Newborn Novelties

Newborn Novelties

A newborn baby's physiology is not the same as that of an older baby, a child or an adult. It takes time for this new body to settle into life outside the womb and to become fully efficient. During this settling period some babies display all kinds of color changes, spots, blotches, swellings and secretions, many of which look very peculiar. Most of them would indeed be peculiar if they occurred in an older person, but they are normal, or at least insignificant, when they occur in the first two weeks of life. Hospital staff take these newborn peculiarities for granted and, because they know that they are nothing to worry about, often forget to warn parents about them. The result can be unnecessary panic just when you need all the peace you can get. The following list describes some of the commonest of the phenomena and tells you why they happen and what they mean. If you need direct reassurance or if you are not sure that what you see matches what is described on the list, consult your doctor. Above all, do remember that these things are normal or unimportant only in a newborn baby. If you notice one of them after your baby is two to three weeks old, you should certainly ask for advice from your pediatrician.

Read more from Penelope Leach, Ph.D.
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Newborn skin has an overall pinky-red hue (whatever color it will be eventually) because it is so thin that the underlying blood vessels show through.
Uneven color
Because the circulation is not yet fully efficient, blood may sometimes pool in the lower half of a baby's body, so that when he has been still for a long time, he looks half red and half pale. And sometimes a full ration of circulating blood does not reach the baby's extremities so that as he lies asleep, his hands and feet look bluish. As soon as you pick the baby up or turn him over, the skin color will even out.
Because the skin is fragile it is easily damaged -- diaper rash is not the only kind of common clothes chafing. And because the pores do not yet work efficiently, skin is very liable to develop spots. Common kinds are "neonatal urticaria," consisting of a rash of red blotchy spots with tiny red centers that come and go on different parts of the baby's body, each group lasting only a few hours; tiny white spots, usually on the nose and cheeks, called "milk spots" (milia) that may last for several weeks; and the grimly named but harmless "toxic erythema" -- irregular red blotches with pale middles that look like a collection of insect bites. They may spoil your baby's complexion for a while, but they do no harm and need no treatment.
Blue patches
Called "Mongolian blue spots," these are just temporary accumulations of pigment under the skin. They are more usual in babies of African or Mongolian descent but can also be seen in babies of Mediterranean descent or in any baby whose skin is going to be fairly dark. They are nothing to do with bruising or with any disorder of the blood.

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