Newborn babies are full of surprises, and one of the ways they can send a new parent into a total tailspin is by changing color. That’s right, your infant will rock the rainbow when it comes to their skin tone, ranging from really red to pink (or even yellow) in the minutes, weeks, or months after birth. But one color that can cause chaos is when an infant is “blurple,” particularly on the extremities. So if you noticed that your baby’s feet look a little blue or purple, there most likely isn’t cause for concern… but you should still be aware of any potential medical problems.
How Common Is It For Baby’s Feet To Turn Purple?
Pretty common, according to Dr. David Shafran, MD, Head of Pediatrics at K Health. “After birth, almost all infants have bluish discoloration of their hands and feet and this lasts for a few days but usually no more than a week,” says Dr. Shafran. There’s a name for blue or purple feet in infants, and it’s known medically as acrocyanosis. (See the word “cyan” in there?) For the most part, acrocyanosis is just part of the infant stage of life. Acrocyanosis shouldn’t be confused with cyanosis (which is a blue discoloration of the skin or mucous membranes), which is more serious, and can be caused by the cardiopulmonary system, as reported in the “Cyanosis” study.
“Cyanosis refers to a bluish-purple hue to the skin,” Dr. Manasa Mantravadi, MD, a pediatrician explains to Romper. “Cyanosis indicates there may be decreased oxygen attached to red blood cells in the bloodstream, but acrocyanosis is found in the extremities and is normal in newborns.”
While it might not make you feel better when you spot your baby’s purple little piggies, just know that acrocyanosis is very common, particularly in young infants, a PubMed study found. In addition to bluish discolorations, acrocyanosis might also cause a cooling effect on the skin in those affected areas, another study reported.
This Is Why Your Baby’s Feet Are Blue Or Purple
More often than not, your baby’s feet might turn purple due to an immature circulatory system, says Dr. Jean Moorjani, MD, a pediatrician at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. "If your baby's hands or feet look blue or purple and the rest of their body is pink and she's acting normal, there is nothing to worry about," Jean Moorjani, M.D., a pediatrician at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, tells Romper. "It's just something that we see in newborn babies because of their young circulatory systems, and it goes away over time.”
Are Baby’s Blue Feet Safe?
Sure, it might be a scary sight to see your baby’s beautiful feet taking on a shade that looks like royal blue or purple like a grape. But as Dr. Shafran is quick to point out, “Acrocyanosis is not harmful to the infant.” And in a study on acrocynanosis, researchers agreed, stating: “Infantile acrocyanosis is known to be a benign and self-resolving condition… and is generally bilateral and symmetric.” That means that if one of your baby’s feet is blue, the other one is bound to be, too.
Your Baby’s Feet Might Be Blue Because They’re Cold
Although acrocyanosis is often attributable to an immature circulatory system, there may be times when the cause is completely different. “In general, when cold, an infant's extremities especially their hands and feet might turn bluish or become 'mottled' which is a lacey, web-like pattern,” explains Dr. Shafran. “Again, nothing to be concerned about, but a parent might want to put a blanket or extra layer on the baby.”
Acrocyanosis might also occur due to cold water conditions, such as bathing or swimming. Ever notice that your little one is shivering when they come out of the tub, and might look a little blue? That’s acrocyanosis. “Children may have acrocyanosis when they are cold, but it should resolve once they are warmed up,” says Dr. Mantravadi.
Here’s Something Else That Might Cause Baby’s Blue Feet
Your baby might have a bluish-purplish discoloration and it has nothing to do with circulation, and everything to do with your… hair. That’s right, if your baby’s feet inexplicably become blue, check their feet to ensure that they don’t have a “hair tourniquet.” Dr. Shafran explains: “This is when a loose hair wraps itself tightly around a finger or toe. If tight enough, it can cut off circulation. If prolonged, this can be dangerous to the viability of that finger or toe.” So if your baby isn’t cold or isn’t blue in other parts of the body, check to make sure that a strand of hair hasn’t wrapped itself around a toe, which could cut off circulation.
When Should Your Baby’s Purple Feet Become A Concern?
But there are times when you should be concerned if your baby is blue. “With regard to concerning signs, cyanosis or bluish discoloration that is seen on or around lips, or on the tongue as opposed to the hands and feet can be a sign of low oxygen in a baby's blood especially if seen with a change in the infant's breathing pattern,” says Dr. Shafran.
Dr. Mantravadi adds,: “Acrocyanosis isn’t dangerous, but you want to make sure that there is no cyanosis in the central part of the body, such as the mouth, head, or torso.” If you’re worried about baby’s purple feet, or they seem to be showing signs of distress or difficulty breathing, you should seek emergency help.
Wollina, U., Koch, A., Langner, D., Hansel, G., Heinig, B., Lotti, T, Tchernev, G. “Acrocyanosis – A Symptom With Many Facettes.” 2018.
Steinhorn, R., “Evaluation and management of the cyanotic neonate.” 2008.
Adeyinka, A. Kondamudi, N. “Cyanosis.” 2021.
Dr. David Shafran, MD, Head of Pediatrics at K Health.
Dr. Manasa Mantravadi, MD, a pediatrician
Jean Moorjani, M.D., a pediatrician at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children
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