Welcoming your baby into this world is an unparalleled experience. It can simultaneously bring up multiple emotions — joy, love, relief, nervousness, and warmth! Even though you try to be prepared for this moment, and all moments thereon, parenthood is a journey full of surprises. Everything is new! How your baby smiles, how she looks at you, her cries, her cute little shoes — we could go on forever. As a doting parent, the littlest of inconvenience to your baby becomes your biggest concern. While some of these could seriously cause harm to your little one, others might simply be things you really need not worry about. Skin tone or skin color of a baby is an issue like that, especially in countries like India.
Many parents worry about the skin color of their baby. They worry about the changes that take place in their baby’s skin color as she grows up and frantically look for solutions that promise fair skin. Skin tone is a topic layered with years of social conditioning and might need a lot of unpacking to be addressed in the right manner. In this article, we would like to help you understand everything about your baby’s skin color so that those worries might be put to rest.
Your baby’s skin color is a polygenic trait
Your baby’s skin color is determined by the genes passed on from you and your partner. Skin color is what is called a polygenic trait, meaning that it depends on more than one gene. Genetics determine melanin, which in turn decides your baby’s natural complexion. The more melanin, the darker the complexion. Your baby’s skin color is not determined solely by the genes of either parent, but instead by a mix of both. What this would mean, in general, is that your baby’s skin color would be an average of both parents’ skin colors. However, occasionally, your child may also inherit the genes of an older ancestor such as a grandparent.
While multiple myths and taboos proclaim that only the mother’s genes impact a baby’s skin color, science says otherwise. What you need to remember is that your baby’s skin tone is a natural phenomenon that you cannot control or change as per your preference and that a fairer or darker skin tone says nothing about your child’s personality.
How does a baby’s skin tone change from the time of birth?
A newborn’s skin color can change considerably within the first few weeks, and babies take as long as six months to develop their natural skin color. A newborn’s skin can look pinkish, reddish-purple, or thin and transparent looking due to various reasons such as the number of weeks the mother was pregnant while giving birth or their transition from an intra-uterine to the extra-uterine environment. In time, as your little one’s body produces the color-giving pigment melanin, your baby’s skin will darken a little and achieve its natural complexion.
Which external factors can affect your baby’s skin colour?
Your baby’s skin colour can be affected by certain external factors such as exposure to the sun and certain diseases. Melanin, the same compound which pigments the skin, also protects the skin from the harmful rays of the sun that cause sunburn and skin cancer. Melanin production on the skin can be adapted to sun exposure, meaning that the time your little one spends outdoors in the sun can affect his/her skin color. If your baby spends long hours in the sun, her skin can get a darker tone, and if your baby is exposed to the sun for shorter durations, her skin color will not change much. That said, your baby’s skin is very delicate. You should try to avoid sun exposure for your baby whenever you can, especially during times when the sun is at its harshest. Also, since clothing is the first layer of defence against the sun, you should also dress your little one in full sleeved, comfortable, weather-appropriate clothes. You can start using sunscreen for your little one once she turns six months old, after consulting with your dermatologist.
Apart from sun exposure, diseases like jaundice can cause your baby’s skin tone to change. Jaundice makes the skin look yellow. While mild jaundice is common in newborns, if the symptoms persist for a longer period of time, you should seek medical attention at the earliest. Since your little one’s skin is still developing its barrier function, it is more prone to infections, irritation, and allergies. This is why you may notice rashes on your baby’s skin which can be seen as red spots, blotchy or reddish skin, and flaky skin. Rashes are pretty common in infants and usually go away on their own without any treatment. But if your baby seems uncomfortable or has difficulty breathing, it can be a symptom of a severe condition, and you should seek medical attention.
Also know how to treat your baby's skin rashes
How can I lighten my baby’s skin?
If you are thinking about ways to lighten your baby’s skin tone or make your baby’s skin tone fairer, you should pause for a moment and reflect. Your baby’s skin color is a natural phenomenon. Your baby is just as beautiful if he/she has darker skin. Race is a social construct that discriminates against fellow human beings simply on the basis of their skin color. Racist behaviors have caused injustice against millions of human beings, and despite multiple efforts to change that, continue to do so.
Many companies claim to sell “skin-whitening” or “skin-lightening” products to play on people’s insecurities of being dark-skinned. Talcum powders, “ubtans,” and fairness creams are some such products. These products can sometimes cause more harm to your little one’s skin than doing good. As a parent, your attitude of acceptance towards your little one’s skin color can mean the difference between low and high self esteem in life. Accept that your baby’s skin color is just one part of his/her personality, just like any other trait, and support them in all their endeavors. It will surely lead to a happy life for both of you!
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