Is My Newborn Normal?
To help prepare you for those first hours, days, and weeks of life, here's a head-to-toe guide to newborn health.
Daniel Brennan, MD
The moment your newborn is delivered, you're bound to heave a heavy sigh of relief. But if you're like most first-time parents, that relief doesn't last long.
Unexpected birthmarks, a pulsating soft spot, jaundice, skin rashes, eyes that cross, head lumps and bumps: It can all be downright scary and can easily send new parents into panic mode.
"If you don't know what to expect, or especially if you are expecting that sort of 'Hollywood' version of the doll-perfect newborn, seeing and examining your baby for the first time can be quite shocking to some parents -- and even cause some serious anxiety attacks," says Tia Hubbard, MD, nursery pediatrician at the University of California at San Diego Medical Center.
But experts say no matter how frightening things may appear during those first hours or even days after birth, most if not all of what you see is temporary and a part of normal infant development.
Of course, experts say it's always a good idea to bring any disturbing or lasting newborn symptoms to your pediatrician's attention. To help calm your fears and prepare you for that first look at your little cherub, WebMD asked several experts to offer new parents a quick glimpse at the first few days and weeks of baby's life.
Your Baby, Head to Toe
If you've ever giggled through a Saturday Night Live "Coneheads" skit, then brace yourself. You may very soon be cradling your own little "cone head" in your arms!
"Following a vaginal birth, the baby's head is fairly elongated and cone-shaped, and parents are immediately worried that's the way the kid's head is going to be forever," says Steven P. Shelov, MD, chairman of pediatrics at Maimonides Medical Center in New York City, and director of the Maimonides Infants & Children's Hospital.
But Shelov says not only will the head shape change (usually within 48 hours or less) that cone shape you see at birth is quite normal.
"The bones of the skull of a newborn are intentionally mobile. The birth canal is tight, and the bones are meant to give, allowing the head to pass through, which is what actually causes that elongated shape," says Shelov.
Pediatrician Fred Hirschenfang, MD, says you should also be prepared for some swelling at the top of your newborn's head or sometimes even over the entire scalp.
The condition is caused by fluids that are squeezed into the area during a normal delivery. Sometimes, enough fluid collects so that when pressed lightly, you can even see a small indentation. But again, it's nothing to worry about.
"It will resolve pretty quickly, usually before the baby leaves the hospital," says Hirschenfang.
What may take a little longer to disappear, however, is a condition known as cephalohematoma, a collection of blood trapped between the skull and the lining. It frequently appears on day two of life and looks like an odd-shaped lump on the top of your newborn's head.