Understanding your newborn baby

A head to toe guide to your brand new baby

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  • Your newborn’s hair

    On her head

    “Your baby may have lots of hair or none at all, but any amount is completely normal,” says Simone Cave, co-author of Your Baby Week By Week. Most newborn hair will gradually fall out and be replaced, but it isn’t always obvious. “Sometimes new hair grows as newborn hair is falling out so there’s not always a period of complete baldness,” adds Simone.

    On her body

    “When your baby is in the womb, she’s covered in lanugo – a fine downy hair,” says Lucy Beaumont, midwife at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital. “A baby might be born with it, particularly if she’s premature, but it’s not a problem and usually falls out on its own in the first week or two.”

  • Your newborn’s vision

    “A newborn baby can see around nine to 12 inches in front of her face,” says Lucy. “Although she can’t see fine details, she’ll be able to make out your face and can tell the difference between light and dark.

    You may also notice your baby has irregular eye movements, as until the eye muscles and nervous system have strengthened she may have difficulty holding both her eyes in line,” adds Lucy. “This normally rights itself after a few months, but if your health visitor notices, she’ll continue to monitor it.”

  • Your newborn’s head

    “The fontanelle is the name of the soft spots on your baby’s head where the bones haven’t fused together yet,” says Lucy. “During birth they overlap to make the diameter of her head smaller, but they’ll realign again within a day or two, and completely fuse together over the next couple of months.

    “A forceps delivery may leave slight bruising on your baby’s head and on one side of her cheek, but this will all clear up in around 24-48 hours,” adds Lucy.

    “A ventouse delivery – where a small suction ‘cup’ is placed on your baby’s head 
to help her out – may leave your baby with a cone-shaped bump on the top of her head but this will also go down in around 24 hours.”

  • Your newborn’s feeding

    “In the first few weeks it’s best to feed your baby on demand,” suggests Simone. “Don’t worry about getting her into a routine at the moment as there’s plenty of time for that later.” At this stage just concentrate on getting through the day and don’t even look at the clock for timing feeds.

    “Be prepared for a growth spurt at around three weeks,” adds Simone. “She may demand more milk at this stage, but if you’re breastfeeding you’ll start to produce more milk as she needs it.” This may take a day or two and your baby will cry until your supply meets her demand, but it’ll soon settle down.

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  • Your newborn’s grip

    “Your newborn baby will automatically tighten her fingers around anything that is pressed into the palm of her hand,” says Simone. “She can grasp very tightly, but this grasping reflex is generally lost at around 3 months as she’ll gain the ability to decide herself whether she wants to grip something.”

  • Your newborn’s poos

    “For the first three days, whether your baby is breast- or bottlefed, her stools will be a dark, greeny black colour and sticky to start with,” says Lucy. “This is your baby getting rid of meconium which has been lining her gut and needs to come out before her digestive system can get properly going.

    “From day three onwards, a breastfed baby normally has soft, light yellow stools and it’s normal if she goes three or four days without a bowel movement as long as there are six to eight wet nappies a day,” says Lucy. “This is because she’s able to absorb pretty much all the milk she ingests as there’s so little waste in breast milk.

    “A bottlefed baby’s stools are normally firmer and more frequent as there’s more waste from formula milk, so a bottlefed baby should give you regular dirty nappies every day.”

  • Your newborn’s burps

    Wind can make your baby feel uncomfortable and even full before she’s drunk enough milk, so it’s important to wind her after every feed,” says Simone. “Gently rub her back while she’s over your shoulder or sitting on or lying across your lap – but make sure you support her head".

    Some mums like to wind halfway through a feed while others prefer to do it at the end – do whichever works best for your baby. The important thing to remember is that you need to keep rubbing until you hear her burp properly

  • Newborn superfact

    Most Caucasian babies are born with dark blue eyes – if they’re going to be a different colour they’ll change over a few months

    Newborn skin facts

    • Blotchiness This is completely normal in the first few days and is just your baby’s skin adapting to her new environment.
    • Milia These little white spots, also called milk spots, often appear on your baby’s mouth, neck and chest. Unless they get red and angry-looking, let them clear up on their own.
    • Blistered lips “These can be a result of your baby feeding and tend to happen more in a bottlefed baby who’s getting used to sucking on a silicone teat,” says Lucy Beaumont, midwife at Guy’s and St Thomas’.
    • Vernix A white greasy substance that you’ll notice on your baby’s skin when she’s born. “It protects her skin so don’t wash it off. Instead let it soak in,” says Lucy.
    • Blue hands and feet Your baby sends all her blood to the important organs so sometimes her hands and feet may have a slight blue tinge. “But it won’t affect your baby’s development,” reassures Lucy.

    Did you know...

    A newborn baby may sleep as much as 15-20 hours out of every 24 (but unfortunately not in one long run!)

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  • Ways to bond with your newborn

    • Hold her “Cradle your baby as soon as you can after the birth and have lots of skin-on-skin contact,” says Simone Cave, co-author of Your Baby Week By Week. It will help reassure her she’s in safe hands.
    • Use facial expressions “Although your baby can’t see much more than the outline of your face in the first few weeks, she’ll be interested in the movements it makes, so use big smiles,” says Simone. 
    • Keep it calm  “Newborns tend not to like loud noises,” says Simone. “So speak to her using a gentle voice to help her feel close to you.” You don’t have to whisper, but remember shouting with joy might startle her.
  • 3 steps to newborn cord care:

    1. “When putting your baby’s nappy on, make sure you leave her clamped cord outside of the nappy so it gets some air and isn’t exposed to any nappy contents,” says Lucy Beaumont, midwife at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital.

    2. “After you change your baby’s nappy, use cotton wool and some warm water to clean around the base of the cord. Do this until the stump drops off, which will be around five to seven days after the birth,” she says.

    3. “After gently wiping the clamped cord, leave it to dry but don’t worry if you spot a little bit of oozing or blood as it’s perfectly normal. You only need to worry if it smells funny or is leaking pus,” says Lucy.

  • Mums’ stories

    “I had no idea breastfeeding could be so painful if your baby isn’t latched on correctly. I felt like a failure and I suffered from really cracked nipples at the start too.

    Once I spoke to my cousin, who’s a breastfeeding counsellor, things drastically improved, as she showed me how to position Daisy properly. If I’d known in advance, I’d have got advice before the birth. It’s definitely worth seeking support as I’m really enjoying the experience now, despite the bumpy start, and I’m so glad I stuck with it.

    Nichola Benmore, 31, from Suffolk, mum to Lily, 2, and Daisy, 5 weeks

    “When Sophie was born the paediatrician noticed a ‘clunk’ in Sophie’s hip when he was checking her over. He thought it would be OK so when Sophie was diagnosed with clicky hip I was quite surprised. I’d never heard of it before but signs can include more creases on one thigh than the other. It’s easily treated if caught early and Sophie now wears a harness, but it doesn’t stop her kicking her legs and enjoying baby massage.”

    Stephanie Haughey, 25, from Northern Ireland, mum to Sophie, 3 months


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