Baby Mottled Skin When Crying

Baby Mottled Skin When Crying

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Babies will often go through many different kinds of ailments which will naturally worry any parents. Usually a parents first port of call will be to do an online search which is how you’ve probably ended up here.

“Mottled skin” is one such ailment that can crop up more commonly than you think. Here you’ll find more information on what baby mottled skin IS, what could cause it and why it could come up as they’re crying.

What is mottled skin


Scientific name = livedo reticular. Mottle means to have irregular marks, spots or smears of colour – this quite a catch-all term. Essentially, if something is mottled then it has irregular patches of colour in a particular area or all over but it is mixed with skin’s normal colour hence the patches. Mottled skin in babies is usually spots or patches of red/purple/blueish which can often look like veins or a web. Here’s an image:

mottled skin on a baby

Why does my baby crying cause the skin to mottle?

Mottling in babies is not uncommon and there can be plenty of causes, such as congenital heart problem, poor blood circulation, lack of fluids or an infection. However, for babies who’s mottling comes out when they cry the causes can be narrowed down a little bit. If your NEWBORN baby has mottled skin when they cry then this is common in the first couple of days. Crying doesn’t cause the mottling, instead it is the cause of the mottling which causes the crying.

Irregular blood circulation

Blood circulation is the most common cause of mottling and there can be several causes of irregular blood circulation detailed below. In rare cases it can be caused by a heart defect but it’s important to remember how common mottling and crying is in babies and to try and be calm if you see it. However, if in doubt medical advice should be sought via NHS 111 or private.

What mottling ISN’T is a skin condition and no amount of sensitive wipes will remove it.

They’re a newborn

Newborn babies are the most common to have mottled skin as they have irregular blood circulation in the hours and days immediately after birth, particularly if they had a traumatic, premature or difficult birth. Newborn babies also cry a lot which can lead to some parents to think it is the cause. If you notice their skin is blue then this can be acrocyanosis – another common affliction of the skin in the very early hours and days.

If in doubt, seek medical help.

They’re cold

Mottling of the skin can be caused by reduced blood flow which can be trigged by cold temperatures. Your baby is crying in response to the temperature rather than the mottling. Babies, especially newborns, can’t regulate their temperatures and need to be skin to skin or covered up, especially when going outside in the cold. If you’re breastfeeding in the cold make sure they’re covered up.

Mottling caused by cold temperatures is called cutis marmorata with the mottling having red/purple marbled hues on the skin. Toddlers and adults can get the same thing when exposed to the cold, even if it’s a mild temperature drop. It usually goes away when warmed up.

They’re unwell

Illnesses can cause mottling in newborns and inevitably lots of crying. Especially as illnesses such as a cold can cause changes in skin temperature (hot and cold) which then affects blood circulation which can lead to the mottling. Keep an eye on their temperature and if it gets too high visit a doctor immediately.

Excessive crying

If your baby is crying excessively and clearly in discomfort then the stress can cause changes in blood pressure which can lead to mottled skin. Crying is normal but excessive crying is not. If you feel your baby is crying more than usual and has mottled skin for long periods then contact your doctor NHS 111 as soon as possible.


Severe dehydration can cause mottled skin and crying. Crying comes from probably headaches and discomfort and the mottled skin from the effects it has on the blood. Dehydration is hard to get in babies as their only source of nutrition should be breastmilk or bottled milk. But, if you’ve noticed they’ve been off their milk then it can lead to dehydration. Equally, being subjected to hot temperatures can dehydrate them so keep them somewhere cool at all times.

If they refuse to eat for long periods you need to seek medical advice immediately.