Your Newborn's Physical Features


All about your new arrival, from head to tiny toes.

Newborns don't emerge pink and plump. In fact, for the first few weeks, they're really kind of funny looking. When you first lay eyes on your wrinkly, red little conehead, chances are you'll think he's absolutely perfect. But you can't help noticing that his brand-new body has a few blemishes — the sight of the umbilical cord stump is a little scary, and is that a pimple on his face? Here's a head-to-toe guide to your newborn's birthday suit.

Head: If you gave birth vaginally, your baby's head may be elongated or misshapen as a result of his journey through the birth canal. Forceps sometimes leave depressions or bruises. If he has a lump at the crown of his head from pushing against the cervix, it should disappear within days. The two soft spots on your baby's head, called fontanels, are areas where the bones of the skull have not yet fused together, which made it possible for baby's head to squeeze through the birth canal. Your baby's eyes may be swollen and puffy, his nose squashed, and he may even have bruises on his face.

Hair: Some babies are born bald; others arrive with a full head of hair. Most newborn hair will fall out, and the hair that replaces it may be totally different in texture and color. If your baby doesn't have much hair, you may see a pulse beating under the soft spot at the back of his head.

Eyes: Most Caucasian babies are born with blue eyes that may go through several color changes in the first few months. They usually darken to their final color between 6 and 12 months. Darker-skinned babies are usually born with brown eyes, which tend to stay brown or turn another dark color, such as a deep green.

Skin: Underlying blood vessels show through the new delicate skin, giving it a pinkish or reddish tone. Your newborn is wrinkly because she's just spent nine months in fluid and now she's exposed to dry air, plus she's a little dehydrated right after birth. Her circulatory system isn't quite up to speed yet, so when she sleeps, her hands and feet may look bluish. If you're worried, pick her up and watch her skin return to a normal color. Also expect a few breakouts on your baby's skin during the first few months. Mom's hormones — still circulating in baby's system — are the culprit. In the early weeks, you may see tiny whiteheads on your baby's face. Toward the end of the first month, red pimples may erupt. Just wash with a mild cleanser and water, and pat dry. The pimples should go away on their own within a few months; whiteheads should disappear sooner.

Umbilical Cord: Sticky material will collect at the base of your baby's cord stump. At every diaper change, use a cotton swab to clean it. Fold the top of your baby's diaper so that it falls below the cord — or use newborn diapers — to keep the area exposed to air. Call your doctor if you see pus or redness.

Feet: Don't worry if his feet look pigeon-toed. They've rotated inward because he was curled up snugly in the womb for nine months. After about 6 months, they'll relax into a straighter position. He may also appear to have flat feet, but his arch is there — it's just hidden by a pad of fat.

The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.

Content courtesy of American Baby.

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