The baby spent around 40 weeks in the womb before it was born. During this time it was surrounded by an amniotic sac and about a liter of amniotic fluid. In order to survive this time unscathed, the fetus develops some protective mechanisms.
These include the cheese smear and the lanugo hair. Many first-time parents are amazed at the appearance of their newborn. Contrary to what one might expect, newborns almost always look different than they do, for example. B. the advertising suggests.
For many parents, the first sight of their newborn is still a magical moment that they will probably never forget. In this blog article we explain what to expect when parents see their newborn for the first time and how quickly their appearance can change after birth.
This is what the baby looks like right after it is born
Long before the expected due date, the entire family is excited to see what the baby will look like. Whether it looks particularly similar to a sibling or a parent is primarily determined by its genes.
With a 3D ultrasound you can get a good impression of the baby’s appearance before it is born. In spite of all ideas, fantasies and wishes, parents of a firstborn in particular are then very astonished at what the newborn actually looks like.
Due to the long stay in the womb and the way through the narrow birth canal, there are clear peculiarities, especially on the skin and the shape of the head.
Head shape and fontanel
So that the large head can pass through the narrow birth canal, the skull of the fetus is composed of individual bone fragments. These ensure the necessary flexibility so that the skull can survive the birth undamaged.
There are a total of six gaps (fontanelles) between the bones, which are filled with connective tissue and thus give the skull stability. The largest fontanel is centrally located on top of the head and is shaped like a diamond. It pulsates and is so big that you can see the baby’s pulse.
Immediately after birth, the head is irregularly shaped and elongated. Due to the strong forces that arise when passing through the birth canal, the head is irregularly shaped and elongated shortly after birth. An almost normal, round shape of the head develops within the first days of life.
The rapid growth in the first months of life is also only possible through the flexible arrangement of the skull bones. The brain in particular grows very quickly in the first 12 months of life and doubles its weight by the baby’s first birthday. takes a correspondingly long time for the child to develop into the final shape of the head.
In the course of the first few weeks of life, many parents observe that the back of the baby’s head flattens significantly. Frequent positioning on the back shifts the bone fragments, which are still mobile, and often leads to a flat back of the head. It affects about 1 in 300 babies.
Despite this phenomenon, the supine position is still recommended for infants because it has been shown to reduce the risk of sudden child death. Even in the supine position, however, there are some possibilities to change the position of the head slightly again and again so that one-sided stress on the skull is prevented.
Under supervision and while awake, the baby can occasionally be placed on its stomach. Turning the head can also be encouraged by placing interesting objects (e.g. mobiles, lights) in different places in the room. In this way, the baby turns his head more often in a different direction than what he normally prefers, out of interest.
Many parents also make do with special baby pillows. These have a hole or a hollow in the middle and are supposed to relieve the back of the head. When evaluating these pillows, however, opinions differ widely.
For years, paediatricians and researchers have been recommending avoiding pillows in cots altogether. Pillows, blankets, stuffed animals, or other items can increase the risk of suffocation or sudden infant death syndrome and thus pose a risk.
On the other hand, at the 131st Surgeons’ Congress in Berlin, it was discussed which long-term consequences can result from severe skull deformations. At this congress, experts spoke out in favor of using the special positioning cushions.
It is best to discuss with the pediatrician whether such a positioning pillow is suitable and useful. This can counterbalance the risks of skull deformities and sudden infant death syndrome and help in decision-making. If you want to be on the safe side, you can use the positioning pillow during the day and under supervision.
Skin and skin color
The color of the baby’s skin is usually dark red to purple right after birth. With the first breaths, the color changes to a lighter red, which gives way to the genetically determined skin color within the first day of life.
The skin color is assessed, among other things, during the first preventive examination as part of the APGAR test. The baby’s hands and feet may initially be bluish, even in healthy newborns.
With the development and maintenance of blood circulation, the baby goes through a great deal of adaptation to life outside the womb. This can last for several hours to days.
At birth, the baby’s skin is covered in what is known as cheese smear. This white layer consists of water, skin oil, hair and various cells. In the womb, it protects the skin from being softened by the amniotic fluid. At the same time, as a kind of lubricant, it simplifies the way through the narrow birth canal.
After birth, the cheese smear fulfills other functions. It protects the baby from cooling down too quickly and makes it easier to adapt to the significantly cooler ambient temperatures in the delivery room.
