As you hold your precious newborn for the first time, you may notice some surprising things about their appearance and behaviors. Don't be alarmed—many of the quirks you'll observe in those first few weeks are perfectly normal and temporary as your baby transitions to life outside the womb.

Newborn Skin Conditions

Your little one will likely be covered in vernix, a white, creamy substance that protected their delicate skin during the nine months in the womb. You may also see some downy lanugo hair on their back and shoulders, which will disappear soon after birth.

Don't be concerned if your baby's skin appears mottled with reddish and pale areas, or if their hands, feet, and lips look blue-tinged at first. Their skin may also become flushed and deep red during crying episodes. Little scratches, bruises, and petechiae (tiny blood spots) are normal and fade within a week or two as your baby recovers from the birthing process.

Birthmarks and Rashes

Common birthmarks like salmon patches (pink or red marks), Mongolian spots (flat blue or blue-green patches), and moles or cafe-au-lait spots may be present. While most are harmless, point out any unusually large or strangely-shaped marks to your pediatrician.

Short-lived rashes are also typical in the newborn stage, including:

  • Milia: Small white bumps on the nose and chin from clogged pores
  • Miliaria: Also known as baby acne with red bumps on the face and body
  • Erythema toxicum: Flat red splotches with pale or yellow bumps at the center

Jaundice (or the "yellow glow")

In the first 1-2 weeks, your baby may develop a yellowish tint to their skin and the whites of their eyes. This is called newborn jaundice and is very common as their liver gets into full working mode. While normal, your pediatrician will monitor bilirubin levels in case treatment is needed for severe jaundice.

Newborn Features

Many newborns arrive with puffiness and distortion in their facial features from the pressures of delivery. This will smooth out within a few days. Their ears may also appear misshapen or folded temporarily before developing more cartilage. Expect some eye crossing and squinting until eye muscle control and focus improves over the next couple months.

Noisy, congested breathing is common in newborns due to their tiny nasal passages. You may notice harmless white mouth cysts called Epstein's pearls on the roof of their mouth that will disappear. And get ready for a range of sounds—from high-pitched cries and snorts to soft coos as your baby figures out communication.

Newborn Body Characteristics

Your newborn's head may appear elongated or cone-shaped from squeezing through the birth canal. Don't worry, it will become more rounded within a couple weeks. Their genitals may also seem enlarged and swollen from exposure to maternal hormones, which is temporary.

You might notice firm breast buds or enlarged breast tissue on your newborn, which will go away on its own—no need to massage the area. Their belly may protrude for a while, appearing full and rounded. This is normal and will flatten out gradually.

Watch for Signs and Signals

From day one, your baby is communicating through body movements, facial expressions, cries, gazes and other cues. Paying close attention to these "newborn signs" helps you learn what they need and want. Do they turn their head away when full? Stick out their tongue when soothing is needed? Scrunch up their face in a telltale way before crying? Babies can't tell you directly, so you have to become a great observer and reader of their unique behavior patterns.

The Umbilical Stump

You'll notice your baby's umbilical cord stump drying up and turning colors over the next 10 days to 3 weeks before falling off. Keep the area clean and dry. It's also common for newborns to have an umbilical hernia, or outie belly button, that looks like a bulge. This usually resolves on its own by age 2 or so.

Sleep and Breath Patterns

Newborn sleep and breathing patterns are unique and can vary widely, reflecting the significant adjustments these little ones are making as they adapt to life outside the womb. In the first few months, newborns can sleep a total of about 16 to 17 hours per day, often waking every few hours for feedings due to their small stomachs. There's no set schedule initially, and it's common for newborns to have their days and nights mixed up​​.

Breathing patterns in newborns can also appear irregular to new parents. It's normal for a newborn to breathe through their nose more than their mouth, which can lead to a variety of sounds, including pauses in breathing for 5 to 10 seconds known as normal periodic breathing of infancy. This type of breathing is expected to resolve by about 6 months of age. A newborn's typical awake breathing rate is about 40 to 60 breaths per minute, which may slow down to 30 to 60 breaths per minute during sleep. Fast breathing over 60 breaths per minute, especially if it doesn't slow when the baby is calm, may indicate a problem and warrants medical attention​​.

To support healthy sleep habits, maintaining a consistent bedtime routine can be beneficial. This routine might include activities that signal to your baby that it's time to sleep, such as bathing, changing into pajamas, reading a book, or singing a lullaby. It's also helpful to teach babies to fall asleep on their own by putting them to bed when they're sleepy but still awake. This can make night awakenings less stressful for them and encourage them to fall back asleep without assistance​​.

Understanding and adapting to your newborn's sleep and breathing patterns can take time. It's essential to observe any significant changes or signs of distress and consult healthcare providers for guidance and reassurance as you navigate these early stages of development.

General Tips

In those precious early days, focus on bonding through plenty of skin-to-skin contact, soothing techniques, and get to know your baby's unique cries and cues. Every noise, grimace, and movement will become coded into your memory.

If any concerns come up, don't hesitate to reach out to your pediatrician or other parents. With a blend of patience, affection, and humor, you'll quickly become an expert in translating your newborn's world while they blossom into their own unique little person before your eyes.

The newborn stage flies by in a blur, so try to soak in all the tiny details—the scent, the wrinkles, the squeaks. One day you'll miss those first bewildering quirks that made your baby so distinctly and wonderfully "new".


Note: All information on Poppylist is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor or pediatrician.