APPEARANCE
The "Gerber" baby does not exist in real life. The birth process temporarily alters your baby's features and to an extent distorts them. Fortunately, by 1 to 2 weeks of age your infant's normal and beautiful features will emerge.

Head
Your baby's head may be molded (long and narrow) and he may look like a "cone head." He may have lumps and bumps (caputs and cephalohematomas) all due to the passage through the birth canal. All these will ultimately and completely resolve. The soft spot or "anterior fontanelle" is a "diamond shaped" space between the skull bones. Its purpose is to allow for the rapid growth of the newborn's brain. It normally closes by 8 to 18 months of life. Beneath the skin of the fontanelle lie three very strong, leathery layers that protect the brain. Routine handling, such as scrubbing, shampooing, combing or brushing will not hurt the soft spot.

Eyes

  • Swollen eyelids - The eyes may be puffy because of pressure on the face during delivery.
  • Redness in the white of the eye - A flame-shaped hemorrhage on the white of the eye (sclera) is not uncommon. It's harmless and due to birth trauma. The blood is reabsorbed in 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Eye color - The eyes are usually blue, green, gray or brown, or variations of these colors. The permanent color of the eye is often uncertain until your baby is six months of age.
  • Blocked tear duct - If your baby's eye is continually watery, he or she may have a blocked tear duct. This means that the channel that normally carries the tears from the eye to the nose is blocked. It is a common condition, and more than 90% of blocked tear ducts open up by the time the child is 6 months. The problem is easily handled with a combination of eye massage and drops.

Nose

A baby's nose is soft cartilage, not bone. It may be flattened or pushed to one side during birth, but will return to normal by 1 to 2 weeks of age.

Mouth

  • Sucking callus (or blister) - A sucking callus occurs in the center of the upper lip from the constant friction at this point during bottle or breast-feeding. It will disappear when your child begins cup feedings. A sucking callus on the thumb or wrist may also develop.
  • Tongue-tie - The normal tongue in newborns has a short tight band that connects it to the floor of the mouth. This band normally stretches with time, movement, and growth. Babies with symptoms from tongue-tie are extremely rare.

Swollen breasts

This is very common in both male and female infants due to exposure to female hormones during the pregnancy and breast-feeding. The swelling may easily last for 4 to 6 months or longer. Occasionally even a little bit of milk may be seen leaking from the nipples of even boy babies. This is also perfectly normal. Never squeeze an infant's breasts because it may lead to infection.

Genitals, girls

  • Swollen vaginal lips- These can be quite swollen in newborn girls because of the passage of female hormones across the placenta. The swelling will resolve in 2 to 4 weeks.
  • Vaginal discharge - As the maternal hormones decline in the baby's blood a clear or white discharge can flow from the vagina during the latter part of the first week of life. Occasionally the discharge will become pink or blood-tinged (false menstruation). This normal discharge should not recur once it stops.

Genitals, boys

  • Hydrocele- The newborn scrotum can be filled with clear fluid. This painless collection of clear fluid is called a "hydrocele." It is common in newborn males. A hydrocele may take 6 to 12 months to clear completely. It is harmless but can be rechecked during regular visits. If the swelling gets larger or persists past 1 year of age, a hernia may also be present and you should call our office during office hours for an appointment to have this evaluated.
  • Tight foreskin- Most uncircumcised infant boys have a tight foreskin that doesn't allow you to see the head of the penis. This is normal and the foreskin should not be forcibly retracted.

Extremities

  • Tibial torsion - The lower legs (tibia) normally curve in because of the cross-legged posture your baby was confined to while in the womb. Gravity will exert directional forces on the growth plates to remodel and straighten the bone as your baby stands, walks, jumps and runs.
  • Feet turned in - As long as your child's feet are flexible and can be easily moved to a normal position, they are normal. The direction of the feet will become more normal between 6 and 12 months of age.
  • "Ingrown" toenails - Many newborns have soft nails that easily bend and curve. However, they are not truly ingrown because they don't curve into the flesh.

Hair

  • Scalp hair - Most hair at birth is dark. This hair is temporary and begins to be shed by one month of age. Some babies lose it gradually while the permanent hair is coming in; others lose it rapidly and temporarily become bald. The permanent hair will appear by 6 months.
  • Body hair (lanugo) - Lanugo is the fine downy hair that is sometimes present on the back and shoulders. It is more common in premature infants. It is rubbed off with normal friction by 2 to 4 weeks.

Skin

  • "Baby acne" - This consists of small, red bumps, beginning at 3 to 4 weeks of age and lasting until 4 to 6 months of age. One causative factor appears to be the transfer of maternal hormones just before birth. This combined with the skin's increased oil production which was necessary to protect the baby from nine months of underwater life, produces the "acne." No treatment is necessary. Baby oil will just make it worse. In severe cases, a mild drying agent such as soapy water is useful.
  • Erythema toxicum - More than 50% of babies get a rash called erythema toxicum on the second or third day of life. The rash is composed of l/2 to 1 inch red blotches with a small white dot in the center. Their cause is unknown, but they always resolve themselves by I week of age or sooner.
  • Mongolian spots-A mongolian spot is a bluish-gray, flat birthmark that is found in more than 90% of American Indian, Oriental, Hispanic and African American babies. They occur most commonly over the back and buttocks, although they can be present on any part of the body. Most fade away by 2 or 3 years of age, although a trace may persist into adult life.
  • Stork bites (pink birthmarks) - Flat pink birthmarks (also called capillary hemangiomas) occur over the bridge of the nose, the eyelids, or the back of the neck in more than 50 % of newborns. The birthmarks on the bridge of the nose and eyelids clear completely by I to 2 years of age. Most birthmarks on the nape of the neck also clear, but those can persist into adult life.

BEHAVIOR

Some findings in newborns that concern parents are not signs of illness. Most of these harmless reflexes are due to the normal, immature nervous system and will disappear in 2 or 3 months. These include:

  • Chin trembling
  • Lower lip quivering
  • Hiccoughs
  • Irregular breathing. (Normally, if your baby is content, the rate is less than 60 breaths per minute, a pause is less than 6 seconds, and your baby doesn't turn blue)
  • Passing gas (not a temporary behavior)
  • Sleep noise from breathing and moving
  • Sneezing
  • Spitting up or belching
  • Startle reflex (also called the Moro or embrace reflex) following noise or movement
  • Straining with bowel movements
  • Throat clearing (or gurgling sounds)
  • Trembling of arms and legs during crying
  • Yawning
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