Aww, sweetly cherubic faces and pink rounded babies. That’s what we all envision when we think about lotion-y smelling newborns. However, that’s not the case when babies are... fresh. As in, fresh just from within mom and not cleaned off yet. In fact, babies right after delivery can look barely human. They’re covered in goop and mom's fluids; they have heads that aren’t shaped like anything adults can relate to, and they can even be covered in a layer of fine fur. Is this the beautiful baby? Why yes, it is, or at least it will be.
Underneath all that gunk and strange behavior is most likely a perfectly healthy, handsome baby. Newborns are put through quite the gauntlet at birth (not unlike Mom) and if they come out with some marks from the struggle, who’s to blame them? Those crossed eyes and trembling limbs will fade with time and loving care, as will the patchy skin and cheesy texture. Sound icky? Well, it is, kind of. It’s also a miraculous beginning to new life which really couldn’t be any cooler. Humans have evolved to make this process of birth and newborn-hood easier, and we’ll tell readers how, and what’s normal, in the list below.
19 Babies Are Born Soaked
Babies swim comfortably in warm amniotic fluid throughout a woman’s pregnancy. Think of it as a sort of perfected hot tub nature honed specifically for fetal growth. Now, when the baby is born, they are still very wet from that hot tub. Just like anyone hopping out of a pool, babies can get cold very easily and need to be dried and kept warm. The hospital can provide blankets and warming lamps, but the mother’s skin is best right after birth. This skin-to-skin contact is vital for bonding as well as reducing crying and stress following delivery. This is according to Standford Children’s Health, a US News Best Children’s Hospital award winner.
18 That Will Eventually Be A Belly Button
It’s featured so often in media, the moment where Dad gets to cut baby’s umbilical cord and start the process of the lungs working without relying on the placenta. However, it rarely goes this way. Often the doctor clamps and cuts the cord, making sure everything is sterile. A small piece will still be attached to the baby, as the two are connected and cannot be separated at this time without hurting the little one. Parents will have to keep this bit of chord dry and make sure diapers don’t rub against it or expose it to urine. Baby Center says in seven or more days the dried stump will fall off, leaving a raw looking but perfectly normal belly button behind.
17 Cesarean May Mean Extra Suctioning
If Mom has either a scheduled or emergency C-section, the baby may need to spend a few extra minutes with the doctor and nurses having their nasal passages and mouth suctioned clear of fluid. Why? VBAC.com tells us it’s because contractions help prepare a baby’s body to begin breathing on their own, readying the baby’s body to clear and absorb some of the liquid itself. Since many scheduled c-section babies don’t experience contractions with the mother, their bodies never receive the signals to start preparing for life outside the womb. Only very occasionally does additional, deeper suctioning of the windpipe have to take place. This is usually done in the operating room near the mother.
16 Eye Drops For Baby
As the baby is receiving that initial clean up and Apgar testing, a nurse will rub ointment on baby’s eyes if you consent to it. While this certainly acts like an irritant, it can be necessary if MOm has certain infections. Specifically, this ointment prevents issues caused by chlamydia and gonorrhea. Children’s MD says that parents are free to decline this treatment since it isn’t medically necessary for everyone—despite the fact that it’s dished out to every newborn routinely. Early onset eye infections can cause lifelong blindness from these maternal infections, though.
15 There’s A Bowel Countdown
Once the baby is born, nurses are going to want to know when that first meconium diaper hits. People often wonder—if my baby hasn’t eaten a thing yet on his/her own, what is this messy diaper made of? We can answer that. Meconium is made up of anything baby could have ingested while swimming in the womb. Parents says this includes skin cells, some amniotic fluid and the lanugo (fine fetal hair) that baby shed before birth. Seem icky? It is to some. Meconium is sticky, dark and very much like tar. To help with the cleanup of this inevitable first, a parent may want to put a very fine layer of Waxelene across the baby’s bottom and lower back.
