It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Not What You Think – A Public Service Announcement

Late last week, Ki-woon had a diaper rash. The best cure for that, of course, is air and sunlight, so we were letting the boy run bare. (No carpets in this house!) Emma watched his retreating bare butt with a grin that suddenly turned to a worried frown. “Mum? Mum, look at his bum! I think they’ve been beating him!”

I hadn’t taken notice, because I knew what I was seeing. Emma’s only thirteen, however, and has seen mostly only Caucasian babies. She made me wonder how many innocent Oriental and Black families have been unjustly accused of abuse when a well-intentioned but sheltered Caucasian sees Mongolian Spots for the first time?

(If you’re unfamiliar with the term, check the link.)

© 2006, Mary P

July 30, 2006 - Posted by | health and safety


  1. My neighbors very Caucasian baby has them too. She thinks her daycare turned her into the Department of Human Services, so she’s trying to get documentation from the doctor that they were there at birth.

    Comment by ieatcrayonz | July 31, 2006 | Reply

  2. Learn something new everyday.

    Comment by Peter | July 31, 2006 | Reply

  3. I’ve heard of them, but didn’t know what they look like. Good to know.

    Comment by Misfit Hausfrau | July 31, 2006 | Reply

  4. Bri has mongolian spots. Thank goodness the nurse that was checking her out when she was first born pointed them out to me or I would have been very concerned. They have faded considerably in the past year.

    We told our daycare provider about them when we started with her – just in case!

    Comment by Matthew | July 31, 2006 | Reply

  5. Scary for sheltered, well-meaning people to see; even scarier for innocent parents. A friend was once accused of burning her son because of her son’s ‘stork bite’ mark on his neck. (A red birthmark.) Fortunately decent pediatricians and experienced caregivers knew better!

    Comment by BeckaJo | July 31, 2006 | Reply

  6. Oh, wow. I never would have thought of that – what a scary misunderstanding (potentiallly)! Quinn has a very bright red mark covering about half of the bottom of his foot, and he has a much lighter but pretty large mark that is several shades darker than the rest of his (very pale) skin right above his knee. It looks just like a mongolian spot that isn’t blue (tan, sort of).

    Comment by Kristen | July 31, 2006 | Reply

  7. A mom in our mom’s group has a baby with mongolian spots. She is always worried. Thanks for helping educate others.

    Comment by Momma to LG | July 31, 2006 | Reply

  8. Elcie had something like that when she was little. The doctor told me what it was.

    She’s about 1/4 black (all the girls are) and I’d never seen something like that before.

    Comment by Granny | July 31, 2006 | Reply

  9. Delurking here. My very Caucasian mother in law was accused of child abuse when she took my sister in law to the ER as an infant about 30 years ago. Both of my 1/4 asian boys have them. I made sure their doctor noted them in their records and told my childcare provider about them before we started. One of the boys had one on just below the knee and it looked like I had pinched him. An interesting side note is that my second son had both a Mongolian spot and a stork bite.

    Comment by Christine | July 31, 2006 | Reply

  10. Wow, had no idea they could be so large and look like bruises. Thanks for the heads up.

    Ian is mark free, lucky guy, while poor Laurel has stork bites on her neck and cafe au lait marks on her hip and chest. Yeah, like the “cute” names help.

    Comment by Mamacita Tina | July 31, 2006 | Reply

  11. My son has these, too. One on his shoulder (that got darker as he got older) and one on his bum just like that picture (though that one is getting lighter). We both look Caucasian but I’m 1/2 and he’s 1/4 hispanic. I was surprised at how grey his marks were since mine are smaller and tan – it never occurred to me that someone might think it’s a bruise!

    Comment by the weirdgirl | July 31, 2006 | Reply

  12. oh, good for you for spreading the word. Even as someone who grew up in chinatown, I had never seen such markings.

    Comment by kittenpie | July 31, 2006 | Reply

  13. I learned my one new thing today.

    Thanks Mary P!

    Comment by kimmyk | July 31, 2006 | Reply

  14. Someone really needs to educate us “well-intentioned but sheltered Caucasians.” My daughter is 1/4 Chilean and she has one of these blue spots on her back. I was SO scared to talk to my doctor about it because I thought I’d been burping my newborn to hard. It wasn’t until I asked my mother-in-law (full blood Chilean) that I knew what was going on.

