Shaken Baby Syndrome

A large number of child deaths are reported in South Africa each year. A lot of deaths relate to neglect, abuse or murder. Despite this, there's a knowledge gap in relation to understanding the issue....

Amniotic fluid problems

The importance of amniotic fluid Amniotic fluid is essential for pregnancy and foetal development. Amniotic fluid is a watery substances residing inside a casing called the amniotic membrane or sac. ...

Choosing a pre-school

Becoming a parent is a momentous; life-changing event filled with hopes, expectations and naturally some fears. Parents often learn and grow alongside their children, as they face the challenges of pa...

Newborn reflexes

Although newborn babies are physically helpless and vulnerable at birth, they have a number of amazing innate abilities or reflexes. Reflexes are involuntary movements or actions, designed to protect ...

Mastitis

Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast that can lead to infection. The word “mastitis” is derived from the Greek word “mastos” meaning “breasts”, while the suffix “-itis” denotes “inflammation”. Ma...

Pelvic floor exercises

Although your new baby will probably bring you immense emotional satisfaction, physically you may feel uncomfortable and strange in your own skin. After 9 months of pregnancy and hormonal changes, you...

Colic

Babies cry because they need to communicate something and most parents, especially new moms, find it distressing to see or hear an unhappy baby. In time, you will learn to recognize the various causes...

Antenatal Classes

Antenatal classes are informative sessions provided to prepare expecting parents for the birth of their child and the early days of being a parent.Most antenatal classes are run by Midwives and occasi...

Strap-in-the-Future

The Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 was launched on the 11 May 2011. It is a global declaration of war against road crashes and fatalities. According to Mr Sibusiso Ndebele, MP Minister of ...

  • Shaken Baby Syndrome

    Tuesday, 21 July 2015 16:28
  • Amniotic fluid problems

    Thursday, 14 May 2015 12:54
  • Choosing a pre-school

    Friday, 10 April 2015 17:50
  • Newborn reflexes

    Tuesday, 03 March 2015 15:49
  • Mastitis

    Tuesday, 03 March 2015 15:41
  • Pelvic floor exercises

    Wednesday, 11 February 2015 17:20
  • Colic

    Wednesday, 11 February 2015 17:11
  • Antenatal Classes

    Monday, 03 June 2013 09:34
  • Strap-in-the-Future

    Thursday, 30 June 2011 13:52

Appearance

Newborns often do not look like you might expect them to. They may look a bit squashed, with flat noses, puffy eyes, wonky ears and an elongated head (if you have had a vaginal delivery). They may have hairy little bodies (called lanugo); they may have bald heads, or they can have a surprising amount of hair. They are often born covered with a white waxy layer (called vernix), especially if they are not full-term babies. Full-term babies will most likely have dry patchy skin.

 

Each newborn baby is unique, but many parents panic about their newborn’s appearance. Here is a breakdown of what to expect.

 

The head

The head of a baby is huge in comparison with the rest of its body. At birth it is ¼ of the total body length, compared to of the total length of an adult. A baby’s head may appear moulded. Moulding is the elongation of the shape of a baby’s head. It occurs when movable bones of the baby’s head overlap to help the baby pass through the mother’s birth canal. Normal shape usually returns by the end of the first week.

 

Fontanelles

Babies are born with 2 soft spots on the head, one in the front and one at the back. These gaps are covered with a thick protective membrane; it is fine to touch them gently. A baby’s heartbeat can often be seen in the front fontanelle.

 

Eyelids and eyes

Eyelids may be puffy from the pressure exerted on them during birth, but they recover quickly. Newborns often appear squint, but this nearly always disappears during the first few months.

 

Ears

The cartilage in the outer ear is very flexible in the newborn. Don’t worry if an ear looks folded – it will probably straighten out. If the problem persists, talk to your doctor.

 

Nose

At birth, the nose and mouth are often filled with mucus. After the delivery, your caregivers suction the baby’s airways with a rubber syringe to clear them and help your baby breathe. Babies often sneeze and snuffle a lot. This helps to clear the nasal passages and is not necessarily a sign of a cold.

