Characteristics of Newborns Wonder what your newborn will look like? Keep in mind that the last few weeks of pregnancy and the rigors of childbirth often take a toll. Here's a peek at some real newborns so that you'll know what to expect. Newborn’s Head During childbirth, pressure from the tight birth canal may cause your baby's skull bones to shift and overlap. This may result in an elongated or cone-shaped skull at birth — particularly if you had a long labor or a vacuum extractor was used during delivery. You can expect your newborn to have a more rounded head within a few days. Babies born buttocks or feet first or by C-section are more likely to have round heads at birth. Facial Features Pressure on the face during delivery may leave your newborn's eyelids puffy or swollen. Sometimes small blood vessels in the eyes break during birth, which may cause red spots on the whites of your newborn's eyes. And life in a crowded uterus may leave your newborn with a nose that's flattened or pushed to the side or ears that seem folded over. Don't worry. These issues are usually temporary. Umbilical Cord The stump of a newborn's umbilical cord is usually yellowish green at birth. If the stump is treated with iodine, it may look blue as in the photo. As the stump dries out and eventually falls off — usually within two weeks after birth — it'll change from yellowish green to brown to black. In the meantime, keep the stump clean and dry. Expose the stump to air to help dry out the base, and stick to sponge baths while the area is healing. There's no need to swab the stump with rubbing alcohol Complexion You may notice white spots on your newborn's face that look like tiny pimples. These harmless spots are known as milia. Later, your newborn may develop small red bumps on his or her face. This is sometimes known as newborn acne. Milia typically disappear within a few weeks. Newborn acne may stick around for several months. Skin The top layer of a newborn's skin flakes off shortly after birth. You may notice plenty of dry, peeling skin for the first few weeks. Birthmarks Many newborns have birthmarks. You may notice reddish or pink patches above the hairline at the back of the neck, on the eyelids or between your newborn's eyes. These marks — sometimes nicknamed stork bites or angel kisses — are caused by collections of blood vessels close to the skin. Marks between the eyes usually fade with time. Marks on the nape of the neck usually remain, although they may become less noticeable as your baby gets older. Darker skinned babies are sometimes born with a large, flat, bluish-gray mark on the buttocks or lower back — commonly called a slate gray nevus, but more specifically known as dermal melanosis. This type of mark typically fades during early childhood. Legs and Feet A newborn's legs and feet often look bowed or bent, thanks to the cramped quarters of the womb. As long as your newborn's legs and feet are flexible and can easily be moved about, there's no need for concern. The curves typically straighten on their own as the baby becomes more mobile. Hair Some newborns are covered by fine, downy hair at birth — known as lanugo — especially on the back, shoulders, forehead and temples. Tiny hairs may also appear on your newborn's ears or in other spots. Lanugo is most common in premature babies. It typically wears off from normal friction within several weeks Breasts and Genitalia Before birth, the mother's hormones pass through the baby's system. This may lead to swollen breasts at birth — for both boys and girls. Newborn girls may have a swollen vulva and light vaginal discharge as well. The swelling typically disappears within two to four weeks. Normal vaginal discharge may last only several days. For some newborn boys, fluid is squeezed into the scrotum during birth. This swelling, known as a hydrocele, usually disappears within a few months. Frequent erections are common, too. Soft Spots You'll notice two soft areas at the top of your baby's head where the skull bones haven't yet grown together. These spots, called fontanels, are designed to allow a baby's relatively large head to move down the narrow birth canal. They also accommodate a baby's rapidly growing brain. You may notice slight bulging from these spots when your baby cries or strains. Soft spots are covered by a thick fibrous layer. They're safe to touch and typically close within 12 to 18 months, when the skull bones fuse together.
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