    Comment by Trivial Mom | August 1, 2006 | Reply

  15. I can rephrase kittenpie’s comment to note that I learn something new from Mary P every day!!

    Comment by stefanierj | August 1, 2006 | Reply

  16. I meant kimmyk. Sorry, kittenpie.

    Comment by stefanierj | August 1, 2006 | Reply

  17. Ooooh, these can get really crazy-looking! I have many, many cousins with them and if you’re not up-to-speed they can most definitely look as if somebody’s just whooped you around. Oh boy.

    Comment by Jennifer | August 1, 2006 | Reply

  18. I just assumed I had a funny birthmark on my bottom until I had Q and read about Mongolian spots being common on Asian children!

    Comment by Lady M | August 1, 2006 | Reply

  19. Ki-woon’s are considerably bigger than the ones in the picture. Bigger, and overlapping, and some of them definitely look like bruises.

    Before doing this post, though, I honestly didn’t know that Caucasian babies ever got them. The site says only 10%, but in all my years of dealing with naked baby butts, I’ve never seen them on a Caucasian. How about that?

    My post said Oriental and Black – obviously it should also have said Hispanic (or is the term Latin?).

    Such a simple, harmless thing – unless someone doesn’t know and draws the wrong conclusion!

    Comment by Mary P. | August 1, 2006 | Reply

  20. WOW! I had never heard of such things. Thank you for bringing the information to light especially for me. I can certainly see why they are mistaken for bruises by the link you provided.

    Comment by Mama of 2 | August 1, 2006 | Reply

  21. This is just speculation, but I would bet that one of the reasons Caucasians get the spots is because they have some ancestry that is either African, Asian or Hispanic. Particularly the last one; ‘Hispanic’ covers more than 21 countries and most of a continent. There are lot of little things like this that people need to be aware of as different categories of people start to interact in our globalized world.

    Sorry for the rambling!

    Comment by BeckaJo | August 1, 2006 | Reply

  22. Never heard of them either, I can see how they could be mistaken for abuse.

    The parents are lucky they have such an informed caregiver.

    Comment by Bill | August 1, 2006 | Reply

  23. Oh, good grief! I had never heard of this before!

    Shoot, this is going up on Blogging Baby.

    Comment by Jenorama | August 1, 2006 | Reply

  24. Being Asians, my 3 children have these Mongolian spots since they were born but they do fade away as they get older. Thanks for letting other folks know about this.

    Comment by Waya | August 2, 2006 | Reply

  25. Years ago when I setup shop as a family day carer (daycare in my home), I was pretty green, and naive.

    But I was floored. Completely and utterly knocked for a six – ON MY VERY FIRST DAY.

    My first ever charge was/is Chinese, sunny, happy, sweet little guy. Parents likewise. So off we go to change our first nappy…and lo and behold the little guy is black and blue!

    My heart rate tripled, and I started to worry.

    Thank god for the internet – even 5 years ago I was able to find out about these “bruises” and thankfully I didn’t over react! It could have been very embarassing for everyone!

    He’s 5 now, and the marks are almost gone.

    Comment by Karyn | August 2, 2006 | Reply

  26. Delurking for the first time to say thanks for bringing this up! I’ve been on boards with well trained childcare providers who were stunned when they first encountered these, and subsequently appalled that they had never been trained to know what they were.

    I know of many moms who carry doctor’s notes in their purses in case a well-meaning stranger in a restroom decides to stage an intervention.

    Comment by NWRed | August 2, 2006 | Reply

  27. When my daughter was born, the nurse exclaimed that she was bruised. Fortunately, a more experienced nurse explained to her about the Mongolian spot thing; which was good to hear, since I also didn’t know about them (neither did my Asian husband, but he’s a little oblivious like that).

    Comment by Lori | August 2, 2006 | Reply

  28. My son had those when he was born. I used to feel guilty and I thought lying on his back most of the time did it, or even carrying him wrong. I would touch them, to see if they were painful and there would be no reaction from him. At the 6 weeks check-up, I said to the doctor he is bruised, and she knew exactly what they were. You’d think that a black mother would know this. His faded when he was 4 months old, no sign of them anymore.

    Comment by Anonymous | September 13, 2006 | Reply

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