Newborn Surprises

What will my newborn look like?

When you gaze at your newborn, you’ll notice the color of his hair and eyes, the shape of his nose and the curve of his mouth. You may also notice some lumps and bumps that you didn’t expect, but of course your baby will still be the most beautiful creature you’ve ever seen.

You may also find a few surprises. Here are some of the things that you perhaps didn’t expect to observe, but that your health-care provider will assure you are entirely normal:

A cream-like coating covering baby’s skin. Known as vernix, this sometimes thick substance forms a protective coating on baby’s skin. It will be absorbed into the skin so it’s not necessary to wipe off.

Tiny dark hairs covering large parts of baby’s body (commonly on the back and shoulders). Lanugo is hair that sometimes covers parts of a newborn’s body. If the baby is premature, he may be nearly covered in it. Lanugo generally falls off within a few weeks of birth.

A large, soft bump on baby’s head. Some babies are born with a bump on the top of the head. This bump, called a caput succedaneum, occurs to some extent in most babies delivered vaginally. The caput does not affect the baby’s brain and will disappear within a few days.

Elongated skull. Sometimes called moulding, this elongation of your baby’s head occurs when its movable bones shift slightly to help a baby pass through the birth canal. The shape of the head becomes somewhat oblong or even cone-shaped. In this process there can be some swelling of the tissues on the head.

Blue-gray patches on baby’s tummy or back — most common location is actually on the buttocks. These spots alarmingly resemble bruises and are very common in babies born to parents who are of African, Asian, Indian, Latino, or Mediterranean descent. They also occasionally appear in babies whose parents are light-skinned. The spots generally disappear after one or two years.

Very obvious sexual characteristics. It’s common for premature babies to have startlingly enlarged genitals. There may also be a tiny bit of milk in the breasts of both girls and boys, and sometimes baby girls will have a tiny bit of bloody vaginal discharge. None of this is anything to worry about, it’s the result of exposure to high levels of hormones that the baby received during pregnancy, and things will look more to scale within a few weeks.

He or she may initially appear very alert and look around, and may even be interested in breastfeeding right away. Your nurse can help you get started with breastfeeding, often within several minutes of delivery. The next day or two, your baby will probably spend most of his or her time sleeping, only waking when hungry or needing a diaper change.


University of Washington School of Medicine. Pediatric Physical Examination Benchmarks.

March of Dimes. Umbilical Cord Abnormalities. 2010.

Nemours Foundation. The First Day of Life.

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