6 unexpected (but normal!) things about newborns

Bandy legs to pimples and breasts – don’t freak out, these are normal for many newborns.

07 February 2017
by Glynis Horning

Spending nine months in the confines of your womb, exposed to your hormones, can affect newborns in some surprising ways. But relax, the results seldom last long. Learn here about how to deal with these weird – but perfectly normal – biological quirks.

1. A cone head

Baby’s head may make him look a little alien at first, but so would yours if it was as soft as his, and you were squeezed down a narrow, bone-surrounded space, possibly pulled by forceps. Constantly lying baby on his back after birth, or on just one side, may also cause a flat spot.

WHAT TO DO: “His head shape will usually right itself in a few weeks. If it doesn’t, consult your doctor,” recommends Durban paediatrician Dr Yatish Kara. To deal with a flat spot, you can also give him more time on his tummy when he’s awake, or move toys from one side of him to the other to encourage him to lie on both sides.

2. Noticeable breasts and swollen genitals

Exposure to the hormones in your womb can give baby boys’ disproportionately big testicles, and girls, puffy labia, and give both genders baby boobs, largely from a build-up of fluid. Baby girls may even ‘spot bleed’ briefly.

WHAT TO DO: The swelling will diminish as your hormones work their way out of baby’s system and surplus fluid is flushed by the kidneys. But if there’s redness in the breast area with fever, have baby checked by a doctor. “If the testes remains swollen, it should be checked as there could be a hydrocele – a fluid-filled sac,” says Dr Kara.

3. Bandy legs

These too are normal, due to baby’s position in the womb.

WHAT TO DO: The legs will straighten, especially once baby has been walking for a few months. But if bandiness persists for two years, or there’s bowing in just one leg, or pain or a limp, take them to a doctor.

4. Body hair

Even babies who are born bald may have soft down on their arms, shoulders, backs and ears. This lanugo helps control their body temperature while in the womb.

WHAT TO DO: Nothing, it will soon shed. Do NOT shave it!

5. Scratches

It can be upsetting to see that pristine baby skin broken by scratches or cuts, but baby’s nails can grow quite long in the womb, and they often nick themselves inside the womb and then continue to do it outside the womb, as their nails grow very quickly.

WHAT TO DO: Let their skin heal naturally and keep nails trimmed with safe baby nail clippers. If their skin becomes infected, which is rare, take them to the doctor. Do not cover their hands with little gloves – they need to be able to feel their way around their new world.

6. Skin break-outs

You may have imagined you’d only be dealing with acne once your child reached puberty, but newborns can develop pimples and little white pearly bumps called milia. They can also have flaky scalp, or cradle-cap, which is waxy and yellow.

WHAT TO DO: Simply keep baby’s skin clean with mild soap and water and pat dry. Avoid oily lotions and never apply adult acne medication – the spots will usually clear up in a few weeks, else speak to your doctor.

For cradle cap, rub on pure natural oil (olive or almond) several times a week to loosen the crust, and gently lift off with a fine comb. “If there is no improvement, see a doctor,” says Dr Kara.

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