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All about the first few days of your baby

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The period of birth is a vulnerable time for an infant, who is still undergoing many physiologic and behavioral adjustments with her new environment. No longer dependent on maternal circulation, all the body systems of the infant have to become self sufficient.

Friday, March 10th, 2017

General Appearance.

Most first time parents may be surprised by the appearance of their newly born baby when they see it for the first time. All of us carry a pre-conceived notion of the appearance of babies as gathered from magazines or publications. Usually, at the first sight, she looks different from the cherub-like baby that you may have expected.

Skin.

Your baby’s skin may be covered by a white greasy substance called Vernix, which has protected her skin from getting waterlogged in the womb all through the pregnancy. It may be left on after birth as it may serve as a barrier to minor irritations, infections and also helps to keep the baby warm. The blotchy appearance of the skin can be due to the unstable blood vessels of the baby which gradually adapts and normalizes.

Hair.

The leftovers of fine downy foetal hair, LANUGO, are seen over scalp, forehead, shoulders and back. They shed out in a due course of within a week. The colour of the hair on the head may not be permanent. She acquire her colour once melanin is formed. The baby takes a period of at least 5-6 months to get the actual colour.

Head.

Your baby has four large bony plates, that don’t fuse, of the skull. These plates can move across each other during labor when the head is compressed by the pressure from the vaginal walls. These sliding plates help the baby to pass through the vaginal canal without hazard or damage to the brain. Though, in the process, the skull may get elongated or slightly de-shaped. But it is entirely normal and the skull regains its normal shape in a week or so. The head of a baby born by a c-section may be normal as it does not face any pressure due to labour.

Fontanelles.

The Fontanelles or the soft spots on the skull are the places where bones are still not fused. This fusion process takes a time of about 1 ½ to 2 years. Although covered by a tough sheet of skin one should be careful with that part of the head. Though the Fontanelles are firm, in spite of being soft, they are still vulnerable. The baby’s skull or head should therefore be handled very gently, while you massage, brush or wash the baby’s head.

Eyes.

Your baby may not be able to open her eyes right away. The newborn baby can see clearly up to a distance of 20 – 25 cm (8-10 inches), but beyond that it cannot focus both her eyes together and may cause her to squint or look cross eyed. It normalizes within a month as the eye muscles grow stronger. Regardless of the colour at birth, the actual colour of her eye appears only after melanin formation and it may take up to 6 months.

Genitals.

In both baby girl and baby boy, genitals may appear to be swollen and they may also have enlarged breasts and even produce milk. A baby girl may also have a small ‘period’ lasting up to one or two days. All of this is due to massively increased levels of maternal hormones just before birth which may have also circulated in the baby’s bloodstream through placenta. These conditions are not abnormal and subside very soon.

Umbilical Cord.

The umbilicus which is moist and bluish-white at birth is clamped and then cut. Only a short length of cord remains which dries out and becomes almost completely black within 24 hours. The stump falls off in about 7 days time without any pain.

Some babies may develop a little swelling around the stump (Umbilical hernia) that occurs due to weak abdominal muscles used for crying that pushes the intestine through a little. This is quite common and generally clears up in about 2 years.

Finger Nails.

Some babies are born with long fingernails. The long fingernail should either be chipped off gently or covered with soft mittens to prevent scratching.

Various types of birthmarks and blemishesare a result of clusters of small blood vessels under the skin may be present. Most of these are harmless, do not cause any pain and do not require any treatment. These birthmarks most often disappear gradually.

Cardio-Vascular changes.

This is one of the first adaptations that take place in your baby. Till now there has been no need of oxygenating the blood as it was all done by the placenta and the lungs were bypassed in the process of circulation. Now, your baby has to thrive on her own. So the lungs have to adapt to receiving the deoxygenated blood from right ventricle of heart, oxygenating it and passing the blood to the left atrium of the heart. From there, it is passed to left ventricle so that it gets circulated to whole of the body.

Breathing.

First of all lungs get filled up with air with the first breath of your baby. This air pressure and the reduced pressure of blood from the umbilical cord closes the openings of the heart. In the womb, these openings directly transfers blood from right side of heart to the left for circulation.

Liver.

The newborn’s liver also now receives larger quantities of blood. As a result now the liver also starts to metabolize the glycogen reserves that it has built up during intrauterine life, to produce energy for the next few days until feeding is established. The body temperature also drops down by about 1 – 1.5 degree Celsius as an effect of the external environment.

The first moments.

Soon after birth, babies are alert and ready to interact and nurse. Their focal length of up to the mother’s face (8-12 inches), when held close to breasts, visual preference for faces and well developed hearing preference for a female voice make the baby gaze back to her mother when she gazes at her. This period of about 40 minutes is the longest social interaction period for the first month.

Whatever the physical appearance of your baby, she eventually begins to look gorgeous by each day and become the centre of attraction for all the people around. So rejoice the birth of your healthy baby and prepare yourself to give the best start of life.

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