Is my newborn normal?
To help prepare you for those first hours, days and weeks of life, here is a head-to-toe guide to newborn health.
The moment your newborn is safely delivered, you are bound to heave a heavy sigh of relief. However, if you are like most first-time parents, that relief will not last long.
Unexpected birthmarks, a pulsating soft spot, jaundice, skin rashes, eyes that cross, head lumps and bumps - it can all be scary and can easily send new parents into panic mode.
If you don't know what to expect, or especially if you are expecting that sort of 'Hollywood' version of the doll-perfect newborn, seeing and examining your baby for the first time can be quite shocking to some parents.
However, experts say that no matter how frightening things may appear during those first hours or even days after birth, most if not all of what you see is temporary and a part of normal infant development.
Of course, experts say it is always a good idea to seek medical advice about any disturbing or lasting newborn symptoms. To help calm your fears and prepare you for that first look at your little cherub, we have asked several experts to offer new parents a quick glimpse at the first few days and weeks of a baby's life.
Your baby, head to toe
Brace yourself. You may very soon be cradling your own little ‘cone head’ in your arms!
Following a normal vaginal birth, the baby's head is fairly elongated and cone-shaped, and parents may be worried that's the way the child's head is going to be forever.
However, not only will the head shape change (usually within 48 hours or less) but that cone shape you may see at birth is quite normal.
The bones of the skull of a newborn are intentionally mobile. The birth canal is tight, and the bones are meant to give, allowing the head to pass through, which is what actually causes that elongated shape.
You may also see some swelling at the top of your newborn's head or sometimes even over the entire scalp.
The condition is caused by the fluids that are squeezed into the area during a normal delivery. Sometimes enough fluid collects so that, when pressed lightly, you can even see a small indentation.
Again, it is nothing to worry about.
It will resolve quite quickly, usually before the baby leaves the hospital.
What may take a little longer to disappear, however, is a condition known as cephalohaematoma, a collection of blood trapped between the skull and the lining. It frequently appears on day two of life and looks like an odd-shaped lump on the top of your newborn's head.
As scary as that sounds, doctors say do not fret.
It happens as part of the normal birthing process, it's not serious and not anyone's fault, and it does go away on its own, usually within a few months.
While you probably already know about your newborn's fontanel (those ‘soft spots’ on the top and back of the head) do not be surprised if they start to throb with every beat of your baby's heart!
Although this also looks scary, relax - the pulsating is normal, and the soft spot is tougher that you think.
It is supposed to be soft, because it allows for the rapid growth of the brain that occurs in the first year of life. You can touch it; it's not that fragile, Within 12 to 18 months the soft spot will resolve and your baby's skull will uniformly harden.