Newborn Babies’ Appearance

What to Expect

Newborn babies are generally not as perfectly pink, chubby and gurgling as parents would like. They tend to emerge wet, red and screaming, and often with a whole host of other temporary features which many first-time parents do not expect. They have big heads which are often stretched and pointy from being squeezed through the birth canal (caesarean babies are less likely to look like this). They have short legs and big, distended torsos. Their heads make up roughly a quarter of the size off their bodies in comparison to adults, whose heads are only a seventh of their body. On average, they are 45-55cm long at birth and weigh 6-9lbs.


Newborn babies vary in colour for reasons other than race and ethnic group. Their colour changes along with their environment and health. When they are first born, it is normal for babies to look dark purple or red, and then as they begin to breathe, to get paler. Most babies will be very pale or blue looking before they start to gain normal colouring. The hands and feet will stay blue the longest, possibly for several days. If your baby looks yellow, it may be a sign that the body is trying to rid itself of excess blood cells. However, jaundice can be a sign of something more serious, especially if the colour appears very early and worsens over the first few days of the baby’s life.


Many newborn babies are born with hair on their heads, which will later be replaced by permanent hair. Some will also be born with hair over their bodies, called laguno. This is a soft, downy hair which will fall out over a few days. The colour of a newborn’s hair is rarely an indication of what coloured hair they will have later in life, and some parents are surprised when their baby’s hair colour is different from theirs. However, you are carrying more genes than just your own, so your baby may have inherited hair colour from a former generation.


Most Caucasian babies are born with dark blue eyes and their true colour establishes itself later on. Exposure to light changes the colour over a few months. African and Asian babies are usually born with grey or brown eyes, which change to their true brown or black. Mixed race babies can have a wide variety of different eye colours at birth, and in rare cases babies are born with each eye different colour. 


Other than colour, there are many ways that babies’ skin can vary. Premature babies will have almost transparent skin and still be covered in vernix, a white, greasy substance which protects the baby from amniotic fluid. Full-term and late babies will only have traces of vernix on their skin. Late babies may be wrinkly or have very dry, peeling skin. Below are some other skin variations you might notice on your baby.


Around half of all newborns are born with milia, which are small, hard, white spots covering the baby’s face. They form from oil glands and disappear on their own. They can be found on the baby’s gums and in their mouths, and are then referred to as Epstein pearls.

Stork Bites

Minute patches of a red or pink degree, so called because they are usually located on the rear of the neck which is where, according to the popular myth, the stork carries the baby. They can also be found on the eyelids, between the eyes and on the upper lip. They are due concentrated blood vessels of an immature nature and should disappear on their own.

Mongolian Spots

These are purple blotches or can be seen to be blue found on the lower back and bottom. They are most prevalent among Mongol babies, and were first discovered amongst those people, but they occur in babies of a darker skin of all races. They are caused by concentrated pigment cells and usually disappear within four to five years.

Erythema Toxicum

About half of all babies have this rash, which looks like flea bites, within the first few days of their life. It is a red rash which is usually found on the front and back but can be found in other areas. It is not hazardous and will disappear on its own.

Acne Neonatorum

This is also known as ‘baby acne’. Spots are a common theme for many babies in the first month of their lives, caused by maternal hormones. They disappear on their own, and parents should not attempt to squeeze them as this may lead to contamination.

Strawberry Haemangioma

This refers to a bright red, inflamed, bumpy area of skin which may develop within two months of birth. They are more widespread in premature babies, and are due to large concentrations of immature blood vessels. They often grow larger before they start to grow fainter and may not disappear entirely for nine years.

Cavernous Haemangioma

This is a lumpy, blue-purple mass which grows quickly in the first six months before gradually fading away at about 18 months. They are usually gone by the time your child is five.

Port Wine Stain

This is the name given to flat, pink, purple or red birthmarks. They are brought about by a concentrated degree of dilated capillaries and are often found on the head or neck. They vary in size and can be very large. They do not change colour when you press them and will not fade over time, but they may grow darker. On the face, they may be an indication of a more serious problem.

Congenital Moles

These are present at birth and vary in colour from brown to black depending on your baby’s skin tone. They vary in size but are usually under 2.5cm in diameter. They are sometimes hairy or raised.


Newborns will have slightly bent arms and legs, which is a sign of good muscle tone. The legs may appear to be bowed, but this is not permanent. The shape of the baby’s head will change over the first few weeks, and become less pointy and more round. You may be able to see your baby’s soft spots, or fontanelles. The rear one takes about four months to close while the front one will take 9-18 months. The baby’s genitals may be swollen due to the amount of female hormones at birth, and the face, eyes and breasts may swell too.

Umbilical Stump

During pregnancy, the umbilical cord provides the baby with nourishment and oxygen from the placenta. After the baby is born, the umbilical cord is clamped and cut, leaving a 2-3cm stump. Between five and fifteen days after birth, the stump will dry up, turn black and drop off. In the meantime, it must be kept clean to avoid infection.

Guide to Newborn Babies’ Appearance:

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