New baby: what newborns really look like

Every new baby is genuinely a beautiful new human being, but they're also usually a little squashed and red!

Don’t believe what you see on TV in hospital dramas where new parents are handed their darling new cherubs. Usually the plump tidy features of the little baby looking out from the blankets are at least a week old, if not much much more!

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What will your new baby look like?

Admittedly, the way your baby will look does depend on how he or she is born. A baby born vaginally, has just had to squeeze through the birth canal, and because of this your baby’s head might seem a little squashed! This is not anything to worry about, as the midwife (and the consultant pediatrician who examines your child a few hours after birth) will check to ensure your baby’s head has not suffered undue pressure during birth.

If your baby is born via caesarian section, it is less likely to look quite so squashed. Either way, your baby’s head will take on a more rounded shape after two or three days.

Your baby’s face and body may also seem flushed. This will quickly pass. However, many midwives now tend not to wash blood or the white coating on the skin (called the vernix) off your newborn immediately as this may cool the baby down too quickly. They may well offer you your child to cuddle and/or suckle before cleaning him or her up, or invite the new dad to help cleaning once you feel the time is right. This practice tends to vary from place to place, nurse to nurse, so do ask if you have a preference either way.

All babies appear a little wrinkled. Their skin may be red and blotchy and you may notice tiny white spots. (Over the first month or so your baby’s skin may in turns appear peachy or blotchy and even spotty, as their hormones balance out.)

If your baby was overdue, you may find that the skin is a little dry, but this will quickly improve. Ask your midwife if you are at all concerned.

If your baby is slightly yellowish, there might be a touch of jaundice. This is more likely with babies born early, but hospitals can offer light treatment to quickly remedy this.

Some babies are born with lots of hair, but usually there is only a small covering of hair. This is likely to fall out or be rubbed away in the cot over the coming months, but will return with normal hair growth over the first year.

When your baby is born you might notice a downy covering all over his or her body. This is called lanugo.

In the first two weeks, the mother’s hormones still affect the baby and you may find that genitals appear slightly enlarged and that breasts in both sexes are a little swollen. This soon passes and is completely natural.

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Your baby’s head, when born, will be the largest part of his or her body. Legs will probably look like two little pieces of string! However, with a good feeding regime settling down over the early weeks (don’t worry if this is patchy in the first couple of days), you will see your baby’s little body begin to plump up into the picture-postcard vision of a bouncing baby!

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