Congratulations on the arrival of your new baby! While this should be a joyful time, it can also be intimidating to care for a baby. You may be filled with first-time worries and wonders about newborn care, and babies do in fact have health issues that are different from older children or adults. Thankfully, many of these issues are quite innocent, and you will gain confidence quickly in your new role as a parent. The pediatricians and staff of Forest Lane Pediatrics want to guide you in this journey.
Your Newborn, From Head to Toe
If a baby is born vaginally, he may have swelling, molding, bruising, or abrasions of the scalp. All of these issues improve quickly in the first few days. A cephalohematoma is a larger bruise in the scalp; these may take weeks to resolve, but they are not harmful for the baby.
Broken blood vessels are common in the white part of the eye due to the pressures of delivery – this is called a subconjunctival hemorrhage, and it may take 2-3 weeks to go away. They are innocent and do not affect vision or cause any harm.
There are many common cosmetic differences of the ears that you may notice. Ear pits and ear tags are quite common; discuss the significance of these with your pediatrician. Differences in the shape of the ear itself are also common, and if they are quite noticeable, can be treated in the newborn period to achieve a more normal shape. Forest Lane Pediatrics offers the EarWell Infant Ear Correction System – click here for more information.
Milia are tiny white bumps on the skin found most commonly on the nose, cheeks, or chin. They are caused by a build-up of dead skin cells in the pores of the skin. No treatment is necessary, and they disappear in 2-3 weeks. Many babies will sneeze or sound like they have nasal congestion. It is too early for a common cold or allergies; babies have small nasal passages, so it doesn’t take much fluid or mucus for a baby to sound stuffy. If a baby is eating and sleeping comfortably, no treatment is necessary for this. If the baby seems bothered by the congestion, you can put a few drops of saline in each nostril. If necessary, you can also suction out the nose with a nasal suction bulb – this is the blue bulb you should have received in the hospital. Don’t overdo it, though – excessive suctioning can be irritating to the nasal passages.
Epstein’s pearls are small white bumps, most commonly located on the gums or on the roof of the mouth. These are simply clusters of dead skin cells, and they disappear on their own. A nursing blister may develop on the baby’s lips after a few days; this is actually more of a callous, and no treatment is necessary. A short lingular frenulum, or “tongue-tie”, is a tight vertical band of tissue underneath the tongue that prevents some babies from being able to extend their tongue fully. This can affect the baby’s ability to latch well when breastfeeding. If you are concerned about this, be sure to point it out to your nurse, lactation consultant, and doctor.
Babies have very sensitive skin in the newborn period. Their skin may appear red and blotchy, dry and cracked, and generally very rashy. One of the most common newborn rashes is called Erythema Toxicum. This looks like a red blotch with a yellow bump at the center. Multiple bumps may come and go all over the skin. They are completely innocent, do not cause any discomfort, and no treatment is needed. It is common for their skin to peel and flake in the first few weeks. You may put a mild moisturizer on if you wish. Babies have a higher red blood cell count compared to older kids or adults, so they may appear very red overall.
Babies can have an irregular breathing pattern called periodic breathing in which they may alternate rapid, shallow breaths with long pauses or sighs. This too is innocent, and their breathing becomes steadier as they get older. You may also notice a bony bump at the tip of the breastbone – this is the xyphoid process, and while it seems quite prominent in newborns, it is normal anatomy. Within the first few weeks of life, both boys and girls may develop breast buds. This is due to exposure to the mother’s hormones before delivery. They may even leak a little bit of milk! Don’t worry, this will disappear on its own in a few weeks.
A baby’s belly can seem quite protuberant, but as long as it is soft and not tender, this is normal.
Because babies are exposed to mom’s hormones while they are in the womb, both girls and boys may seem to have very red and swollen genitals. This resolves over the first 2-3 weeks of life. In addition, girls will often have a thick, milky vaginal discharge and may have some bleeding around day 2 or 3.
Hands and Feet
It is normal for a newborn to have very blue or purple hands or feet. They have an immature circulation, but as long as the rest of the body is nice and pink, you can feel comfortable that they are healthy.