At the same time, the cheese smear forms a natural protective barrier against pathogens and at the same time maintains the skin’s moisture balance. When drying off after the birth, a large part of the cheese smear is already removed.
The rest is absorbed by the skin and provides it with lasting moisture. Because the substance is odorless and at the same time has a high nourishing effect, it is often no longer removed from the skin by immediate bathing.
Statistically speaking, over 50% of newborns develop neonatal jaundice within the first few days of life. Unlike classic hepatitis, however, this is not an infectious disease.
Because the whole organism is subject to great change through birth, the internal organs need some time to adapt. Newborn jaundice is caused when the newborn’s liver is not sufficiently mature.
Babies with this particular jaundice are particularly noticeable because of their yellowish skin color. The eyeball can also be discolored yellow. The change is usually visible on the second or third day of life and can last for several days.
The most common cause is that newborns are born with large numbers of red blood cells. A great majority of these cannot be used by the body, so that they disintegrate.
The red blood pigment (hemoglobin) is converted into bilirubin. Because bilirubin is metabolized in the liver, these pigments are initially deposited in the skin in many newborns. The newborn’s not very mature liver needs several days to completely break down the bilirubin.
How severe the newborn jaundice is can be determined with a blood test. In many cases, the phenomenon does not require treatment and disappears on its own within about two weeks.
Even if neonatal jaundice is harmless in many cases, treatment must be given in the case of very high bilirubin values (from 18 mg / dl ) to prevent consequential damage. Here, for example, light therapy is available, through which the yellow pigment bilirubin is converted and then excreted in the urine.
Hair and hair color
The baby’s first hairs develop in the womb. The fine hair down is called lanugo hair and provides information about the degree of maturity of the newborn.
Each lanugo hair is connected to a sebum gland, which is responsible for the production of the cheese smear. The special nature of this hair type ensures that the cheese smear adheres particularly well to the baby’s skin.
The amount of lanugo hair when the baby is born can be used to determine its degree of maturity. Premature babies are often covered with hair fluff all over their body. With normal development, only individual areas of the body are covered with lanugo hair at birth (e.g. head, sacrum, shoulder girdle). A large part of the hair fluff recedes in the womb before birth.
Remaining lanugo hair falls out shortly after birth and is replaced by normal hair growth. The color, structure and amount of hair are genetically determined. The final appearance of the hair does not develop until puberty is reached.
The hair growth of newborns is roughly the same as that of adults from birth. The hair grows about 12-15 cm per year. Nevertheless, there can be large individual differences that are initially not a cause for concern.
Some babies are born with thick hair on their heads, while others still have lanugo hair on their heads and accordingly are initially without any hair on their heads a few days after the birth. Some parents find this balding baby stressful and are looking for ways to stimulate the baby’s hair growth.
With a balanced diet and healthy development, you will certainly create a good basis here. However, the development of the head of hair cannot be accelerated. Home remedies have no proven effect and may even represent a risk factor .
Baby hair should be combed regularly. This prevents lump formation and improves the oxygen supply to the scalp. This is beneficial for general, healthy development, but here too the following applies: Neither frequent combing nor shaving of the head accelerates hair growth.
Many babies also have a bald patch on the back of their head. Many parents have to listen to criticism that indicates that lying on the back of the head for too long is the cause of the hair-free areas.
In fact, the fact that the same lying position always creates more friction. Hair that is already at the end of its life cycle will fall out faster due to the increased mechanical stress.
However, this only applies to hair that was close to falling out anyway. Because the hair on the back of the head is significantly more developed than that on the front of the head before birth, it falls out comparatively earlier.
Due to the growth lead, it can happen that a bald spot appears on the back of the head. However, parents don’t have to worry about it. This natural process is almost always a perfectly normal development.
In the course of the first few months of life, the growth cycles of the individual head areas increasingly converge, so that only then can even hair growth be expected all over the head.
Not only the amount of hair, but also its color can vary greatly after birth. Some babies are born with light hair, which gets darker and darker as they develop. The cause here is the not yet fully developed development of the pigmentation.
In most cases, the head of hair will darken over time. In contrast, it rarely happens that the hair color changes from dark to light. In some children, however, an originally dark head of hair can turn reddish.
The hair structure can also change in the course of development. Because babies’ hair is very fine and thin, it has a tendency to frizz. However, those cute baby curls can go away as the hair grows back stronger.
It can happen that a baby initially has blond curls and after a few months wears straight, brown hair on its head. The final appearance of the head of hair only develops after a few months of life and can change again and again up to puberty.