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Meeting your newborn
On your delivery day, you’ll finally be able to see the little person you’ve been waiting to meet for nine months! For some parents, this exciting mument can also be a bit upsetting.

Being born is a demanding process for a baby, and the journey doesn’t always result in a picture-perfect appearance. Be assured that most of the physical features that distress new parents will resolve in the first few hours or days. Here’s a rundown of what to anticipate when you first meet.

1) Swelling and Puffiness. Your baby could look a bit swollen in the first day or two, especially around the eyes. That’s because he’s born with a little extra fluid, nature’s way of keeping him hydrated until your milk is flowing well. As your baby’s body absorbs this fluid, he will lose a few ounces of weight. This is why all babies have a decrease in weight during the first couple of days. When your milk comes in (around day three) your baby will begin to regain the ounces he lost. Other areas that may appear swollen include the baby’s breasts and genital areas. This occurs in response to hormones your baby received from your body, and it will resolve in weeks.

2) Hair. Your baby may or may not have hair on his head. Any hair you see may later be replaced with hair of a different colour or texture. By contrast, his body may be covered in a soft carpet of very fine hair called lanugo. This soft fuzz could be dark or light and will fall off in the first month of life.

3) Head shape. Your baby’s head may be a different shape than you’d expect. Babies need to pass through a tight birth canal and the flexible infant skull is designed to make this passage easier. After a long labor, a baby may be born with a long, narrow head shape, the result of hours of trying to accommodate to the size and shape of your birth canal. There may be bruises on the skin or a swelling on the head (called a caput), resulting from the particular position the baby was in before and during delivery. If your baby’s head was somewhat misshapen by the birthing process, don’t worry - these are temporary changes. Within two weeks, your baby’s head will become rounder and any swellings or bruises will fade.

Other Changes. Other common newborn features resulting from delivery are a blotchy colouration to the skin, a misshapen or flattened nose (if the nose pressed against a firm surface prior to delivery) and a folded ear. Some babies are coated in a cheesy protective cream called vernix when they are born. This can be rubbed into the skin or washed off. Babies born after the expected due date may have skin that is beginning to peel, especially around the feet. And, if your amniotic fluid contained large amounts of meconium (a baby’s first bowel movement), your newborn could have an initial green tint to his skin.

There are other skin features that may be longer lasting. Café au lait spots are light brown or tan skin patches found on light-skinned babies. Mongolian spots are found on dark-skinned babies and appear as darkly coloured areas, sometimes with a green or blue tint, commonly near the buttocks, back or legs.

Some babies have what is known as a stork bite or salmon patch: reddened or pink skin on the back of the neck or head, eyelids, nose or forehead. These patches may fade until your baby cries, when they will look quite prominent again.

While your newborn might not initially look exactly as you imagined, the changes that occur over the next few days will be nothing short of amazing. You may wish to keep a photographic journal to remind you of these amazing transformations.
Laura E. Stachel M.D. Obstetrician & Gynecologist