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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.

Surprises Down Under

No matter how prepared you are for most newborn "surprises," there's hardly a parent alive who isn't just a little shaken up when they gaze at their baby's genitals for the first time.

That's because they are usually abnormally large. In fact they are much larger and darker in color than you might expect on any child.

"In boys, swelling of the scrotum can be quite impressive and the tissue very red. In girls, the vulva is extremely swollen and also darker in color, both largely the result of the mother's hormones," says Shelov.

Something else that takes most parents by surprise is that baby girls often have a white vaginal discharge following birth, as well as one or two days of blood streaks.

"The vaginal mucosa is very hormone sensitive, so once the mother's hormones are out of the baby's system, there will be a little bleeding. It usually occurs within 72 hours and then stops," says Shelov. The enlarged genitals in boys and girls lasts a bit longer -- about a month.

When it comes to the umbilical cord, Hirschenfang says many new parents get a little bit hysterical. It typically falls off within seven to 10 days, resulting in a temporary bloody discharge.

"It's nothing to worry about. Just try to diaper below the cord so no urine sits on it, and don't bathe your baby in a tub of water until the cord falls off and there is no more discharge," he says.

And while he says the cord area can be red or smell just a bit "gamy," neither problem is cause for alarm. Touching the cord doesn't cause baby any pain!

"As with most issues with newborns -- including hiccups and excess gas and spitting up -- it hurts the parents more than the baby, in terms of worry and fear. In most instances, the baby is just fine, and when left alone, most if not all of these newborn problems clear quickly," he says.

The bottom line: Trust Mother Nature -- she knows what she's doing!

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Reviewed on September 24, 2013
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