Your baby is likely to look rather wrinkled and misshapen at first, which may come as a surprise if you are a first-time mum expecting a cherubic- looking infant. However, you don’t need to worry, as these newborn looks will soon disappear.
One of the first things you may notice about your newborn is that his head looks out of proportion to the rest of his body – this is because at birth a baby’s head is around one-quarter of his total length.
His head may also appear rather cone-shaped from where it has been compressed and moulded as it passed through the birth canal, and his features may look a bit flattened.
If your baby had an assisted delivery there could also be some bruising to the scalp or a soft tissue swelling (caput) on the top of the head. Any misshaping of the head will disappear within a few days of the birth.
The fontanelles, which are the soft spots on the top of your baby’s head where the bones haven’t fused, look delicate but they are well protected by skin and fibrous tissue.
These will close up as your baby grows and by around 18 months will have disappeared completely.
Some babies are born with a full head of hair, others are completely bald. Any hair that your baby has will gradually fall out and be replaced with new hair over the next few months.
Don’t be surprised if this new growth is a completely different colour and texture.
The colour of your baby’s eyes depends on the amount of melanin in the irises. The colour of your baby’s eyes at birth is not necessarily the colour they will end up because the colour can change as the pigment in the iris increased.
Sometimes the colour doesn’t set until around two years of age.
At birth your baby’s vision is blurry, but he can make out light, shapes and movement and can focus on things that are about 20cm to 30cm away, which means he is able to watch your face when you are holding and feeding him.
It’s quite normal for a newborn’s eyes to ‘cross’ occasionally, especially when they are tired but if your baby seems to be squinting a lot talk to your doctor or paediatrician.
Your baby may look a bit ‘scrunched up’ and bow-legged. This is because his limbs have been confined by the lack of space in the womb during the last weeks of pregnancy. It will take a little while for him to uncurl.
At first your newborn’s skin is very pale, then as he begins to breathe the colour changes to red. This redness normally fades within the first few days, although his hands and feet may have a greyish-blue tingefor several days.
He may have patches of dry skin and of vernix, the greasy substance that protected his skin from becoming waterlogged while he was floating in amniotic fluid.
Some babies are born with a covering of fine downy hair called lanugo. All these features will gradually disappear.
There will be a small stump of umbilical cord, which has been clamped, attached to your baby’s tummy. The stump will shrivel, turn black and then drop off in about a week, leaving behind your baby’s tummy button.
At birth, both boys and girl’s genitals appear enlarged and their breasts slightly swollen, sometimes with a milky discharge.
This is caused by an increase in female hormones from the placenta just before the birth, which are still circulating in your newborn’s body. Any swelling will soon disappear.