The skin of a baby could have unique attributes at birth. A skin characteristic that may occur in newborns is a birthmark, which can be of different types, such as moles and port-wine stains. A type of birthmark is a stork bite, which has a characteristic reddish or pinkish appearance. It is a common birthmark, and about one-third of newborns display stork bites at birth.
In this post, we will talk about a specific birthmark called a “stork bite” and distinuish it from other types of birthmarks. Read this post to know more about stork bites, its causes, course and prognosis.
What Is A Stork Bite?
A stork bite, also known as a salmon patch, is a reddish or pinkish birthmark in newborns. It may occur on the eyelids, nose, upper lip, neck, and forehead. The term ‘stork bite’ is usually used when the birthmark occurs on the nape (back of the neck). A stork bite is called angel’s kiss when it occurs on the forehead (1).
The medical terms for stork bite are nevus simplex and nevus flammeus nuchae (2). The name ‘stork bite’ is derived from the myth that the mark on the back of the neck appears because it is where the stork may have picked up the baby.
The birthmark appears in around 30-40 % of babies (3). Stork bites are not life-threatening and do not cause harm. The marks may fade away by the age of two, but stork bites on the nape tend to be permanent (4) (5).
What Causes A Stork Bite?
Stork bites are a type of vascular birthmark, which occur due to anomalies in the blood vessels (6). A stork bite may occur when a cluster of blood vessels (capillaries) underneath the skin remains dilated (stretched) (7). These birthmarks tend to darken when the baby cries or when the temperature rises. Stork bites may fade away when pressed.
The birthmark is cosmetic and does not require any specific medical diagnosis. A doctor will usually identify stork bites at birth through visual inspection alone.
Signs Of Stork Bite
- Red or pink flat patch on the skin
- Present at birth or may appear in the first few months after birth
- Present on the forehead, back of the neck, eyelids, nose, upper lip, or other parts of the body
- Tends to become darker when the baby cries, feels warm, or when straining
- Could fade or disappear when pressed
- Does not grow large and does not disappear and reappear
How Is A Stork Bite Different From Other Birthmarks?
- Strawberry birthmark: It is also a type of vascular birthmark. These are also known as strawberry hemangiomas and are bright or dark red in color. They differ from stork bites due to their swollen appearance. The bumpy characteristic of the birthmark makes it resemble a strawberry, hence the name strawberry mark. Unlike a stork bite, a strawberry birthmark tends to grow larger, especially in the first six to 12 months of the baby’s life. They also stay for longer and may fade away between the ages of seven and nine years.
- Port-wine stain birthmark: It is another type of vascular birthmark, which occurs due to dilated blood capillaries. Port-wine stains are different from stork bites since they usually do not disappear and may get darker and thicker with time. A port-wine stain will not fade or disappear when pressed. It may often occur on the face and neck. Port-wine stains affect less than 1% of newborns and, in rare instances, could be associated with some underlying problem.
- Moles, café-au-lait, and Mongolian spots: These are called pigmented birthmarks since they occur due to the aggregation of melanocytes or skin pigment cells. Pigmented birthmarks are brownish, bluish, or grayish in appearance compared to the reddish or pinkish appearance of stork bites. Moles tend to stay for longer while Mongolian spots fade away as the baby grows older. Café-au-lait spots may or may not fade away.
Are There Any Natural Treatments For Stork Bite?
According to Harvard Medical School, stork bites do not require treatment (1). These birthmarks do not cause any long-term discomfort or problems for the baby. Parents may consider methods to eliminate or lighten stork bites for cosmetic reasons.
The following are some natural treatments that may lighten stork bites and gradually eliminate them. There is no scientific evidence to back these treatments. Therefore, speak to a pediatrician before trying any of these methods.
- Olive oil: Olive oil is a natural moisturizer that smoothens the skin and lightens dark patches. Dip a cotton ball in olive oil and apply it to the birthmark in a circular motion for five minutes. Wash off with warm water and repeat this process four times a day.
- Lemon juice: Lemon juice acts as a natural bleaching agent and can lighten dark patches on the skin. Dilute a few drops of lemon juice with water. Dip a cotton ball in diluted lemon juice and apply it to the stork bite in a circular motion. Wash with warm water. Do it once a day.
- Vitamin A: Vitamin A is usually prescribed for anti-aging and acne treatments, as it stimulates cell division and production of collagen. Cosmetic creams with vitamin A may eliminate blemishes and could lighten stork bites. You may apply vitamin A cream once a day to lighten stork bites.
- Vitamin E: Vitamin E has anti-oxidizing properties that can diminish the appearance of damaged skin. Aloe vera is a good source of vitamin E. You may apply a small quantity of pure aloe vera gel to stork bites twice a day to lighten the birthmarks.
- Cold compress: A cold compress helps retain skin moisture and may lighten the appearance of birthmarks. Wrap ice cubes in a towel or washcloth and gently place it on the stork bites twice or thrice a day. Never place ice cubes directly on the baby’s skin since it can cause discomfort.
Medical Treatment Of Stork Bites
Stork bites do not require treatment since they usually fade away by the baby’s second or third birthday. Parents may consider treatment for cosmetic reasons if the stork bite persists beyond the age of three years (7).
Laser treatment is the recommended medical treatment for stork bites in babies (3). A pediatric dermatologist would use a laser to shrink the size of the dilated blood vessels and lighten the appearance of the stork bite. The laser treatment is painless and effective but may require multiple visits for the desired results.
How To Prevent Stork Bites?
There is no way to prevent birthmarks, including stork bites (1). If you spot stork bites on your baby, speak to a doctor who can examine it to determine if it is a birthmark and not a skin disorder. You should also inform the doctor if your baby’s birthmark bleeds, itches, or is painful.
Stork bites in babies are quite common and disappear as the baby grows older. There is no treatment needed except for cosmetic reasons. Consult a doctor if the stork bites persist beyond the age of three years, and you wish to remove them. Your doctor can tell you the best medical and non-medical methods to lighten stork bites or make them inconspicuous.
2. Birthmarks in Infants; John Hopkins Medicine
3. Nevus Simplex; Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago
4. Stork Bites; Vascular Birthmark Institute
5. Birthmarks; NHS UK
6. Birthmarks; U.S. National Library of Medicine
7. Stork bite; U.S. National Library of Medicine