14 Fingernails May Or May Not Be Ready For A Trim
Every once in a while, someone still says that it’s best to bite the baby’s too long fingernails off after birth. This is not true or sanitary. Baby fingernails will be softer than an adult’s and more flexible. However, babies can still scratch with them, a sensation unpleasant for them when they get it—and for Mom if she’s breastfeeding. Baby Center claims that the best time to cut a baby’s nails is while he or she is sleeping and therefore unlikely to jerk away. Use specialty baby clippers that are for sale anywhere baby gear can be purchased (there are even some electric trimmers that take most of the guesswork out of it).
13 What’s That White Stuff?
While parents may picture their just-born baby all pink, round, and clean, this is certainly not how babies come out of the womb. Usually, babies are covered in a thick, almost cheese-like substance from head to toe. What is it? Parents says it’s called vernix caseosa, a substance that protects baby’s developing skin from the acidic environment inside the womb. This substance is loaded with beneficial bacteria and should actually be rubbed into the skin, rather than wiped off. Vernix also serves Mom well. Its slippery texture helps a baby smoothly exit the birth canal, a benefit only humans derive since we’re the only animals that produce vernix during pregnancy. Be jealous, giraffes!
12 Baby May Become A Glowworm
One thing babies are checked regularly for while under the hospital’s care is jaundice. The condition can affect baby’s coloring and can usually be treated with a twofold system. The nurses can place a light on the baby, underneath clothes and blankets. This light makes a swaddled infant look that 1980’s toy every little girl wanted. Parents advises Mom to also continue frequently breastfeeding, as having more bowel movements can help the baby’s body rid itself of the substance that causes jaundice, called bilirubin. In rarer and more severe cases, the baby may also receive a transfusion of a blood protein that can treat jaundice.
11 Baby Begins To get smaller
While Mom immediately loses six or so pounds, plus the weight of whatever blood loss there is, the baby also begins to slim down. KidsHealth says that all babies will presumably lose anywhere from seven to ten percent of their birthweight in the days following delivery. This is due to excess fluid that their bodies are expelling as well as very small stomach capacity those first few days. It can take Mom’s body some time to start milk production, a problem which is usually dealt with by increased skin-to-skin contact and frequent attempts at breastfeeding. After about two weeks, it’s expected that the baby will have gained back the lost weight.
10 Baby May Be Surprisingly Hairy
Remember how we said that first meconium is made up partly of hair baby shed while in the womb? It’s very common for the baby to not have gotten rid of it all. This can lead to a baby being born with a surprising amount of hair down the back, across the shoulders and even on the face. It’s no cause for alarm. This hair—technically called lanugo—will fall off on its own. Made Of warns parents of a myth that the hair can and should be rubbed off. Don’t do this. It will come off by itself shortly after birth and excessive rubbing will only cause skin irritation.
9 Jerking A Bit Is Normal
Baby can be sleeping perfectly peacefully and then... twitch. It can look like an uncoordinated spasm, but it’s probably not. This phenomenon is called the startle/Moro reflex and doctors and scientists alike aren’t exactly sure why humans do this (some adults even do it in their sleep). The leading theory is that, when humans were tree and high place dwellers, the startle reflex kept us from falling out of trees when in a deep sleep. The Bump says the best way to help baby calm this very normal twitching is to swaddle securely but never too tightly around the hips, which can cause dysplasia.
8 What’s That On Baby’s Head?
Baby’s skin has to adjust to the outside world. While it receives extra help from vernix (which was mentioned before) and lanugo, it still can get a bit wonky trying to transition into our world from the womb. Cradle cap is one symptom of that. It can appear oily, yellowy, and even scaly. Surprisingly, while the head is the most common location for cradle cap, it also can show up on almost any other part of the baby. Mustela informs parents not to use dandruff shampoo, which is much too harsh for a newborn’s skin. Instead, expect baby’s body to stabilize on its own, usually before the kiddo’s first birthday.
