allergy can include a red, itchy rash around the mouth, or red spots on the face, known as hives. Your child may also have other symptoms.
Impetigo is a contagious infection, common to children. It can be identified by blister-like spots, which can spread and may burst, leaving behind a yellow crust.
If your child has been particularly hot or sweaty, they may develop a raised red rash. It is also known as ‘prickly’ heat because the skin may feel itchy and prickly.
This contagious skin infection is not serious, but causes raised, wart-like spots, which may feel itchy. Tell me more about molluscum contagiosum
Our mums share experiences of their babies’ milk spots
Mrsjbourne: “My LO is 11 days old and his face is COVERED in them, midwife said they are fine as long as they aren’t anywhere else on his body but they look awful!
“He looks like he’s got acne! Obv I know they are nothing to worry about cuz the midwife has seen them and said they are fine but it just makes me sad to see his gorgeous face looking all red and spotty.”
Yummy_mummy3 replies: “Is his skin more waxy or dry? Kyra had funny old skin when she was tiny too.
“First she had milk spots on her nose from birth, then her skin and scalp went really greasy and waxy, then she broke out in spots ALL over her face and scalp.
“Then her skin suddenly went dry and the spots turned scabby and her scalp scaly (cradle cap).
“Newborn’s skin is so sensitive and it takes time to adjust to being in our environment from being in your sterile womb. If the skin turns dry it will need regular moisture.”
xxAmyAmbyxx: “My little girl Amber has them too she is 17 days old – took her to the docs and they said there is nothing you can do apart from keep the skin clean.
“They flare up apparently when lo is too warm. They do go though I have quite a few friends whose little ones had milk spots too.
“I know what you mean though not fair as newborn skin is so soft and these little rascals come and break out on their gorgeous little faces – how rude!!”
Joannekelly4: “My little one was born with milk spots on his nose (i thought they looked cute!), then got spots, like acne, at around 2-3 weeks.
“It looked horrible, but thankfully it cleared up in about a week. I just washed his face twice a day with cooled boiled water.”
Tiggler: “Ruby had this when she was younger. They don’t advise you put anything on it at all. It is perfectly normal. Ruby had it quite bad at certain times until about 3/4 months old.
“Try not to put Sudocrem or anything on her face as it will heal naturally by itself. Its honestly nothing to worry about. Ruby now has perfect skin again and I did nothing.
“It is called a milk rash but is all the hormones that you gave to her in pregnancy coming out.”