Baby Care: Newborn Appearance
Your baby’s head may appear large compared with the rest of his body. It may be more elongated than oval due to the delivery process. The process of change in the shape of the baby’s head after birth is called “molding.” This molding gradually corrects itself in about a week. Changing baby’s head position from back and side to side will help.
Babies have 2 soft spots, or “fontanels,” on their head. The one in the front usually closes between 6 and 24 months; the one on the back of the head is often closed at birth or closes within 3 months.
Newborns can see, but not as clearly as adults. Your baby may look cross-eyed for the first few months of life because of immature eye muscle control. Eye coloring may change after birth to its permanent color at about 6 months of age.
Your newborn may have swelling around the eyes. This will go away in a few days after birth. Some babies have a red area in the white part of the eye. This is a small hemorrhage from the pressure during birth. No treatment is necessary, as it will disappear within several weeks.
The ointment placed in your baby’s eyes after birth may cause a slight redness, with some swelling of the lids and watering of the eyes for the first few days. Wash the eyelids with clear, warm water and a clean cloth or cotton balls. Wipe from the inside, near the nose, out toward the ear. Use a separate place on the wash cloth or a new cotton ball on each eye to avoid transferring germs from one eye to the other.
Swollen Breasts, Labia or Testicles
The genitals in some boy and girl babies may appear swollen. Girl babies have thick, white, occasionally blood-tinged secretions from the vagina. Baby boys may have swollen testicles, and babies of either sex may have enlarged breasts and milky fluid coming from the nipples. This is because your baby still has your maternal hormones. As your hormones gradually disappear from your baby’s body, so does the swelling.
Newborns have skin that is pink or light brown in color. Mucous membranes of the lips and inside the mouth are pink in color. Some blueness of the hands and feet is normal the first 2 to 3 days.
Peeling or cracking skin around the wrists or ankles is common, especially in babies who have gone past their due date. As new skin cells grow, this condition will clear up without treatment.
Lanugo is the name of the downy fuzz sometimes seen on the backs, arms, and ears of newborn babies. It disappears in a few weeks.
Milia are tiny yellow-white cysts on the nose, forehead, and cheeks. Do not squeeze them. They will go away by themselves.
Vernix is the creamy substance that protected your baby’s skin while in the uterus. It may be present in skin folds. It will be absorbed by the skin in a few days.
All these conditions are normal and disappear rapidly as the baby matures and adjusts to life outside the womb.
A raised pimple-like rash around the cord or genital area may occur. Usually this rash will clear up with normal bathing or exposure to air. If the rash does not go away or gets worse, see your doctor. Your doctor should check a more blister-like rash that ruptures, leaves a scab, or continues to spread.
Skin rashes can also result from overdressing or harsh laundry soaps. As the baby becomes warm and sweats, skin irritation develops. This is especially common in the skin folds. To prevent rashes, keep these areas clean and dry and avoid overdressing the baby. You can also try milder laundry soap - dissolve the soap before adding clothes and rinse twice.