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Your Baby's Physical Development: The First Week

If you've never seen a brand new baby before, your newborn's appearance could surprise you. She might have a long, pointy head, puffy eyes, a flattened nose, and bluish or grayish skin. These are all normal and common conditions for a newborn.

The Marks Of Being Born
The molding of your baby's head and flattening of her nose are the results of her trip through the narrow birth canal. Her eyes may be puffy and red and the top of her head may have been bruised during birth. For some babies, puffiness around the eyes is a reaction to the silver nitrate drops that are usually given at birth. Both puffiness and molding will go away over a period of days. Your baby's skin color should also take on a healthier look.

Temporary Features
Your baby may have a full head of hair that sticks straight out or lies flat, or she may have little or no hair at all. The hair color she's born with may be different from her permanent hair color. Her body might be covered in a soft layer of dark fine hair, called lanugo, which she will lose during her first months.

Her legs may be bent or curved in; the shape comes from the cramped conditions in the uterus. They'll straighten out gradually. The skin on her hands and feet may appear dry and peeling.

Newborn Jaundice
Sometime during her first few days, your baby might develop jaundice--very common condition in newborns. As her immature liver becomes more efficient in dealing with the leftover red blood cells she needed before birth, the jaundice will decrease, usually during the second week. If you breastfeed your baby, the jaundice may last longer. Your pediatrician can give you extensive information if your baby is jaundiced.

The Effects Of Hormones
The placenta releases female hormones right before birth. Because of this, many newborns, both male and female, are born with swollen breasts. In some babies, the genitals are enlarged. There may be a milky substance coming from your baby's breasts and she may have some vaginal bleeding. (Boys don't bleed as a result of hormones.) These are all normal effects that will go away within a few weeks.

Your Baby's Weight
During her first week, your baby probably will not show a great deal of growth. It is common for a baby to lose weight during the first few days and then begin to regain it. By the end of the first week, she will probably be close to her birth weight again.
Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education