What to Expect Your Newborn to Look Like
At first glance, the typical newborn might shock you. Parents who have never seen a newborn baby are apt to expect a baby straight off a page in a magazine, but they may have to wait five or six months to get the chubby-cheeked little one they’ve been imagining. Most parents take home a wrinkled, puffy-faced, lumpy-headed, oddly colored little creature… sometimes even covered with dark hair!
Here’s what to expect your newborn to look like:
Soft, dark lanugo hair on the newborn’s body is not uncommon, especially if the baby is premature. It will disappear along with all the other oddities, but only after giving new parents quite a shock.
- A white, waxy material may coat your new arrival. This substance, called vernix, protects the skin from the amniotic fluid in the uterus. Most of it disappears after the first bath.
- Red spots, especially on the face, or dark blotches scattered all over a newborn’s body are not uncommon. Both conditions are temporary.
- If your baby’s skin starts to look yellow, it may indicate a mild form of jaundice, which appears starting from the second day and disappears by the time the baby is 10 days old. Your pediatrician will suggest treatment if your baby needs it.
- Newborns have poor circulation, so on one side of your newborn’s body or her hand and feet might suddenly turn blue. While alarming, this is usually nothing to worry about. Just turn your baby on her other side gently and rub her body to get the blood moving.
At birth, your baby will probably weigh between 2.5-4.5kg and will measure between 48-51cm. Most of that length may seem to consist of nothing but a huge head. The head compromises one fourth of the entire body length and is too large to pass through the birth canal. During birth, certain bones in the skull overlap to decrease the size of the head temporarily. This molding is what gives the baby’s head its cone-shaped appearance. The “soft spots” on your baby’s head, called the fontanels, allow this molding to occur. While it might seem that you could easily damage the head, with ordinary care you won’t do any harm. Even newborns can have their hair washed and gently brushed. Over time, the bones will grow together and the fontanels will close completely by about 18 months.
Some babies are completely bald. But if your baby is born with full head hair, don’t be surprised if her hair begins to fall out by the fourth month; for a time she may appear bald until the hair is replaced. Often, silky soft baby locks are replaced by slightly coarse hair and straight hair ends up curly. Thus, hair color and texture at birth are subject to change.
Your baby may not be able to open her eyes right away after birth due to puffiness caused by pressure on her head during birth. Never try to force your baby’s eye open. Her eye muscles will grow stronger usually within the first month.
Don’t be fooled by the color of your baby’s eyes as they are liable to change. Many babies are born with gray-blue eyes, but over the next couple of months, genetics will take over. You won’t know the true color of your baby’s eyes for several months, because it is only then that babies acquire melanin, the body’s natural pigment.
Most newborns cry without shedding tears until they are about one month old.
Another common feature among babies is a retreating flattened nose. In time, heredity will take its course and by the age of eight months to one year, you can usually tell what the baby’s nose will look like.
Sneezing is common in newborns and although parents worry that the baby might had caught a cold, doctors assure that there is nothing to worry about. Sneezing is just a baby’s way of clearing her nasal passages.
The newborn baby is endowed with a rooting reflex, which comes in handy during feeding. Stroke one of the baby’s cheeks and she’ll turn her head in that direction and search with an open mouth for a nipple.
The mother’s hormones during pregnancy and childbirth may make the breasts of both girls and boys seem swollen. Mothers should not be alarmed if they find milky fluids leaking out. Do not squeeze the nipples, because squeezing could cause irritation. The milk will disappear in time.
If your baby’s heart seems to be pounding, don’t be alarmed. A baby’s heart and respiration rates are about twice those of an adult depending on her level of activity and excitement. Rates vary from baby to baby as well.
The remains of the umbilical cord, which is the lifeline between you and your baby during pregnancy, will stay on your baby’s navel for one or two weeks after birth. If is a source of major concern to most mothers and especially first-timers. The best way to deal with the umbilical cord is to keep it as clean and dry as you can. Fold diapers down so that the area doesn’t get wet. You should also clean the stump with alcohol two or three times a day to keep it unsoiled, until it eventually drops off by itself. If the skin becomes red or oozes grayish-white fluid, you should call the doctor immediately.
Some newborns have bulging navels, which may indicate an umbilical hernia. This condition is caused by weak abdominal muscles and is very common among newborns. It virtually always clears up within a year, so don’t bind the hernia with a bandage. If it persists, your doctor can give you an idea if treatment will be necessary.
There’s always air in your baby’s stomach so don’t be fanatical about burping. A baby who is sucking or sleeping happily doesn’t need to be interrupted to be burped. When the baby does need to burp, she will make it loud and clear. If your baby is uncomfortable and cannot go on sucking because her stomach is full of air, you can help her burp while holding her upright against your shoulder and patting or rubbing her gently on her back.
Hiccups are also normal and although upsetting to mothers, they should cause no panic however frequent they may be. Hiccups are caused by air swallowed during feeding. Hiccups can be minimized by making sure the nipple is completely in the baby’s mouth and that the baby is not flat on her back during feeding. Try resting her head along your arm so she is almost in a sitting position.
Some mothers are shocked by their baby’s swollen genitals. This swelling occurs in both girls and boys and is usually due to the mother’s hormones passing through the placenta while the baby is in the womb. Due to the mother’s hormones, a baby girl may even have a little bloody discharge from her vagina. Again, this is nothing to worry about.
You will witness one of your newborn’s inherent survival instincts in the following reflex; if a loud noise startles the baby, she’ll throw up her arms and then bring them back close to her chest. This startled reaction may also occur while the baby is asleep and should cause no alarm.
A newborn’s fingers will be curled towards her palms. You can test her grasping reflex by putting your fingers or any other objects in the baby’s palms; she will grip it tightly.
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