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What does a healthy newborn look like? — When your baby is born, they might not look the way you expect. Before birth, a baby is surrounded by liquid in the uterus (figure 1). The baby is also in a curled-up position, because there's not much space to move around. Plus, babies who are born through the vagina have to squeeze through a small passage. All of these things can affect a newborn's appearance.
The descriptions below should help you prepare for how your baby might look (figure 2).
●Skin – Babies are born covered in a thick white substance, as well as fluid and blood from your body. All of this washes off with the baby's first bath.
A healthy newborn's skin might look pink, red, or purple, depending on their skin tone. Sometimes, the skin can look slightly blue, especially in the hands, feet, and around the lips. That is normal for the first few days.
At birth, babies might also have:
•Bruises, red spots, or scratches – These can be caused by a device called a "fetal probe" that doctors use to monitor the baby during birth.
•Small acne-like spots or bumps on the skin – These will go away over time.
•Blue, gray, or brown patches on the lower back or buttocks – These are more common in newborns with darker skin. They sometimes look like bruises. These patches can also appear on other body parts, like the shoulders. They often disappear within the first few years of life.
•Birthmarks – Some birthmarks fade over time, while others can be permanent.
•Fine hair covering their bodies – This hair goes away over time.
●Head – A newborn's head usually looks big compared with the rest of the body. The head might also look pointy or cone-shaped from being squeezed through the vagina. The head should return to its normal shape within a few days. Newborns have several "soft spots" on their heads where the bones have not yet grown together.
Some babies are born bald, while others have hair. Often, the hair that a baby is born with will fall out within a month or so and be replaced by new hair.
●Face – Your baby's face might look swollen or squished right after they are born. The mouth and nose will be filled with mucus, which a doctor or nurse will suction out. Both sides of the face should look symmetrical, or even.
The whites of the eyes should be clear and white, although in babies born premature or "preterm," they might appear pale blue.
●Neck – The neck skin should be smooth and without lumps. Some babies are born with the neck twisted to 1 side, due to their position in the uterus. This is called "wry neck" or "torticollis." There are ways to treat this and help straighten out the neck.
●Chest and belly – You might notice that your newborn has some swelling in the breast area. Sometimes, the breasts might even leak a milky fluid. This is because of hormones your body makes during pregnancy. This swelling or leaking usually goes away within a few days or weeks.
Your newborn's belly will probably be round and stick out a bit. After the umbilical cord is cut, a small stump will stay attached to your baby's belly button. Your baby's doctor or nurse will tell you how to care for it. The stump will fall off on its own within a week or 2.
●Genitals – In both boys and girls, the genitals often look puffy or swollen after birth.
If your baby is a girl, you might notice some discharge from the vagina. It is usually white in color but can sometimes be bloody. This is normal. It is caused by hormones your body makes during pregnancy, and will go away on its own.
In newborn boys, the foreskin (the skin covering the tip of the penis) is usually tight and should not be pulled back. This skin will be removed surgically if you choose to have your baby circumcised.
●Arms and legs – Your newborn might prefer to keep their arms and legs bent and close to the body, like they were when they were in the uterus. The arms and legs should move equally on both sides of the body.
What will the doctor check for after my baby is born? — Soon after your baby is born, a doctor or nurse will:
●Look at the baby's genitals to see whether the baby is a girl or a boy
●Look at the baby's skin to make sure it is a healthy color
●Check the body's position and movement
●Look over the baby's entire body to check that all the parts look normal
●Measure the baby's weight, length, and head size
●Make sure the baby's organs (including the heart and lungs) are working right
How can I tell if my baby has a problem? — You can't always tell just by looking at a newborn whether they are healthy. No 2 babies look exactly the same. But your baby's doctor or nurse can check for certain things.
The appearance, size, or position of some body parts can be symptoms of different health issues. That's why it's important to have the baby checked by a doctor or nurse.
Patient education: Labor and childbirth (The Basics)
Patient education: Torticollis in children (The Basics)
Patient education: Down syndrome (The Basics)
Patient education: Developmental dysplasia of the hip (The Basics)
Patient education: Hypospadias (The Basics)
Patient education: Hemangioma (The Basics)
Patient education: Caring for your newborn (The Basics)
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