Factfile: What Physical Oddities Say About Your NewBorn

Factfile: What Physical Oddities Say About Your NewBorn




Uneven color: A newborn has pinkish-red skin because it is very thin and the underlying blood vessels show through. Its color is uneven; sometimes red, sometimes pale. Hands and feet may appear bluish when the baby is lying because his blood circulation is not yet fully efficient and his extremities do not receive enough blood. But as you pick him up, the skin color will even out.

Spots: The skin is too delicate and may be damaged easily. Because skin pores do not work efficiently yet, the skin develops spots.

Common among these spots are neonatal urticaria, consisting of red blotchy spots with tiny red centers that may come and go in most body parts; milia or milk spots, the tiny white spots on the nose and cheeks that may last for several weeks; and toxic erythema or irregular red blotches that look like a collection of insect bites, but is not deadly.

Blue patches: called Mongolian blue spots, these are temporary accumulations of pigment under the skin of babies who have fairly dark skin.

Birth marks: there are many kinds but only a doctor can tell if one is an ordinary kind that vanishes with time. Red marks, on the other hand, arise from pressure during birth and will vanish within a few days.

Peeling: most new babies peel on the palms and soles and have extra dry skin. If there is cracking, use hypoallergenic lotion.

Scurf of the scalp: Thick layers of brownish scales found on the baby’s scalp are cradle cap, not dandruff. They spread to the baby’s eyebrows and behind the ears. If they persist, massage his scalp with olive oil or petroleum jelly and then shampoo his hair.



Any amount of hair on the baby’s head is normal. However, babies who are born late may have naturally coarse hair. But they will fall out and be replaced later. Color and texture of new hair may be different.

When it comes to body hair, babies are covered with a fine fuzz of hair called lanugos while in the womb. Babies born preterm still show traces of hair on the shoulder and spine but these would fall off in the first week or two.



Odd shape: a baby’s skull gives or adjusts under pressure. Unassisted labor may elongate his head while forceps may leave bruises. Vacuum extraction leaves a doughnut-shaped swelling on the top of his head.

Fontanel: if the fontanel, the soft portion of the center of the top of his head, is sunken, that means he is dehydrated (usually due to very hot weather, diarrhea, or fever). Breast-feed him. If it appears tight and bulges out when he is not crying, see a doctor. It may be a sign of illness.



Squinting: babies squint or narrow their eyes in the early days of life. That’s what you think. But as you examine your baby closely, you will see that he has folds of skin that gather in the inner corner of the eyes. This is why his eyes wonder without focus every time he looks at you. However, the skin folds become less and less noticeable in the coming days. By six months old, he would have learned to focus his eyes.

However, if you notice that your baby has a true or fixed squint, consult a doctor. Look for these signs: his two eyes cannot focus on the same object and instead of moving together, they move out of sync.

Swollen, puffy eyes: These are common during the first hours after birth. The swelling makes it difficult for your baby to open his eyes, but it will soon get better. If not, consult a pediatrician.

Watery eyes: Newborns usually don’t shed tears when they cry. But if the tear ducts have not fully opened to allow tears to drain away via the nose, babies may shed tears even if they are not crying. Ducts usually open as he turns one year old.

Sticky eyes: Yellowish discharge crusting on the lids and lashes suggests mild infection resulting from contact with blood during delivery. It is known as sticky eyes. Though not serious, it may require a visit to the pediatrician for appropriate eye drops or solution.



Discharge: while it is normal for babies to produce wax, an antiseptic protection for the ear canal, it is abnormal for them to produce discharge. If it is wax you are seeing, fine. But if it is pus, treatment should be done. However, never poke inside the baby’s ear because you may damage his eardrum. Consult a doctor instead.

Protruding ears: some babies have ears that stick out, but that is not a cause for alarm. Newborns have soft and pliable ears that eventually look different once hair grows on their head.



Tongue-tied: A baby’s tongue is anchored on a great proportion of its length. However, in some babies, the anchoring fold of the skin is too long that the baby cannot move his tongue freely. By the first year, a baby’s tongue should be fully mobile.

Blisters on upper lip: They are called sucking blisters and are found in formula-fed babies. However, they eventually vanish and are not serious.

White tongue: It is normal in babies because they are fed only with milk. But white patches on an otherwise pink tongue may indicate infection or illness.

Fluid-filled papules: They are harmless cysts or yellowish spots visible on the baby’s gum. Although they look disturbing , they are harmless and will clear up without treatment.



Swollen breasts: It is normal for babies, boy, girl, to have swollen breasts during the first three to five days after birth. This is because hormones supposedly intended for the mother also get to the baby. The swelling will subside soon, as the baby rids itself of unwanted hormones.



Cord stump: If you see any sign of infection like redness or discharge, consult a doctor as soon as possible.

Umbilical hernia: A little swelling close to the navel that sticks out when the baby cries is not normal, it is caused by a slight weakness of the muscles in the wall of the abdomen that allows its contents to bulge forward. Doctors believe it will heal quickly if it is not strapped up.



The genitals of babies, boy or girl, appear larger of birth. This is because hormones from mother cross the placenta and enter the baby’s bloodstream and cause swelling. The scrotum may look red or inflamed. But you have nothing to worry about as the inflammation and swelling will subside during his setting period.

Undescended testes: A boy’s testes develop from the abdomen. They descend into the scrotum before birth and may go up when touched by cold hands. However, they will descend on their own.

Tight foreskin or phimosis: The penis and foreskin develop from a single bud in the fetus. They are fused at birth but separate during the first few years of life. Thus, having a tight foreskin is no big deal.

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