7 A Not-Round Head
He’s not a Neanderthal! Yet, he or she may have a very cone-shaped head. Why? It’s a tight squeeze in the birth canal and many a baby is further compressed when having to rub over Mom’s pelvic bone. WebMD advises that this is totally normal and usually corrects itself within 48 hours. In fact, the bones in the baby’s head are designed to shift to allow for that passage through such a cramped space. Interestingly, this only shows in babies who have been birthed without surgical help. Babies born via Cesarean will not have the cone-shaped head since they did not experience the journey through the birth canal.
6 All that sneezing: It’s Not Allergies
Newborns can start sneezing right away and may spend their first few days in the world outside ah-chooing. Breathing for the first time through the nose means encountering particles for the first time, too. Such new (and itchy!) things can cause the baby to sneeze. Also, The Bump encourages us to remember that newborns are still trying to clear leftover fluid from the respiratory system. Those sneezes are doing hard work to help the baby adjust to this big, new world! If taken outside, babies often sneeze in the sun. Why? We’re not sure, but it’s called the “photic sneeze reflex.”
5 Are You Looking At Me?
Newborns aren’t the best at focusing. In fact, their eyes tend to drift crossed pretty often. When they’re born they can only see between eight to twelve inches from their face, which makes seeing Mom or Dad’s loving expression great but focusing on anything else patently difficult. Baby Center reminds parents that newborn eye crossing is quite common, as the eyes are still coordinating with each other and looking long distances for the first time (there just wasn’t that much to see inside Mom’s belly). This phenomenon can happen all the way up until the baby is four months old.
4 Rarely Awake
While newborns are generally born awake and alert, they fall into deep sleep in the hours following birth, especially if Mom is able to breastfeed in the delivery room and baby goes to bed with a fully fed tummy. Even while in the hospital new parents can worry that their baby is simply asleep too much. However, there is typically nothing to worry about. Newborns sleep a lot. Healthline says that newborns can sleep up to eighteen hours a day, a pattern which they probably developed while being warm and comfortable in the womb. Remember as well that, during the final months of pregnancy, there wasn’t much room for baby to move. This left sleep as baby’s most frequent activity.
3 Not Cold, Why Are You Trembling?
It may seem like your baby is shaking or trembling despite being wrapped up and warm. Is this cause for concern? Parents says not at all; extra movements that we may interpret as quivering are normal as the baby’s neurological system and brain pathways continue to grow outside the womb. In fact, newborn brains send more electrical impulses to the extremities than older people experience, an unnecessary number. This will fade as the baby’s brain and body adapt to and coordinate in the world outside. To stop a limb from trembling? Simply touch it to stimulate nerve response. Who doesn’t need an excuse for more baby cuddles?
2 He May Get snipped (If You Choose)
Circumcision is an optional procedure and while now mostly done in hospitals, some parents opt to have a religious ceremony around the surgery. What To Expect warns parents that after the procedure the raw area should not be cleaned with a wipe. Instead, a gentle sponge bath free of any soap is suggested A doctor may also tell parents caring for a little boy post-surgery to keep antibiotic ointment on hand to dab on the area before covering with a clean diaper. That said, just as many parents are opting out of this procedure now as are opting in—and the rates continue to go down over the years. Why? As it turns out, it’s purely cosmetic and the medical benefits we once thought it carried have been disproven.
1 She’ll Get A Mini-Period
This can be jarring if a parent isn’t preemptively prepared. Little girls—exposed for nine months to their mother’s hormones—often produce a discharge from their private parts that includes blood. KidsHealth refers to this phenomenon as a “mini-period” that can lest a few days after birth. Don’t worry. The blood is from baby’s uterus and will cease as soon as the little one is rid of the last remaining bits of Mom’s estrogen. Normal diaper care is fine in this instance, and baby wipes can be used without hesitation, unlike after a circumcision—which is illegal to perform on females in the States anyway.
References: Stanford Children’s Health, Baby Center, VBAC.com, Childrens MD, Parents, What To Expect, KidsHealth, Made Of, Baby Center, Parents, Parents, KidsHealth, The Bump, Mustela, WebMD, The Bump, Baby Center, Healthline, Parents