- At birth the baby may be covered with a white creamy coating called vernix, which protected her skin inside the salty amniotic fluid. It wipes off easily. A baby's skin is smooth and soft to the touch. Sometimes the hands and feet are pale or slightly blue, and they may feel cold for several weeks. Some babies have soft, downy hair on their foreheads and backs, called lanugo. It will fall out gradually.
- If you or your partner is dark-skinned, your baby may have pigmented areas just above the buttocks called Mongolian spots. They are not bruises, and they will disappear by age five.
- If you are light-skinned, your baby may have pink or red rash-like marks on her eyelids, forehead, and the back of her neck called "stork bites". These marks disappear in a few months.
Scalp and skull
- You may notice that your baby has two soft spaces between her skull bones (one at the top of her head and one near the back). These are called fontanels and are places where the bones have not grown together yet. The one at the back will close at about six to eight weeks after birth, while the other will close up by the time your baby is about 15 months old.
- For the first few days, your baby's head may appear pointy or oddly shaped; this is because of molding, the process that allows the head to pass through the birth canal. It will go away on its own.
- Your new baby may or may not have hair. The hair color can change after a few weeks or months, as can the hair texture.
Head and neck
- Your new baby can move her head from side to side. When she lies on her belly she can also lift her head up. When you carry or hold your baby, you need to support the back of her head.
- Her neck muscles aren't strong enough yet to support her head. If you are unsure about the best position to carry or hold your baby, you should ask your health care provider, an experienced mother, or doula.
Nose, eyes, chin, mouth, and ears
- Newborns have a sense of taste and smell at birth.
- Newborn babies often have flat noses. Because they breathe mainly through their nose, they may sneeze a lot; this is to clear any mucus in their nasal passages.
- You may notice tiny white spots under the skin of her nose and chin; these are called milia and go away after a few weeks.
- Don't be alarmed if your baby's earlobes appear odd; they may have been bent during birth, and they will return to normal shortly.
- Your baby's eyes can focus 8 to 12 inches from her face, follow light, and respond to bright objects. At first, many newborns look as if they're cross-eyed; this is because their eye muscles are not fully developed. The lids may be puffy at first. A newborn baby's eye color is usually slate blue, but will change to its true color within the next few months.
- New babies often have slight swelling of one or of both of their breasts caused by the mother's hormones. Their nipples may also leak small amounts of a milky fluid. The swelling and leaking are normal and should be left alone. Both will go away shortly.
- Newborns often have genitals that appear large. Girl babies may also have a slight vaginal discharge of blood-tinged mucus (that you can wipe away gently). It will usually disappear within a few days.
Breathing, heart, and lungs
- Breathing in newborns is usually uneven. Your baby may take fast and shallow breaths, and then slow to deep breaths.
- It is normal for a baby's heart to beat very quickly.
Reflexes Your baby has several reflexes when it is born. Some, such as the stepping reflex, disappear quickly; others, like the Moro reflex, last a few months. These reflexes include:
- Rooting – when the baby's cheek is stroked, she will turn her head in that direction and open her mouth.
- Moro – if startled, a newborn will fling out her arms and legs.
- Gag – this allows your baby to protect herself against choking.
- Grasp – when your baby's fingers wind themselves tightly around your finger or another object.
- Walking or stepping – if held upright, a baby will make stepping movements with her legs.
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Childbirth Connection is a national not-for-profit organization founded in 1918 as Maternity Center Association. Our mission is to improve the quality of maternity care through research, education, advocacy and policy. Childbirth Connection promotes safe, effective and satisfying evidence-based maternity care and is a voice for the needs and interests of childbearing families.
Most recent page update: 9/10/2012