What a Healthy Newborn Looks Like
Newborn babies don't usually look like the cute babies in diaper ads. Newborns' heads are often more pointed than round. Their skin may be wrinkly and reddish in color. This is normal.
In the center of your baby's head is a "soft spot" where the skull bones have not yet joined. This allows your baby's head to be flexible during the birthing process. The skull bones will grow together to cover this spot as your baby grows. Meantime, the soft spot allows your baby's brain to grow.
Sometimes there are dark red patches on the baby's eyelids. They can also be on the bridge of the nose or back of the neck. No one knows what causes these. They usually go away during the first year.
Some babies are born bald, some have thin hair, and others are born with thick, dark hair. For many babies, this first hair rubs off. For others, the color may change.
Eye color can also change after birth. Eye color is usually set by the end of the first year.
The umbilical cord that is left on the navel at birth will drop off in five to 10 days. The place where it falls off will become your baby's belly button.
Sometimes baby girls bleed from the vagina. Sometimes boys or girls will have swollen breasts. They may even produce a few drops of milk at birth. Hormones from the mother cause this. The discharge is harmless and will soon disappear.
Babies have special reflexes that last only a few months. It helps to know what the reflexes are so you are not alarmed when they occur.
The following reflexes are normal for newborns:
- Moro or "startle" reflex: This occurs when your baby's head shifts position quickly. Or when her head falls backward. Or when your baby is startled by something loud. She will react by throwing out her arms and legs and extending her neck. Your baby will then quickly bring her arms together. She may cry when doing this. This reflex should go away after two months.
- Rooting reflex: This is how your baby hunts for her mother's breast. If you gently stroke the side of her cheek with your finger, she will turn her head toward your finger. This lasts for three to four months.
- Grasp reflex: Your baby will clench her fist around anything pressed into the palm of her hand. You can show this to a big brother or sister. Say, "The baby wants to hold on to your finger." This reflex goes away at five to six months.
- Stepping reflex: If you hold a newborn baby upright under her arms with her feet on a hard surface, her feet will make a stepping action. This happens even though it is a long time before she is ready to stand or walk. This usually lasts a couple of months.
Ask your doctor if you have any questions about your baby's reflexes.
What's It Like To Be a Newborn?
- I need others to take care of me.
- I can't decide things for myself.
- I need someone to love, feed, hold and play with me.
- I like to feel warm, and I don't like lots of noise.
- I like to be held very gently and very close.
- My face may be wrinkled, puffy or red, and I may have a large head, but I'm normal.
- I like to sleep a lot.
- I am hungry every few hours.
- I may be fussy and cry a lot.
- I need my diapers changed as soon as they are wet or soiled.
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