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Newborn Baby Appearance – 7 Things You May Not Expect

Newborn Baby Appearance – 7 Things You May Not Expect

Take that Hollywood image of a fresh-faced little cherub and throw it out the window.  If that’s what you’re expecting from your bundle of joy, you’re in for a surprise because quite frankly newborn babies look pretty weird.  I know several first time parents who expected the Hollywood image and were freaked out when their sweet baby arrived slimy and misshapen!  Fortunately most appearance quirks are totally harmless and resolve themselves quickly.  And I’m betting you’ll think they’re beautiful no matter how “different” they look!   Anyway here are some things to expect from your kiddo’s initial appearance:


  1. Babies come out covered head to toe in waxy whitish slime called vernix.  Some babies have just a thin coating while others are absolutely slathered in it.  Nate’s was so thick he looked like he was wearing body paint!  This stuff looks gross but is actually pretty awesome – it’s highly moisturizing, protective and anti-bacterial.  Some midwives actually delay baby’s first bath for a day or longer in order to reap the benefits vernix has to offer.
  2. If born vaginally, most newborns experience some facial swelling, especially around the eyes and nose.  Their head may also be elongated or oddly shaped due to being squeezed through the birth canal. This is especially true if mama spent a long time pushing.  This is normal and usually goes away within a day, often sooner.
  3. After their first bath, your babies’ skin may appear dry or scaly.  They may also have a case of baby acne (although acne is more common a couple weeks after birth).
  4. Many babies are born with body hair, most often on the back, shoulders or even face.  This hair, called lanugo, protected their skin in the womb and is especially common with babies who are born early.  It’s harmless and falls out on its own shortly after birth.
  5. Roughly 50% of newborns experience jaundice.  This is caused by a buildup of bilirubin and makes baby’s complexion appear overly tan or yellow.  Hospitals check bilirubin levels before discharging babies. Unless it’s excessively high or there are other complications it’s usually not a problem. Bilirubin is excreted through urine and poo so nursing frequently will help baby get rid of the excess.  Sunshine also promotes bilirubin breakdown so it helps to hold your little one near a sunny window a few times a day.
  6. Many babies are born with surprisingly long fingernails, sometimes they even scratch themselves in the womb!  It’s helpful to have a pair of baby scissors on hand to reduce scratching.  And while we’re on the subject, cutting newborns’ nails is intimidating!  Most moms I know feel more comfortable with baby scissors at first and then graduate to clippers when baby gets bigger.  Some moms forgo both at first and actually bite their baby’s nails.
  7. Finally, many people (myself included) are rather shocked by the size of their baby’s genitals.  Exposure to mom’s hormones in utero causes the labia in girls and the scrotum in boys to swell significantly.  Don’t worry, once the hormones leave their system they go down to a more normal size!

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