Right after birth, the baby's eyes appear swollen and puffy. This too has to do with the endless hours spent in the amniotic fluid filled uterus and then later having to push their way through a 'rocky' path of the vaginal canal.
By Dr Vanshika Gupta Adukia
Dimpled cheeks, rosy lips, buttoned nose and all things perfect is what one imagines their newborn bundle of joy to ‘look’ like. Contrary to this, in the real world freshly delivered babies look far “different” than what we had pictured.
The little baby has spent a long time cramped in what would be the tiniest of spaces that he/she would ever live in (water filled uterus), and then probably spent a tedious couple of hours trying to push through the narrowest space (birth canal) that it would ever have to wriggle and squeeze its way through.
This and a lot more truly attribute to your newborn’s temporary but immediate post-birth appearance.
Disproportionately big and long, pointed head
Newborns arrive with their heads looking quite large for the size of their bodies. Additionally their oversized head looks long and pointy. All of these are characteristics, babies owe to the long hours spent in the birth canal pushing their way out into the world with the help of their heads (vaginal delivery). Eventually, the shape of the head will even out and the head proportion too will soon match that of the body.
Diamond-shaped space at the top of baby’s head
The ‘fontanelle’ or soft spot, as it is commonly known, is a space present both anteriorly and posteriorly in the baby’s head. These regions don’t have the bone fused together at birth so as to aid with gently pushing the baby’s way through the birth canal. The spaces are covered and protected by a tough membrane. Normally, the soft spot closes between 12-18 months as the rapid brain growth development is also occurring.
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Puffy swollen eyes
Right after birth, the baby’s eyes appear swollen and puffy. This too has to do with the endless hours spent in the amniotic fluid filled uterus and then later having to push their way through a ‘rocky’ path of the vaginal canal.
Gradually in a couple of days this will subside and in no way would it have any effect on your little one’s vision.
Newborn skin is thin, may appear to have a pale pinkish casting from the blood vessels running right underneath or in the initial couple of seconds right after birth appear to be bluish due to the temporary decrease in oxygen at birth.
Their skin may also have a cheesy white coating known as the vernix. This vernix is believed to protect and moisturise the baby’s skin from the amniotic fluid in the womb. Babies born early may have more of the cheesy looking substance on their skin, while those born a little late may appear to have their skin peeling off and wrinkled as the vernix has already begun to peel off. Some babies may be born with bluish or slate coloured pigmentation known as mongolion spots. These are harmless even though they may look like bruises and eventually fade away with time.
White, pimple-like bumps across your baby’s nose and cheeks
Known as milia, these are harmless sebaceous cysts that will subside gradually and must not be squeezed or picked on.
Newborn genitals, irrespective of their gender, may appear to be swollen and that is normal. Pregnancy hormones play a role in this and due to their effect this maybe a temporary situation at birth. There may even be a milky discharge from the nipples and, in girls, a vaginal discharge (sometimes bloody).
These temporary, yet unique newborn characteristics are something that every parent must witness after birth. Each of these characteristics is absolutely normal and must not be looked upon as a baby’s “cuteness” dampener as the effects will subside with time. Remember, your new little one is beyond precious.
(The writer is pregnancy, childbirth, lactation specialist and pelvic floor physiotherapist.)
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