When you first bring your teeny-tiny newborn home, you suddenly realise the enormity of being responsible for this little life, and anything, ANYTHING, that seems out of the ordinary – from spots or blotches to squinty eyes – is pretty much guaranteed to send you into a little spin of panic.
So, it’s worth knowing that there are something apparently odd things that newborns do, and look like, that are actually pretty darn normal.
Here’s a list of the most common ones – to help you cut down a bit on the spin and panic thing. (We all do it.)
1. Sticky black poo
Hopefully, your midwife will already have tipped you off about this before you’re discharged from hospital.
But, if not, it’s worth being aware that the first time your baby poos (this might be at hospital but it could be once you’re home), you’ll see something that doesn’t look like poo at all: instead, it’s all black, sticky and tarry (and REALLY hard to clean off a small bottom).
It’s called meconium, and is a special just-been-born poo that looks like it does because it contains mucus, amniotic fluid, and everything else your baby has ingested while he was in your womb.
Your baby’s poos will stay black and tarry like this for a few days – and then change, varying in consistency (sometimes fairly solid, sometimes liquid) and colour (green, yellow, brown) from nappy to nappy.
2. Flaky scalp
Lots of babies have a kind of flaky, crusty or greasy “dandruff”, known as cradle cap, for the first few months. It’s a really common skin condition called seborrhoeic dermatitis; no one’s sure what causes it but it’s thought to run in families.
Don’t be tempted to pick the “scales” off. Loosen them instead by massaging their heads with olive oil (we’ve got loads of tips here). Cradle cap is generally utterly harmless but if it gets really severe, do see your GP.
3. Red patches
If you notice red blotches on your baby – around the forehead and scalp, and on the back of the neck, in particular – worry not. These are commonly known as “stork marks” and are nothing to fret about.
They might go a wee bit darker when your baby cries but they’re not permanent and will probably fade within a year or so.
4. White spots
Little white spots – known as milia or milk spots – are very common in newborn babies. You’ll often see them on and around the nose and eyes. No need to squeeze, put cream on (or panic); they’ll disappear on their own.
5. Bow legs
It’s really no wonder your little one comes into the world a tad scrunched up – after all, they’ve been in that position for 9 months.
Those little chicken legs will straighten with time and your child WILL walk with no problems at all. Honest.
6. A pointy head
If you’ve had a vaginal birth – and particularly if you had a ventouse delivery – you might find your little one’s head is a bit cone-shaped: getting down that birth canal is a bit of a squeeze.
But the bones in your baby’s head are super-soft and flexible right now (absolutely for birth-canal-squeezing reasons) and that head will round out and change shape in the next few days.
7. Baby acne
Yep, you don’t have to wait until your baby’s a teenager for hime or her to get acne; they could have it pretty much as soon as you get them home, or develop it in the first few weeks.
It can look a bit ugly but is nothing to worry about and is best left alone. Some experts have suggested they’re caused by our hormones being passed on to our baby in the womb but the jury’s still out on the exact cause.
8. A hairy body
In the womb, in order to keep them warm before they have any fat to insulate them, babies develop a special downy body called “lanugo”. Or “peach fuzz”, as we like to call it.
Lanugo tends to disappear in the very last weeks of pregnancy but you may still find traces of it on your newborn baby’s back and arms – even their ears. Leave well alone; it’ll vanish of its own accord.
9. Weird scratches
Scream! How did that scratch get there? Likelihood is, your baby (accidentally) did it him or herself, scraping skin with his or her fingernails (babies can be born with quite long nails already, and they also seem to grow super-fast).
You’ll probably want to invest in a pair of baby nail clippers when you’re feeling ready – but until then scratch mittens are invaluable in the early days.
Newborn babies aren’t used to breathing in this air stuff, with all the tiny particles in it; it can take some time to get used to life and lungs outside the amniotic sac. So don’t just assume/panic that it’s not a cold; it’s probably not.
11. Wrinkly hands and feet
Newborns can have skin on hands and feet that looks like ours when we’ve spent FAR too long in the bath.
It’s just that their skin’s not yet fitting their body; it will all smooth out in time.
12. Baby boobs
When your baby’s being born, some of the oestrogen that’s running through your body can pass in his or her blood, and cause swelling of the breast tissue – and sometimes a little leaking of milk.
Weird but normal – and temporary.
13. Yellowy skin
Jaundice can leave your little one’s skin and sometimes the whites of their eyes looking a little yellow. It can develop 2 to 3 days after you’re baby’s been born, and usually gets better without treatment within 2 to 3 weeks.
Your midwife will monitor your baby for signs of jaundice within 72 hours of the birth but if your baby develops any signs after that, it’s best to contact your midwife or GP for advice. It’s generally nothing to worry about but, occasionally, a baby may need some phototherapy treatment in hospital.
14. Cross eyes
Some babies are born with swelling or extra folds of skin around the corners of the eyes, which can give the appearance of being cross-eyed or squinty. In addition, very little babies can struggle to control their eyes (like other parts of their body) so they might not move in synch.
It’s nothing to worry about (unless the eyes never seem to align) and they should grow out of it after 3 or 4 months.
15. Throbbing patch on top of the head
This is the fontanelle, a soft spot when the skull bones of your baby’s head have not yet fused together. Being able to see a pulse beating beneath the skin in this spot is quite normal – if a bit freaky at first glance.
If the fontanelle ever looks sunken, though, that’s not normal and can be a sign that your baby’s dehydrated.