Birth, Infancy, and Maturation - What the newborn baby looks like

At birth the baby's skin is wrinkled or scaly, and may be covered by a cheesy substance called vernix caseosa . During the first two weeks the skin will become quite dry to the touch.

The newborn's head is large in proportion to the rest of its body. The genitals too may seem large, especially in girls. Newborn girls may have swollen genitalia that is a result of edema (fluid in the tissues, causing puffiness), but the swelling is usually present for only a few days after birth.

The eyes can open and react to light, but are unable to focus. Noises produce a startle response , a complex involuntary reaction marked by a sudden, jerky, arm and leg movement. The newborn cries a great deal, sucks, and may sneeze.

The infant's stomach may look rather large and protuberant, and, of course, it has the stump of the umbilical cord dangling from it. The umbilical cord has been cut and tied near the navel, and will eventually fall off.

If you feel the front and back of the baby's head, you will notice one or two soft spots, called the anterior and posterior fontanelles . The posterior fontanelle usually closes at the baby's second month of life, and the anterior at 18 months or earlier.

You also may feel many different ridges in the baby's head. These are the borders of the different skull bones, which fuse as the baby gets older. They are present so that the skull can grow as the baby's brain and head continue to grow.

Soon after birth, you may detect a swelling on the baby's head just under the scalp. This is called caput succedaneum . It is nothing to worry about, as it dissolves a day or two after birth. Occasionally, another swelling known as cephalhematoma may also be present. This, too, disappears, within a few weeks.

The baby's weight will, of course, vary. Most full-term babies weigh between six and eight pounds. Babies of diabetic mothers are often heavier, and may weigh up to twelve pounds.

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