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Newborn Characteristics

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Your precious new life!

Your Baby's Appearance

Your baby’s appearance will change over the first few days. A newborn’s head may be elongated and misshapen from being pushed through the birth canal. The head will look much better within a few days but may take several weeks before it becomes completely round. Any bruising or discoloration from the birth event will also fade over several weeks.

New babies keep their eyes closed most of the time. The eyes may be puffy and have a little yellow discharge for several days. During the first month, the eyes cross frequently. This is no cause for concern.

The breasts of male and female newborns are usually swollen from maternal hormones. This swelling subsides in a few weeks in formula-fed babies, but may last longer in breast fed infants. A small amount of milky discharge from the breasts is not uncommon. In little girls, a creamy vaginal discharge and even some bleeding may occur in the first weeks of life. This is normal.

Newborns’ legs and feet are often turned or bowed as a result of their cramped position during pregnancy. They gradually straighten during the first years of life. The hands and feet may turn a bluish color intermittently. This is no cause for concern.

Skin Rashes and Jaundice

Most babies develop one or more skin rashes in the first week. Tiny white bumps on the chin and nose are called milia, and will disappear spontaneously. Many babies develop a blotchy red rash called erythema toxicum (also called “flea bites”) which fade by the time the baby is several weeks old. Often, a newborn’s skin will appear dry and peel within the first week. The drying is usually most noticeable on the hands and feet, and may require lotion to prevent the skin from cracking. Small, red “birth marks” on the eyelids and back of the neck (also called “stork bites” and “angel kisses”) are very common and usually fade in the first year of life. In dark skinned infants, a bluish spot may be seen on the lower back. This discoloration usually disappears within a few years.

Nearly 50% of babies become jaundiced two to four days after birth. The skin and whites of the eyes appear yellow. This yellow hue comes from a pigment called bilirubin which is released from the normal breakdown of red blood cells. The liver removes this substance and excretes it into the gastrointestinal tract. Because the liver of a newborn is immature, the bilirubin builds up faster than the liver can eliminate it. In the majority of cases, however, this jaundice is temporary and harmless. If your baby does require treatment, there is no cause for alarm, and we will explain the treatment to you in detail.

Noises, Sneezing, Breathing

Newborns spend most of their time sleeping, sometimes even when you are trying to feed them. They also grunt, grimace, squirm, kick, and startle easily, all of which are normal. Sneezing is the only way they can clear their nose and does not mean a cold has developed. Babies also breathe noisily and irregularly. This becomes particularly noticeable between three and six weeks of age. Nasal congestion is normal, and we suggest obtaining a rubber bulb syringe to help clear the mucus from the nose. Hiccoughs are frequent and go away by themselves. Choking on mucus and milk and spitting up is very common the first few days. It does not mean your baby is allergic to milk.

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