You may never have heard of milia before, but you've almost certainly seen them. More commonly known by the somewhat misleading term 'milk spots', these small, pearly white bumps frequently appear on the noses of newborns.
What are milia?
Milia (the plural or milium) are a type of benign cyst that occurs in around 40-50% of newborns1. The cysts are caused by an accumulation of keratin—the main structural protein in skin, hair, nails etc.— within the hair follicles, which becomes trapped, forming a bump2. Milia can look similar to baby acne, but with milia there is no inflammation present. Although better known as milk spots, milia are not related to milk in any way, other than their colour, but while we know milk is not a factor, it's still a mystery why so many newborns get them.
While mostly seen on the nose, milia can also occur around the eyes or on other parts of the face, scalp, or upper body3.
What to do about baby milia
If you're concerned about milia on your child, don't be. These harmless bumps usually disappear on their own within a few weeks or months without any type of treatment being necessary3. Do not pop, squeeze, scrape or in any way try to remove milia as this can cause the skin to become inflamed and possibly exposed to infection.
There are different forms of milia that can occur in later childhood or in adults that may require treatment to remove3. In these cases, or if you have concerns about your baby's milia persisting, talk to your doctor about treatment options.