If your are an expectant mother who eventually have to undergo uncomplicated vaginal delivery, chances are high for you to be able to hold your baby within minutes after birth. Remember that when your get to see your baby for the first time, there may be some features that may make your newborn look strange, yet normal. It is important to know what these features are and understand that most of them are just temporary and should not cause you to panic.
Newborns are normally coated with thick, pasty white material, called vernix caseosa. This is made up of fetus’ skin secretions and shed skin cells, and functions to protect the fetus skin from maceration while in utero. Vernix usually disappears after a few days but generous amounts may be rubbed off gently during the first bath. Vigorous removal, however, should be avoided as it may injure our baby’s tender skin and become a source of infection.
Lanugo hair, is another noticeable skin finding in newborn. These are fine, soft hair present on the face, shoulder, and back. This hair will disappear in a few weeks.
During the first and second week of life, it is normal and expected for the top layer of your baby’s skin to flake off. Peeling skin does not require any special care.
Mottling of the skin is also evident in babies especially when body is exposed to cold. This is due instability of the circulation in the newborn, which disappears as the baby gets older.
Some babies also come with a birthmark. Others have Mongolian spots which appear as flat patches of blue-green color that resemble ink stains. These spots have no significance and almost always fade after many years.
Several harmless rashes may also appear in newborns. Tiny, flat, white spots on the nose and chin are called milia. Small, raised red bumps that have white or yellow head are called miliaria (infant acne). A rash with hive-like appearance is called erythema toxicum. All these types of rash will go away after several weeks with normal skin care.
Your newborn’s head may look strange as to its shape after vaginal delivery. This is because the baby’s head, as it passes through the birth canal, undergoes some degree of molding. The newborn’s skull is made up of separate bones that have not yet fused. During delivery, these bones shift and overlap, giving the infant’s head bizaare appearance.
There can also be swelling of the scalp on top of the head toward the back, called caput succedaneum. If during the delivery, the fetal head has received too much pressure against the mother’s pelvic bones, cephalhematoma may result. This is a collection of blood that has seeped under the outer covering of the skull bone. Both caput succedaneum and cephalhematoma neither indicate injury to the infant’s brain.
Normally, your baby’s head has two soft spots called fontanels. These fontanels eventually close as the skull bones fuse together. The small one is located further back on the head and closes early at about 6 months. The larger one is found toward the front of the head and closes a little bit later at 12 to 18 months.
Don’t be surprise to see your baby for the first time with a puffy face. This is just due to the accumulation of fluid and the trauma during delivery as it passes through the birth canal.
Most infants can open their eyes few minutes after birth, while others, due to the puffiness of their eyelids, may not be able to open their eyes wide right away. A normal newborn’s eye is about 65-75% adult size. What they can see best are black and white. Their visual acuity is still at 20/200-20/400. Your newborn at this point can’t focus well, that’s why his eyes may look cross-eyed at times. Visual focusing and fixation is attained at 3 to 4 months of age.
Your baby’s chest is still thin so you may observe his chest move with each heartbeat. This is normal. Whether your baby is a girl or a boy, he or she can have breast engorgement. This is due to the female hormone estrogen that is passed from the mother to the fetus while in utero. Again, this is normal.
The sexual organs of male and female may appear large and swollen due to hormonal exposure. In fact, due to maternal hormones, some female infants will have vaginal mucus discharge for few days, but this isn’t a cause for concern.
There is a great advantage of knowing what to normally expect from your newborn. Certainly, your first glimpse of your bundle of joy will be a lot more pleasant and memorable.