Top Five Things You Don't Know About Newborns

Most newborns are pretty much the same, right? They need touch, food, and sleep. But did you know that some newborns present with things that make us go, What? No Way! I just asked my husband, a soon to be new dad, if he had ever heard of baby acne. His answer was, I thought acne didn’t start until puberty? But in fact, babies often get acne, also known as miliaria, and it’s totally normal and nothing to worry about.  However, no matter how tempting it might be, don’t try and pop any of the pustules because that can introduce bacteria and cause an infection.  And infections in newborns are dangerous and it can leave scars.  So what else are things you might never have realized are important to know about newborns? 

Here are my top five anomalies that newborns can have that made my husband go cross-eyed.

  1. Hair Tourniquets
    • Exact quote from my husband, “WTF is a hair tourniquet?!” 
    • Small threads from socks and other clothing, in addition to hair, can find themselves wrapped around an infant’s toes, fingers, or even their penis. As the baby moves, these tourniquets self-tighten, creating a dangerous loss of circulation that could lead to an amputation. We recommend checking every diaper change for loose threads and hair to prevent any problems.  And if your baby just seems unconsolable for no good reason, a good inspection of their entire body, right down to the toes, can be wise, and I have heard more than one story of a baby who was just unhappy resulting in a parent finding a tiny toe swelling and red with a hair wrapped tightly around it.
  2. Newborn Breast Swelling
    • Mothers can pass estrogen to their newborn baby causing breast swelling in both male and female newborn.  It is relatively soft in most babies, but can actually have a firmer feel to it and if you are not expecting this, can be quite startling. It often starts to appear around day 3. This breast swelling is totally normal and should go away by the end of the second week as the hormones leave the infant’s body. Of course, every baby is on their own timeline and this could happen sooner or later than the 2-week time frame.  If it concerns you, absolutely check with your healthcare provider, but chances are good they will tell you it is totally normal.  Be sure not to squeeze or massage the infant’s breasts to make it go away as this can cause an infection under the skin. 
  3. Newborn Breast Leakage
    • Estrogen from the mother can also cause male and female newborns to have fluid leakage from the breasts. This is called witch’s milk and is common and goes away within two to three weeks.  Some parents are very concerned about this, and of course, as with anything, check with your healthcare provider, but lots of babies have this. 
  4. Menorrhea
    • Newborn girls may have what appears to be a menorrhea or period. And of course, finding blood in a baby's diaper, no matter how small the amount, is deeply concerning when you do not know what it is.  Sometimes parents are not even sure they are truly seeing it as disposable diapers in particular absorb so well.  And of course, since it is usually mixed with either a mucousy discharge or urine, it can appear as light orange, pinkish, streaked or bright red.  It is considered totally normal.  This can be a one-time occurrence or it can occur several times.  Like some of the other things mentioned, this is also due to excess estrogen and, if it appears more than once, should slowly go away over the first two months.
  5. Lanugo/Vernix
    • Lanugo is super fine, super soft hair covering the newborn’s body is for the vernix to attach to..  It can be any color and can be present anywhere on the body, but often appears on the shoulders, down the arms and on the back.  It can be quite thick on some babies, but this hair will disappear over the course of a couple days to a couple weeks depending on the baby
    • Vernix is a thick white film covering the newborn at birth. It is made up of shed skin cells and skin gland secretions from in utero. The vernix is typically wiped off of the newborn soon after delivery and completely gone after the baby’s first bath. However, a new natural-focused trend in the delivery room is to massage the vernix into the baby's skin since it can be very moisturizing and appears to have a role in a positive bacterial colonization for the new baby which can possibly help with infections.

Babies are fascinating little humans and the more we know about them, the more fun life with a new baby can be, even if some of it seems to be unusual.  If this was fascinating to you and you want to learn more about newborns; whether you are a nanny, NCS, doula, or parents, check out some of the many free resources and classes we offer at Newborn Care Solutions.

Jessica White
Elite NCS™ and Postpartum Doula
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