Head soft spots (fontanelles)
When your baby is born, you’ll notice two soft spots on the top of their head where the skull bones haven’t yet fused together. This was Mother Nature’s way of allowing their head to be slightly narrower in order to pass through the birth canal more easily. The one at the back, which is triangular, closes around 8 weeks after birth. The other, bigger, diamond-shaped one takes a while longer, not fully closing until your little one is between a year and 18 months old.
You may notice that the soft spots pulse in time with your baby’s heartbeat or may even bulge when your little one strains to do a poo or is in the midst of a crying session. The fontenelles can also become sunken; this is a sign of dehydration − all too common in babies − them being particularly sensitive to fluid loss because they’re small. Speak to your midwife or GP as soon as possible if you suspect your baby is dehydrated.
You’ve probably read or have been told about the famous first ‘tar-like’ poos – meconium. It’s notoriously difficult to get off baby’s bottom but it only lasts a couple of days. Once the meconium stage has passed, baby’s poos will change from a greenish-brown to grainy yellow or brown by day three or four. In the beginning, you can expect 3 or 4 poo’s a day but this will settle down and reduce as the weeks go on.
There will also be a difference in poo appearance and consistency dependent on how baby is fed. Formula-fed babies tend to have more formed, yellow or tan coloured poos while breast-fed babies often have creamier mustard-coloured poos.
What’s not normal?
Yellow, grainy, smelly… these all within the realms of normal we’re afraid! But, there are certain colours and consistencies which you should watch out for…
In breastfed babies, green poo can be an indication that baby is getting too much lactose from you. This is normally caused by either feeding too often or because baby isn’t reaching the richer hind milk at the end of a feed – this is the milk that keeps them full up. Just remember to let baby fully feed from one breast before offering them the other.
A sign of jaundice in newborns is very pale poo. Jaundice causes your baby’s skin and the whites of their eyes to appear yellow, but it does usually clear up within the first 2 weeks. If you notice either of these symptoms contact your midwife or GP.
If baby’s poo is very runny, explosive and a larger amount than normal, you’re most likely seeing diarrhoea. It’s more common in formula-fed babies than breastfed babies as mum’s milk prevents the growth of diarrhoea causing bacteria. Diarrhoea in formula-fed babies could be caused by a reaction to a new formula or even infection from poor sterilisation of bottles.
Of course, it could be something different entirely such as a tummy bug, reaction to medication, an allergy or just a side effect of teething. If your baby has six episodes of diarrhoea within 24 hours, you should contact your GP.
Irregular breathing and noises when sleeping
Sleeping like a baby? Err… I don’t think so! Babies are notoriously noisy sleepers and when it comes to newborns, weird noises and irregular breathing are part of the package and generally no cause for alarm. In fact, a newborn’s normal rate of breathing is around 40 breaths a minute while awake and that may slow by half once they’re asleep. They may even pick up the pace, taking shallow, rapid breaths for 15 to 20 seconds followed by a total pause in which they stop breathing entirely! Of course, this can make even the most calm and collected parent freak out entirely but it’s totally normal and just down to their as yet immature breathing control.
Is it a case of one looking at you and one eye looking for you?! Newborn babies are commonly cross-eyed after birth or at least they can appear that way. Their eyes struggle to work in unison at first – just like the rest of them with their flailing and uncoordinated arms and legs! It’s nothing to worry about and it will resolve itself by the time they reach three months.
By four months, babies should be able to follow objects with both eyes, thanks to better developed eye-hand coordination and depth perception. But, as always, if you’re worried or feel that your baby’s eye development is not quite right contact your GP.
Newborn baby girls – vaginal bleeding or discharge
The effect of mum’s hormones in the womb before birth can cause an unexpected occurrence in newborn baby girls – vaginal bleeding or the presence of a cloudy white discharge. Seeing this can obviously cause major alarm but don’t worry, it’s totally normal! No special care is needed; just clean your baby’s genitals as you would normally after a nappy change. But, if the bleeding or discharge persists past the first week or if you notice a foul odour contact your GP as this can be a sign of infection.
Swollen breast tissue
No she isn’t a super early developer! It’s normal for baby girls (and boys!) to have slightly swollen breasts/breast tissue after birth – again a kooky effect of mum’s hormones in the womb. You could even notice them secreting a little milk. Fret not; the swelling will go down over the first few weeks and months.
Blue (or cold) hands and feet
Newborn babies’ hands and feet can appear blue and feel cold to the touch. This is due to immature circulation and doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re freezing cold and the heating needs cranking up. As long as baby’s lips and tongue are pink, there is nothing to worry about, with hands and feet appearing pinker and less cold once baby is warmer. Try rubbing the hands or feet to warm them, put on some socks or even just offer some warm lovely cuddles.
If you notice that the lips are also blue or purple this can be a sign of reduced oxygen and you should seek emergency medical advice.
Spots on baby’s face
You might notice some tiny white spots on your newborn baby’s face. These spots are known as milk spots, or milia and are caused by your baby’s developing sweat glands. They are completely harmless and will disappear over the first few weeks.
Peeling or flaking skin
At birth, your baby’s skin is covered with a waxy coating called vernix. As this comes off and the skin dries out, you may notice that baby’s skin begins to peel or even crack (particularly around the ankles or wrists). This is totally normal and not a sign of dry skin, so don’t go slapping on any oils or lotions, the peeling will stop all by itself in the first few weeks.
The breastbone is made up of three parts and babies immature muscles simply highlight how these are all pieced together. You may see an indentation in the middle of baby’s chest; this is just one piece of the breastbone sitting at an angle. As your baby grows and their muscles begin to mature, this piece will be pulled straight and the indentation will disappear. In fact, you’ll probably notice that the indentation disappears even earlier, especially if your little one is a chunky monkey, with their layers of baby fat actually covering the breastbone.