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What to expect in the first few days after birth, including your baby's appearance, birthmarks, tests and fontanelles.
You'll probably spend a large part of the first few days after birth looking at your baby.
If you notice anything that worries you about your baby, however small, speak to your midwife.
Within the first 24 hours, a health professional will offer to give your baby an injection of vitamin K. This is to prevent a rare but serious blood disorder.
You will also be offered a newborn physical examination for your baby in their first 72 hours. Among other things, their eyes, heart, hips and testicles (if they have them) will be checked for possible problems.
In their first few weeks, you baby will also have the:
Your newborn’s umbilical cord takes about a week to dry out and drop off. Keep it clean and dry until it does. If you notice any bleeding or discharge, tell your midwife, health visitor or GP.
On the top of your baby's head, near the front, is a diamond-shaped patch where the skull bones have not fused together yet. There is another, smaller, soft spot towards the back of their head. These are called the fontanelles.
It will probably be a year or more before the bones close over. Do not worry about the fontanelles as they are covered by a tough protective membrane.
At birth, the top layer of your baby's skin is very thin and easily damaged. Over the first month, or longer for premature babies, your baby's skin matures and develops its own natural protective barrier.
Vernix, the white sticky substance that covers your baby's skin while in the womb, should always be left on the skin. It's a natural moisturiser that also protects against infection in the first few days.
It's best to bath your baby with plain water only for at least the first month. Do not add cleansers to your baby's bath water or use skin lotions or medicated wipes.
Premature babies' skin is even more delicate. Staff in the neonatal unit will advise you on skincare.
Find out more about babies who need special care.
If your baby is overdue, their skin may be dry and cracked. This is because all the protective vernix has been absorbed before they were born.
Your newborn's eyes will be checked shortly after birth as part of their newborn physical examination. New babies can see, but their vision is not very focused. Their eyesight develops gradually over the first few months.
By the time your baby is 2 weeks old, you'll probably notice their eyes following your face. If they do not seem to be doing this, mention it to your health visitor or GP.
Your newborn's eyes may roll away from each other occasionally. This is called a squint and is normal in a newborn. It should go away by 3 months. Talk to your health visitor or GP if it does not.
It's common for a newborn baby to have some swelling and bruises on their head, and perhaps bloodshot eyes.
This is caused by squeezing and pushing during birth, and is particularly common in babies who have been delivered by forceps or ventouse. It will soon disappear but, if you're worried, you can ask your midwife about it.
The most common birthmarks in newborns are little pink or red V-shaped marks on the forehead, upper eyelids or neck. Some people call these stork marks or salmon patches. They gradually fade, but it may be a few months before they disappear completely.
Dark red and slightly raised strawberry marks (infantile haemangioma) are quite common. They sometimes appear a few days after birth and gradually get bigger. They may take a while to go away, but they usually disappear gradually.
See more about birthmarks.
Spots and rashes are very common in newborn babies. They may come and go, but if you also notice a change in your baby's behaviour – for example, if your baby is not feeding well, or is very sleepy or very irritable – tell your midwife or GP immediately.
Quite often, a newborn’s breasts are a little swollen and ooze some milk, whether they are a boy or a girl.
Your newborn's genitals may appear swollen initially but will look normal within a few weeks. Baby girls also sometimes bleed a bit or have a white, cloudy discharge from the vagina.
All this is caused by hormones passing from you to your baby before birth. Do not be concerned.
Boys' testicles develop inside their body and sometimes take a while to descend into the scrotum. A health professional will check whether they have descended as part of the newborn physical examination.
When they're about 2 to 3 days old, some babies develop mild jaundice. This will make their skin and the whites of their eyes look a bit yellow. It's caused by pigments released during the breakdown of old red blood cells.
It's more common in babies delivered by forceps or ventouse. It usually fades on its own within about 10 days, but more severe jaundice may need treatment.
Find out about newborn jaundice.
If your baby develops jaundice in their first 24 hours, they should be checked by a health professional straight away.
Babies are born knowing how to suck. During the first few days they learn to co-ordinate their sucking with their breathing during feeding.
Newborn babies also automatically turn towards a nipple or teat if it's brushed against their cheek, and they'll open their mouths if their upper lip is stroked.
It's important to continue taking any medication prescribed unless your GP/specialist specifically tells you to stop. Please visit our Existing Health Conditions page for more information, or visit 'Bumps' ('Best Use of Medicines in Pregnancy').
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