Newborn Appearance

Newborn Appearance

What does a newborn look like?

Parents often dream of what their
new baby may look like. They think about a pink, round, chubby-cheeked and gurgling
wonder. It may be surprising for many parents to see their newborn the first time—wet
and red, with a long head, and screaming—nothing at all like they had imagined.

Newborns have many variations in
normal appearance, from color to the shape of the head. Some of these differences are
just temporary, part of the physical adjustments a baby goes through. Others, such as
birthmarks, may be permanent. Understanding the normal appearance of newborns can help
you know that your baby is healthy. Some of the normal variations in newborns include
the following:

Color

A baby’s skin
coloring can vary greatly, depending on the baby’s age, race or ethnic
group, temperature, and whether or not the baby is crying.

When a baby is first
born, the skin is a dark red to purple color. As the baby starts to
breathe air, the color changes to red. This redness normally starts to
fade in the first day. A baby’s hands and feet may stay bluish in color
for several days. This is a normal response to a baby’s underdeveloped
blood circulation. But blue coloring of other parts of the body isn’t
normal.

Some newborns
develop a yellow coloring of the skin and whites of the eyes called
jaundice. This may be a normal response as the body gets rid of older red
blood cells. But it may indicate a problem, especially if it worsens.

Molding

Molding is the
irregular shape of a baby’s head from the birth process. Normal shape
usually returns by the end of the first week.

Vernix

This is a white,
greasy, cheese-like substance on the skin of many babies at birth. It
protects the baby’s skin during pregnancy.

Lanugo

This is soft, downy
hair on a baby’s body, especially on the shoulders, back, forehead, and
cheeks. It’s more noticeable in premature babies. It will slowly
disappear.

Milia

Milia are tiny,
white, bumps on a newborn’s nose, cheeks, chin and forehead. Milia form
from oil glands and disappear on their own. When these occur in a baby’s
mouth and gums, they are called Epstein pearls.

Stork bites or salmon patches

These are small pink
or red patches often found on a baby’s eyelids, between the eyes, upper
lip, and back of the neck. The name comes from the marks on the back of
the neck where, as the myth goes, a stork may have picked up the baby.
They’re caused by a concentration of immature blood vessels and may be
the most visible when the baby is crying. Most of these fade and
disappear completely by age 18 months.

Congenital dermal melanocytosis

Congenital dermal
melanocytosis (formerly called Mongolian spots) are blue or
purple-colored splotches on the baby’s lower back and buttocks. Over 80%
of African-American, Asian, and Indian babies have these marks, but they
occur in dark-skinned babies of all races. The spots are caused by a
concentration of pigmented cells. They usually disappear in the first 4
years of life.

Erythema toxicum

Erythema toxicum is
a red rash on newborns. It’s often described as flea bites. The rash is
common on the chest and back, but may be found all over. About 50% of all
babies develop this condition in the first few days of life. It’s less
common in premature babies. The cause is unknown but it’s not dangerous.
Erythema toxicum doesn’t require any treatment and disappears by itself
in a few days.

Acne neonatorum (baby acne)

About 1 in 5
newborns develop acne in the first month. It usually appears on the
cheeks and forehead. They usually disappear within a few months. Gently
wash the areas with mild soap.

Strawberry hemangioma

This is a bright or
dark red, raised or swollen, bumpy area that looks like a strawberry.
Hemangiomas are formed by a concentration of tiny, immature blood
vessels. Most of these occur on the head. They may not appear at birth,
but often develop in the first 2 months. Strawberry hemangiomas are more
common in premature babies and in girls. These birthmarks often grow in
size for several months, and then slowly fade. Nearly all strawberry
hemangiomas completely disappear by age 9.

Port wine stain

A port wine stain is
a flat, pink, red, or purple colored birthmark. They are caused by a
concentration of tiny dilated blood vessels called capillaries. They
usually occur on the head or neck. They may be small, or they may cover
large areas of the body. Port wine stains don’t disappear over time. Port
wine stains on the face may be linked to more serious problems.

Newborn breast swelling

Breast enlargement
may occur in newborn boys and girls around the third day of life. In the
first week, a milky substance, sometimes called witch’s milk, may leak
from the nipples. This is related to the mother’s hormones and goes away
within a few days to weeks.

Swollen genitals/discharge

Premature baby girls
may have a very prominent clitoris and inner labia. Full-term girls have
larger outer labia. Girls may have a small amount of whitish discharge or
blood-tinged mucus from the vagina in the first few weeks. This is a
normal occurrence related to the mother’s hormones.

Premature boys may
have a smooth, flat scrotum with undescended testicles. Boys born later
in pregnancy have ridges in the scrotum with descended testicles.