Newborn Appearance and Characteristics

Here are some of the most common newborn traits:

  • A newborn's head is usually the largest part of her body and may seem misshapen. The bones aren't firmly set and may be somewhat molded together from moving through the birth canal. The head becomes rounder after birth.
  • A newborn's nose is often flat and usually covered with milia. These little pimple-like bumps are immature oil glands that will go away without treatment.
  • The baby's breasts and genitals may look a little swollen.
  • The skin of a newborn will be slightly mottled at first and may be covered with a pale, cheesy coating called vernix. Fine, downy hair called lanugo may also be present, but it usually disappears within the first few weeks.
  • A newborn will cough, sneeze, yawn, hiccup or cry when uncomfortable or lonely. He will grasp and respond to being startled. Reflexes include sucking, rooting and the Moro reflex.
  • A newborn can see, though her focusing ability is poor. The optimal range is about ten inches, which represents the distance between a nursing baby and her mother's face.
  • Immediately after birth, your baby is alert and will look right at you. He communicates his readiness to feed by moving his hands to his mouth, making small mouth and tongue movements, eye movements (even if his eyes are closed) and body movements.

For more on your infant's first moments, go to The First Hour of Life.

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