 

Skin

A newborn may have red marks on the neck and head which are sometimes referred to as ‘stork bites’. There may also be spots, rashes and peeling skin. All these marks will start to disappear as the baby adapts to life outside the womb. Mottling of the skin is also common and is caused by the immaturity of the circulatory system.

 

Milia are tiny, white hard spots that look like pimples on a newborn’s nose. They may also appear on the chin and forehead. Milia form from oil glands and disappear on their own. When they occur in a baby’s mouth and gums, they are called Epstein pearls.

 

Mongolian spots are blue or purple coloured splotches on the baby’s lower back and buttocks. Over 80% of African, Asian and Indian babies have Mongolian spots. The spots are caused by a concentration of pigmented cells. They usually disappear in the first 4 years of life.

 

Erythema toxicum is a red rash on newborns that is often described as ‘flea bites’. The rash is common on the chest and back, but may be found all over. About half of all babies develop this condition in the first few days of life. It is less common in premature babies. The cause is unknown but it is not dangerous. Erythema toxicum does not require any treatment and disappears by itself in a few days.

 

About 1/5 of newborns develop pimples in the first month. These usually appear on the cheeks and forehead. It is thought that they are caused by maternal hormones and they usually disappear within a few months. Do not try to break open or squeeze the pimples as this can lead to infection.

 

Strawberry haemangiomas are bright or dark red, raised or swollen bumpy areas which resemble a strawberry. They are formed by a concentration of tiny, immature blood vessels and occur mostly on the head. They may not appear at birth, but often develop in the first 2 months. They are more common in premature babies and in girls. These birthmarks often grow in size for several months, and then gradually being to fade. Nearly all strawberry haemangiomas completely disappear by 9 years of age.

 

A Port wine stain is a flat, pink, red or purple coloured birthmark which is caused by a concentration of dilated tiny blood vessels called capillaries. They usually occur on the head or neck and may be small or may cover large areas of the body. Port wine stains do not change colour when pressed gently and do not disappear over time. They may become darker and may bleed when the child is older or as an adult. Port wine stains on the face may be associated with more serious problems. Skin-coloured cosmetics may be used to cover small stains, but the most effective way of treating them is with a special type of laser. This is done by a plastic surgeon when the baby is older.

 

Belly button

Shortly after birth the umbilical cord is clamped and cut. The piece that remains behind will dry out and will fall off of its own accord, normally within 10 days but it may take longer – up to 3 weeks. The navel may still bleed slightly after the cord has fallen off. Keep cleaning the navel with surgical spirits or calendula oil. A good rule of thumb is to clean the umbilical cord every time you change your baby’s nappy.

 

Breasts and genitals

In 4 or 5 of every 100 newborn babies there is a discharge of milk from the nipples. This is caused by the mother’s hormones that cross the placenta barrier during pregnancy. This may occur in both girls and boys and will disappear within a few weeks.

 

Babies’ genitals look disproportionately large, especially the scrotum. This is perfectly normal. A boy’s scrotum may be smooth and barely big enough to hold the testicles, or may be large and wrinkled. The testicles can move in and out of the scrotum. Sometimes they will retract as far as the base of the penis; as long as they are located in the scrotum most of the time this is normal. Girls may have a clear white or slightly reddish vaginal discharge cause by maternal hormones.

 

Arms and legs

The arms and legs of a newborn commonly look bowed or bent. Because their bones are pliable, they bend to fit snugly in the uterus. The limbs gradually straighten as muscle tone improves and they begin to use their limbs purposefully. Some blueness of the hands and feet is normal and may continue for a few weeks. However, a continuous blue colour of the lips and tongue may indicate a heart or lung condition and should be reported to the paediatrician. Finger and toenails are often quite long at birth and may look ingrown.

 

Weight

A baby’s weight will decrease after birth by about 5% - 10%. This is perfectly normal and is caused by the reduced intake of fluids and by the amount of energy a baby uses in order to feed. Babies usually return to their birth weight within 10-20 days.