After months of carrying your baby, you may feel like you already know them. Touching your belly, feeling their movements, and observing their alert and quiet periods are moments that can undoubtedly strengthen the bond between you and your baby. Nevertheless, nothing can prepare you for the exact moment when you see your baby’s face out of your womb for the first time.
As you attentively watch your baby during those first days, you may notice details that you had not stopped to observe at the moment of birth, such as the uniqueness of your baby’s hair, eyes, and skin. Your baby’s eye color may or may not remain the same it was at birth. For instance, for a baby born with blue eyes, their eye color likely changes, especially if they gradually become darker during the first six months. In contrast, those born with brown eyes tend to retain that color throughout life. Also, you may notice that some babies have blood-red spots in the whites of their eyes for the first few days, as well as a generalized puffiness on their face. This is entirely normal, and it usually resolves in a matter of days since they are temporary consequences of the pressure your baby experienced during labor. Babies delivered through C-section do not show this puffiness or these red spots.
At birth, your baby’s skin will appear very delicate and may show some signs of peeling. This peeling is totally okay and almost always resolves without the need for any medication. You should also know that despite their heritage, all babies are born with lighter-appearing skin. As the baby grows, their skin color will gradually darken. Also, at birth, your baby’s skin will likely be covered by thin hair called lanugo. This hair is generally present in the baby’s back and shoulders. It is produced during the final weeks of pregnancy and tends to fall before birth or quickly after.
You may also notice markings on your baby’s skin. Some of these may be a result of pressure, such as those around the diaper area. If you find scratches on your baby’s face, you should consider trimming their fingernails. This may appear like a daunting task, but you can always count on your pediatrician and their team to show you the best techniques to safely trim your baby’s fingernails. There are many other types of spots, marks, and rashes of varying sizes, colors, and shapes that could be present on your baby’s skin. Almost all of these markings are temporary, fade over the first few days to months, and are entirely harmless to your baby. However, it is always a good idea to consult your pediatrician about them.
The shape of your baby’s head may also change over time. Sometimes, babies’ head shape appears elongated during the first few days after birth. Babies can also show scalp swelling in the area that was pushed out first during delivery. This swelling is called caput, and it forms an indent when you gently press on the site. There is nothing to worry about it; it is not severe and disappears in a few days. If you notice swelling that does not leave an indent when gently pressed but bounces back when pressed, it is most likely a cephalohematoma. This kind of swelling is caused by high levels of pressure during labor, and while it does not harm your baby, it takes longer to disappear (about six to ten weeks).
When you touch your baby’s head, you will notice they have two soft spots, called fontanelles. These represent areas where the young bones of the brain are still growing and developing. There is a larger one towards the front and a smaller one towards the back. Do not be afraid to touch these spots because while they may appear fragile, your baby’s internal structures are very well protected by the robust membranes surrounding the brain.
When born, babies generally have hair. However, no two newborns are alike, and the texture, amount, and color of your baby’s hair will be unique. Almost all of your baby’s first hairs will fall throughout the first year and be replaced by stronger, more mature hair. It could also happen that the color and the texture of your baby’s mature hair look different when compared to their newborn’s hair.
Your baby’s physical appearance will keep evolving as they grow. Remember that while you may see hints of yourself or other family members in your baby, they are uniquely special. So will be their growth and development. If you have any doubts about how your baby looks and what is expected and what is not, do not hesitate to contact your pediatrician.