Appearance of babies

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Physical appearance of the newborn babies – How do babies look immediately after childbirth. Generally the physical appearance of the newborn babies is not the same as imagined or anticipated. In the first place, you perhaps wanted to have a boy whereas you got a girl. Or, may be you got a son instead of a daughter.

General physical appearance of the newborn babies explained !

You perhaps imagined the baby would resemble quite a lot the babies depicted on the picture postcards, glossy advertisements or calendars. Your baby, on the contrary, looks odd with a large head, dome-shaped abdomen, lean and thin buttocks and the skin covered with a waxy material.

All that you have to do is give him ample love and care.

Appearance of the Skin

The skin is covered with a yellowish-white, greasy (cheese-like) material called vernix caseosa. It was a natural protective covering to safeguard his skin while lying in the amniotic sac within the mother’s womb.
After birth, it need not be removed when the baby is cleaned. Let it be there for sometime. It will wash off with the first bath.

physical appearance of the newborn babies

If vernix is stained yellow, your doctor will notice it and act promptly to exclude haemolytic disease of the newborn. Incompatibility between mother’s and baby’s blood groups is responsible for this disease.

Once vernix peels off, the underlying skin shows up quite red and rather raw. Some desquamation of the skin may also occur making the raw areas and minor abrasions susceptible to a bacterial infection.

At places, particularly over the buttocks, you may find large bluish spots. These are the monogolian spots which have no significance and will disappear in due course on their own.


Compared to the body it is large and rather odd-looking because of the overriding and moulding it underwent during the birth process.

This odd shape need not panic the mother. In a few days the head will assume its normal rounded appearance.

On your part, see that you keep changing its position as the baby is asleep. This will provide the head uniform pressure on all sides and assist it in gaining its normal shape.

At times you may find a soft swelling over the area of the head which came out first. It is very transitory and will last no longer than a couple of days. It is termed caput succedaneum.

If you run your hand over the head, you will find that the bones of the skull are separated from each other by slight gaps called sutures.

If you examine the front of the skull, there is a large gap (diamond shaped and measuring 3×2 cm) at a point where the bones do not meet. This is known as anterior fontanelle which gives very useful information to the doctors.

It usually closes between 9 to 18 months of age.

physical appearance of the newborn babies

Its patency after 18 months of age usually points to vitamin D deficiency (rickets). Premature closure of anterior fontanelle along with that of skull sutures is associated with small head (microcephaly).

During dehydration, it gets depressed and during raised intracranial pressure (RICP), it starts bulging.

Similarly at the back is a much smaller gap, called posterior fontanelle which usually closes by the age of two months or so. Doctors do not attach as much importance to it as to the anterior one.


Most babies are born with lots of hair on the head. In some, especially in case of a premature baby, hair grows down the back of the neck and across the shoulders.

This hair is known as lanugo. It will fall off soon.

Hair on the scalp may also fall off during the first few weeks. This should not confused with baldness. Hair will regrow.


The baby after birth keeps the eyes closed most of the time. All newborns have blue eyes but after the first month change in colour may start occurring.

It will be difficult to predict the true permanent colour of the eyes until the baby is at least nine months of age.

Do not be upset if the baby gives an impression of a cross-eye, also called strabismus or squint. It is because of lack of coordination between the eye muscles. It is all normal for a newborn and for several later months.

physical appearance of the newborn babies


The baby sometimes may not move his tongue quite a lot. The condition is rare and, in any case, needs no interference until the age of three years. It does not cause speech defects.

You may find pale grey-coloured areas on the roof of the mouth or close to the palate and on the inner surface of the lips. These help the baby to fix his lips tightly around the mother’s nipple during breastfeeding.

Sometimes, a newborn may show eruption of one or two teeth.


The newborn’s belly is round and full, more so after a feed when it feels like a tight little drum. This is a perfectly normal appearance of the baby.

The stump of the navel does look very odd. It begins to dry up within 24 hours. It will drop off after five to ten days.

What it is going to leave as a remainder is the wrinkled ”button”, which when inverted will become the navel or the umbilicus. Never pull off the umbilical stump; it will bleed, inviting troubles. Let it fall off on its own.


Every other newborn has a swollen breast; even a drop of milk may appear from the nipples.

This is the same substance as secreted by the mother and is, in fact, the result of the mother’s hormones passing into the baby’s blood while inside the womb. The swelling and secretion will stop after a few weeks.

Make no attempt to squeeze the breasts.

Likewise, some female newborns may have a slight discharge as such or somewhat bloodstained discharge from the vagina a few days following the birth. This again needs no treatment.

In a full-term newborn, the breast nodule measures 5 to 7 mm. If the baby is born before 36 weeks of gestation, its diameter will be just 3 mm. Before a gestation of 33 weeks, it is simply not palpable.

External genitals

The foreskin over the tip of the penis may be tightly overriding the hole through which urine passes, making the latter very tight. This causes difficulty in passing urine.

Your doctor may like to give a little surgical cut and correct the minor defect. In case it is gross, called phimosis, the baby may need a small operation in which the foreskin is snipped and pushed back. This is called circumcision.

In some babies, testicles, the organs which will be responsible for the production of sperms in later life, are not palpable in the bag of skin behind the penis, the scrotum.

physical appearance of the newborn babies

Doctors usually do nothing about this problem at this stage. They follow the baby. In many cases, testicles do descend within a month; in others they may take longer.


On an average a newborn in the Western countries weighs about 3.4 kg, through the variation is considerable.

An average newborn in India and other Asian countries weighs less. Your doctor will give the baby special care in case he is less than 2.5 kgs.

He may need to be kept in an incubator, a temperature regulated apparatus in which low birthweight babies can be reared.

In the first seven days after birth, most newborns lose 100 per cent of the birth weight. By the 10th day weight loss is regained. After that a healthy infant gains about 200 gms every week.

The average length of a newborn baby is around 50 cm, most babies falling in the range of 45 to 53 cm.

The average circumference of head is about 35 cm.

Love and care of the infant ie: the emotional aspect, is of far greater importance than the physical appearance of the newborn baby.



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