Why some babies are born blue

Babies can be born in all different shapes, sizes and even colours like blue. The blue colour can be frightening, especially for first-time moms, but it’s not unusual. So why are some babies born blue? By Licia Selepe

Sometimes babies are born with an unusual blue appearance, which can leave new parents worried. Paediatrician Dr Sihle Sibiya says most newborn babies are born blue, but rapidly change colour as the umbilical cord is cut and they take their first breath.

ALSO SEE: 6 reasons why you should wait to cut baby’s umbilical cord

What causes babies to be born blue?


When a baby is born with a blue colour to his skin, it’s known as cyanosis, says Dr Sibiya. This occurs when the absolute amount of reduced haemoglobin in the capillary bed exceeds 3g/dl. There is poor circulation or inadequate oxygenation in the blood. Cyanosis can be central (mouth and mucous membranes) or peripheral (extremities). Most cyanosis cases in newborns are resolved 10 minutes after birth. Any cyanosis that hasn’t resolved after 10 minutes should be rapidly evaluated and treated.


This is common in newborns. It refers to the bluish discoloration around the mouth, hands and feet. It is considered to be a mild neurohormonal disorder that causes narrowing of the arterioles at the upper and lower extremities, which results in poor circulation. It may persist for 24 to 48 hours but needs close monitoring.

There are many other reasons why babies are born blue, Dr Sibiya mentions some causes:

  • Breathing or respiratory abnormalities
  • Heart abnormalities
  • Infections
  • Neurological abnormalities
  • Metabolic abnormalities.

No need to worry

It is important to remember that it is common for babies to be born with an unusual blue colour. If your baby is born blue, your paediatrician will assess and monitor your baby closely. Babies who are born blue and remain blue will be treated according to the cause, and may need monitoring for several hours or days after birth.

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