Mother and Baby

What are baby milk spots and should I be worried about them?

Milk spots, otherwise known as malia are fairly in common in babies but what exactly are they?

When you are pregnant you have to deal with all sorts of changes in your skin from rashes and spots. You might even be one of the lucky ones who finds themselves with glowing pregnancy skin (we envy you!). 

However, the skin concerns don't stop after you give birth. Once you have a newborn, every little lump, rash or mark on their delicate skin is likely to set you off into a world of panic. 

Fear not! We are here to relieve that panic by explaining everything there is to know about baby milk spots.

What are milk spots?

Milk spots are very small white spots or lumps that occur on the face, mainly around the eyes, nose, cheeks and forehead (so basically everywhere on their poor little face!). They are actually tiny little sacs filled with keratin which is a protein that is typically found in skin tissue, hair and nail cells. Milk spots can occur in both adults and children but they have different causes and they are particularly common in newborns with around 40% of babies developing them.

Why do milk spots occur?

Contrary to what the name suggests and popular belief, milk spots have nothing to do with milk, bottle feeding or breastfeeding. The cause of milk spots in newborns is unclear but babies are usually born with them. Some dermatologists believe they occur due to the hormones released by the mother during pregnancy or down to the baby's skin glands not being fully developed. In adults, milk spots are usually down to dead skin build up, damage to the skin via the sun, the use of steroid creams or burns.

Should I be worried about milk spots?

Milk spots are harmless. It is unlikely that the milk spots cause your little one to lose any sleep (no more than normal anyway!) because they are not usually painful or itchy. If you find they are causing them discomfort, they may be something else so you can always get your GP or health visitor to check. 

Are there any treatments for milk spots?

Although milk spots might look like little whiteheads, make sure you are not tempted to squeeze or pop them. The keratin cannot be released through the pore so this will only break their delicate skin, leaving it sore and prone to infection. Keep their skin clean with water and any mild baby washes. The milk spots will clear up on their own in a few weeks.

What is the difference between milk spots and baby acne?

Milk spots are often inaccurately referred to as baby acne. However, there is a subtle difference between the two. Baby acne causes more angry looking red spots that are likely to be raised and filled with pus. Unlike milk spots, babies are not born with acne and often develop it about a month after birth. Luckily, like milk spots, acne tends to clear up on its own after a few weeks or months. Avoid squeezing them, over washing and make sure to use mild baby products. If the acne is severe, contact a dermatologist.

Check out this gallery on common baby skin complaints:

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1) Nappy rash

Nappy rash is perhaps the most common skin concern with little ones. It happens when their skin is irritated by rubbing from nappies, wee, poo or cleaning products/wipes. Their skin will be red, sore and blotchy. Changing nappies as soon as they are dirty, applying a barrier cream or changing nappy brain if a particular type sets it off are all ways to prevent nappy rash. It will usually clear up after a few days.
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2) Meningitis rash

This is a more serious rash. The main identifying factors of meningitis rash are a purple pin-prick rash that doesn’t dissapear or fade when you press a glass against it. Not all babies who have meningitis have the obvious rash. Keep an eye on your babies temperature if they develop a fever as this is a clear indicator as well as clammy skin, sleepiness, refusal to feed, vomiting, neck stiffness or dislike of bright lights. If you are worried call 111 or take your child directly to hospital.
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3) Milk spots or malia

Milk spots are very small white spots or lumps that occur on the face, mainly around the eyes, nose, cheeks and forehead. They are actually tiny little sacs filled with keratin which is a protein that is typically found in skin tissue, hair and nail cells. They are harmless and will usually clear up in a few weeks without treatment.
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4) Baby acne

Milk spots and baby acne are often confused. However, unlike milk spots, baby acne will usually result in angry looking red spots that are often filled with pus. It looks similar to adult acne and in newborns it will clear up after a few weeks or months. Always avoid squeezing the spots as this can make your baby more prone to infection. Wash your baby with water and use mild products, if at all.
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5) Thrush

Thrush is quite obvious in children as it results in a white coating on your baby's tongue or white spots that cannot be rubbed off. Babies are often affected by oral thrush and although it is harmless, you and your little need to use treatment to clear it up as it will be transferred by breastfeeding. If left untreated, breastfeeding can become painful for mums.
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6) Chickenpox

Chickenpox is commong and mainly affects children but it is possible to catch it at any age. After about a week it tends to get better without needing to see a doctor. Chickenpox are red spots that can appear all over the body and the spots can fill with fluid or blister and burst. There are other symptoms such as a high temperature, aches, feeling unwell and loss of appetite. The spots are very itchy and can really irritate children but it is worse in adults which is why people often throw chickenpox parties to prevent their children getting it in later life. 
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7) Cradle cap

Cradle cap occurs on your baby's scalp and results in flaky or scaly skin that looks crusty. Some experts believe cradle cap occurs because of the over-production of oil on the scalp. It tends to last for a few weeks and then drops off naturally. It is important to make sure you avoid picking it off as this will make the skin sore and painful.
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8) Eczema

Atopic eczema is common in children and causes the skin to become itchy, inflamed, red and cracked. It often occurs in areas where the skin folds such as the neck, elbows, behind the knees and around the eyes and ears. Eczema is a long-term condition but often clears up in children at around 11. There are certain creams that can be prescribed by your doctor to help soothe the symptoms.


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