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Your newborn's appearance

Your newborn may not be picture-perfect, but that baby is perfectly precious nonetheless.

For many long months you've looked forward to the moment you could see and hold your little one.

That moment is so filled with awe and wonder that you may not even notice that your baby isn't exactly squeaky clean—or blemish-free. But after you count those 10 little fingers and 10 little toes, you may notice a few things about your baby that surprise you.

A special coating. In the womb, a baby's skin is protected by a pasty white coating. This is called vernix. You may notice this whitish goop after the baby is born. But it will wash away with your baby's first bath.

Some babies have less vernix, especially if they are born after their due date. In that case, the skin may look wrinkled. It may even peel a bit.

A cone-shaped head. During a vaginal delivery, the birth process can squeeze and compress a baby's head out of shape. Don't worry, though—in the first few weeks of life, the bones of the skull will round out and the baby's head will return to normal, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Some bruising and swelling of the head may happen during birth as well. This is generally harmless. It should go away fairly quickly.

Eye spots. You may notice blood-red spots in the whites of one or both of your baby's eyes. These are a result of the pressure exerted on the baby's head during the birthing process. They will likely fade within a few days, according to the AAP.

Soft spots. There will be one or two soft spots on your baby's head. Called fontanelles, these gaps allow room for an infant's rapidly growing brain. You may notice the soft spot pulsating (this is normal). Other times it may appear sunken. That may be a signal that a baby is dehydrated. Watch for other signs of dehydration, such as fewer wet diapers, and call the doctor if you have concerns.

Bumps and blotches. Newborns often look a bit blue when born. They also may have rashes, birthmarks and a variety of other blemishes. These are all normal. But talk to your doctor if you have concerns.

If forceps were used during the delivery, your baby may also have bruises or scratches on the face or head. A firm, flat lump may develop in such a spot, according to the AAP. This is from damage to the tissue under the skin.

Bruises and scratches should go away fairly quickly, according to the AAP. But it may take a month or two for a lump to go away.

Lanugo. Babies are sometimes born with a light covering of hair, called lanugo, on the body. Babies normally lose that hair before they are born. But some of it may still be present, especially if your baby arrives early. The hair may be noticeable for a few weeks.

Jaundice. Newborns often have yellow-tinged skin, a sign of jaundice. This happens when a chemical called bilirubin builds up in the blood before a baby's liver is working efficiently.

You may first notice yellowing of the face, chest or abdomen, sometimes followed by the legs or arms or the whites of the eyes.

Jaundice may or may not need treatment. Keep in touch with your child's doctor. And be sure to take your little one in for a checkup within a few days after leaving the hospital.

What's ahead

Your newborn's appearance will likely change from day to day, according to the Office on Women's Health. In a few weeks, he or she should look more and more like the baby you may have imagined during pregnancy.

However, if you have any concerns about your baby's appearance, talk to your healthcare provider.

Reviewed 12/20/2021

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