While you are looking at your baby trying to see a family resemblance, the medical staff will make a series of observations to assess his general wellbeing. These observations are known as the APGAR.
These include: Appearance (whether she is pink or brown, has blue fingers and toes, or is still rather blue all over). Pulse (over 100, under 100, or not discernible). Grimace, or response to stimulation, (whether she cries, grimaces or neither). Activity, or muscle tone (whether her arms and legs move strongly, are flexed or floppy). And finally Respiration (whether strong, weak, irregular or absent).
In each category a baby scores 2, 1 or 0. An APGAR aggregate of 7 after five minutes is good, a baby scoring less than 4 needs immediate help.
Your baby’s body explained
The head will account for a quarter of the body length and may be misshapen. The cheeks will be rounded, nose flattened and chin receding. The eyes may be wide open and the baby alert or she may open and close them at intervals.
The skin may still have traces of vernix, the white, creamy substance that coats the baby in the womb. It may also be covered with lanugo, a fine, downy hair. Some (usually bigger) newborns are quite -filled out with thick skin, others are wrinkled, some are blotchy. Dry flaky skin is quite common in the first couple of weeks.
The baby’s hands and feet have a blue tinge for an hour or so until the baby’s breathing and circulation are working well. The feet will be turned inward, the fingers will be curled into fists.
Your baby’s scalp may be completely bald or have a full head of dark, downy hair. This will fall out over the next few months. You will be able to see the fontanelle, a soft spot in the centre of the baby’s head and may even notice a pulse there.
The cord will have been clamped and cut. The stump will fall off over the next couple of weeks.
The testes or vulva will be swollen and the genitals look disproportionately large.
Your baby’s reflexes explained
A reflex is an involuntary response to a particular stimulus. The most important of your newborn’s reflexes are rooting (looking for your breast) and sucking, but all her reflexes may be checked before you leave hospital. Most disappear before a baby is six months old.
If you support your baby under the arms and place her feet on a firm flat surface, she will lift one foot then the other, as if taking steps. This is another involuntary reflex found in newborns.
Grasping is another as newborns curls their fingers when something, such as your finger, touches their palm. They will also curl their toes if you stroke the soles of their feet. Their grasp is very strong.
The startle reflex (otherwise known as the Moro reflex) is when your baby’s response to a sudden noise or fright is to stretch out her arms, arch her back and curl her legs. It is almost as if they are searching for something to cling onto.
- Stork marks are small pink patches between the eyebrows, across the nose or on the back of the neck. They fade in the first couple of years of life.
- Strawberry marks are red and raised and can be (baby) fist-sized. Since they usually disappear around the age of six or seven years, most doctors do not advise treatment unless their location causes problems – such as around the eyes.
- Portwine stains are purplish, often flat and generally considered permanent. Make up may help to disguise them in childhood and laser treatment may be offered when the child is about 12 years old.
- Cafe au lait spots are flat brown patches on the skin. They are permanent but do not increase in size as the baby grows.
- Mongolian spots are blue-black patches on the lower back and buttocks, more common in black and Asian babies. They fade as the child grows but do not disappear completely.