Named after the French term for "coffee with milk" that describes their light- to dark-brown hue, these marks can appear anywhere on the body and vary in size from speckles to many inches in diameter. About 10 percent of babies have one. The discoloration, which is permanent, may be very faint at birth and then start to darken within a few years. If more spots show up later in childhood, be sure to mention them to your pediatrician.
A child who has three or more caf?-au-lait spots should be checked right away for underlying genetic disorders, such as neurofibromatosis- 1. About one in 3,000 people worldwide have this inherited disease that can lead to nerve damage, eye abnormalities, and bone defects.
Though these birthmarks themselves don't cause any health problems and can be a challenge to treat, some parents opt to try laser therapy later on if a child has one on the face that's cosmetically unappealing, says Lina G. Rabinowitz, M.D., a pediatric dermatologist at the Pediatric Dermatology & Laser Center, in Mequon, Wisconsin.