What Are Mongolian Spots?

I didn’t see them until the next morning.

The evening before had been wrought with a flurry of quiet hurried activity and profound emotion. The 2 a.m. changing of wet clothes into soft new and recently laundered-in-Dreft pajamas yielded nothing; I couldn’t see much in the moonlight that pooled on the floor of our hotel in Nanning, China, other than my baby daughter’s espresso eyes taking me in while I calmly spoke to her.

I discovered them the next morning. She had one at the outside corner of her left eye and I found another, somewhat darker on her buttocks when cleaning her during the diaper change. I then gently looked over every centimeter of her beautiful skin, but found no others.

Mongolian spots—I had heard about them, read about them, prepared for the possibility of them. They did indeed resemble bruising, appearing blue-gray in color.

I learned that my daughter’s Mongolian spots were fairly light when we spoke with other parents later that day after completing our Ministry visits. All of the babies had them and one was covered in Mongolian spots, looking like she had tumbled down a flight of stairs. She had them on her limbs, torso, and buttocks (most of them have faded now).

So what are Mongolian spots? They are benign lesions, birthmarks—flat blue to blue-gray areas, with indistinct edges, common on the skin of non-Caucasian people. Mongolian spots resemble bruises; however they are not related to bruising or disease. There is no treatment to get rid of them. The darker the skin, the darker the spots.

Mongolian spots occur in roughly 90% of African, over 70% of Hispanic, and more than 90% of children of the Mongoloid race (e.g. East Asians, Polynesians, Indonesians, Micronesians). Less than 10% of whites have them. Mongolian spots typically appear at or within the first month of birth. Most of the spots disappear by the age of four. Less than 5% of people who have them carry them into adulthood.

Upon returning home, I made sure that my pediatrician made a note of the spots in my daughter’s records because I knew that an uninformed person/practitioner could mistake them for bruising, signs of physical abuse.

If your child has Mongolian spots, bring the spots to the attention on your pediatrician and make sure he/she makes a record in your child’s file. It is also a good idea to provide a record of them if the spots are still evident if your child is in childcare or by the time your child attends preschool or school.

MLJ Adoptions is a Non-Profit, Hague-Accredited adoption service provider located in Indianapolis, Indiana, working in Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Pacific Isles. We are passionate about serving children in need.