Meet Your New Baby
Nothing compares to the strong emotions of love and attachment you feel when you first gaze upon your newborn. After nine long months, you can’t help but marvel at Baby’s little fingers and toes. But life in the cramped quarters of the womb and an arduous journey into the outside world sometimes leave their mark on a newborn. These marks are what protect and support babies along the way, and many moms are surprised to see them.
Don’t be shocked to see your new baby with discolored skin, which may look reddish or bright pink, and may be blotchy. Unless you have a very large baby, the skin itself may also be wrinkled, loose, and scaly in some places. Baby’s hands and feet may appear bluish due to an immature blood circulation.
African, Indian, and Asian babies are often born with gray or bluish patches on the lower back and buttocks; called Mongolian spots, these usually disappear over the course of the first year. Other marks you may notice are vernix, a cheesy covering on your baby’s skin; tiny white spots called milia around his nose and chin; and possibly even a fine hair, the lanugo, around his neck, back, and shoulders.
Head and Face
Your baby has just passed through a relatively narrow passageway, your pelvis, and as a result her head may be asymmetrical and a little swollen. Your baby’s face may be affected, too; she may have puffy eyes and swollen eyelids, a pushed-in nose, and funny looking ears. Depending on your baby’s hair, you may even be able to see a pulse at her soft spot, or fontanel—an area where the skull bones are still growing together.
Hair and Eyes
Babies are sometimes born with hair, but this hair often falls out and is replaced by permanent hair three to four months later, often a completely different color. Eye color can also change within the first year. Most Caucasian babies are born with blue eyes, while babies of African or Asian heritage often have dark brown eyes. You can usually predict what color eyes baby will have by the time he’s six months old.
That’s Not a Belly Button
Immediately after your baby is born, the doctor will cut the umbilical cord to about an inch and treat it with an antiseptic. This is where your baby’s belly button will develop. It is important to keep the stump clean and dry to prevent infection.
Sounds and Sights
Studies have shown that newborns, who hear their mothers’ voices for several months in utero, turn toward their mommies when they speak. Babies respond to soft, higher-pitched voices and soothing, gentle rhythms. During the first few days, your baby’s eyes will most often be closed, but soon her eyes will stay open for longer periods. She is visually attracted to high-contrast patterns and shapes that are round. In her first month, she will be able to see up to about eight to 10 inches away—the distance between a nursing baby and her mommy’s face.
Hold on Tight
Your baby is born with survival reflexes that have evolved over the years. It’s likely you have already seen a baby turn his head, searching or rooting for breast or bottle. Or if he is startled, he will quickly extended his arms to grab hold of you. Another reflex is a baby’s strong grip. Put your finger in his palm and feel him grab on; he is not going to let go.
Diapers, Diapers, and More Diapers
Think of diaper changing as a bonding time when your baby watches you closely, listens to you talk or sing, and feels your gentle touch. From her perspective, this is an intimate way for Mommy or Daddy to meet an important need and make her feel warm and comfy again.
No matter how much you prepare, no new parent is ready for the overwhelming feelings of hearing her new baby cry . . . and cry . . . and cry. Most infants spend up to seven percent of their day crying—an involuntary response to some sort of discomfort. Early on, parents develop a mental checklist: When did baby last eat? Is it time to check the diaper? Does baby need to burp? Is the baby sleepy? Is there too much stimulation in the environment? Remember, crying is your baby’s primary form of communication, and responding promptly to his cry is a way of communicating your love and support.