Caring for Your Baby and Youn: Birth to Age 5
By Steven P. Shelov, M.D., The American Academy of Pediatrics
After all the months of pregnancy, you may believe that you already know your baby. You've felt his kicks, monitored his quiet and active periods during the day, and run your hands over your abdomen as he nestled in the womb. Although all of this does bring you closer to him, nothing can prepare you for the sight of his face and the grip of his fingers around yours.
For the first few days after his birth, you may not be able to take your eyes off him. Watching him, you may see hints of yourself or other members of the family reflected in his features, but despite any distinct resemblance, he is uniquely special-unlike anyone else. And he'll have a definite personality all his own that may start making itself known immediately. As he turns and stretches, only he knows what HE wants and feels.
Some babies waste no time protesting wet or messy diapers from the day they are horn and complain loudly until they are changed, fed, and rocked hack to sleep. Infants who behave like this not only tend to spend more time awake than other babies, but they also may cry and car more. Other newborns won't seem to notice when their diapers are dirt)' and may be more likely to object to having their bottoms exposed to the cold air during changes. These babies tend to sleep a for and eat less frequently than their more sensitive counterparts. These kinds of individual differences are both normal and can serve as early hints of your child's future personality.
Some mothers say that after so many months of the baby being in their wombs, it becomes difficult to view their baby as a separate human being, with thoughts, emotions, and desires of his own. Making this adjustment and respecting their baby's individuality, however, are important parts of being a parent. II parents can welcome their child's uniqueness from the time he is born, they'll have a much easier time accepting the person the baby will become in the years ahead.
How Your Newborn Looks
As you relax with your baby in your own room, unwrap his blankets and examine him from head to toe. You'll notice many details that may have escaped you in the first moments after birth. For instance, when your baby opens his eyes, you'll see their color. While many Caucasian newborns have blue eyes, the color may actually change over the first year. If a baby's eyes are going to turn brown, they'll probably become "muddy"-looking during the first six months; if they're still blue at that time, they'll probably remain so. In contrast, infants with dark-skinned heritage generally have brown eyes at birth, and they tend to remain that color throughout life.
You may notice a bloodred spot in the white area of one or both of your newborn's eyes. This spot, as well as the general puffiness of a newborn's face, are most commonly caused by pressures exerted during labor. Although you might find them a bit worrisome at first, fortunately both tend to fade in a few days. If your baby was delivered by C -section, he won't have this puffiness and the whites of his eyes should not have any red spots right from the start.
Bathed and dry, your baby's skin will seem very delicate. If he was born after his due date, it may peel and appear wrinkled as a result of having lost the vernix (a whitish, creamy substance covering the skin). It he was born on time or early, he may still peel a little as a newborn because of his skin's sudden exposure to air after the vernix is washed away. Either way, peeling skin is a normal newborn process and requires no treatment. All babies, including those with a dark-skinned heritage, have lighter-appearing skin at birth. This gradually darkens as they become older.
As you examine your baby's shoulders and back, you also may notice some fine hair, called lanugo. This hair is produced toward the end of pregnancy; however, it's usually shed before birth or soon thereafter. If your baby was born before his due dare, he is more likely to still have this hair, and it may take a couple of weeks to disappear.
You also may notice a lot of pink spots and marks on your baby's skin. Some, like those that appear around the edges of his diaper, may simply be due to pressure. Mottled or blotchy-looking patches are commonly caused by exposure to cool air and will disappear quickly if you cover him again. If you find scratches, particularly on your baby's face, it serves as a good reminder that it's time to trim his fingernails. This will help prevent him from continuing to scratch himself as he randomly moves his hands and arms. For some new parents, this can seem like a monumental and nerve-racking task, so don't hesitate to ask for advice from the nurse at the hospital nursery, or at your pediatrician's office, or from anyone else with experience on how to clip an infant's nails. Your baby also may develop other newborn rashes and have some birthmarks. Most will fade or resolve on their own without treatment (although some birthmarks may be permanent).