Head to Toe Baby
10 months of pregnancy and then finally your baby is born! Please G-d the delivery went smoothly and mother and baby are healthy, you leave the hospital and you kind of feel like, “is this really happening?” I remember the drive home from the hospital so clearly. We drove to the hospital as a family of 2, and now we were leaving and this tiny little baby was coming with us. He belonged to us. We were responsible for him! Carrying the car seat into the apartment and looking from him to our apartment, I saw our apartment with totally different eyes. I remember feeling a little like I was having an out of body experience.
A baby is a HUGE adjustment. There is also a HUGE learning curve. For example, when you leave the hospital you have the infant car seat, but then you also need the insert for the car seat because they are still even too small for the car seat. I was lucky to have 5 nieces and nephews before I had my first son, so I felt a *little* more prepared, but it is definitely still a life changing experience.
I think everyone expects certain things about babies, but there are definitely things about babies that surprise all new parents. I asked mothers I know to weigh in on what surprised them about their babies. What didn’t they expect, what was a shock. I’ve compiled all that with my own experience and with some research to bring you this post: Head to Toe Baby.
This seems like a good time to a) remind everyone that in no way am I an expert or doctor and b) say THANK YOU to all my friends who contributed to this post.
Babies heads are not perfectly round when they are born. If you want to know why read this or this. What you need to know is if your baby has a cone head or has a skull ridge that you can see and feel, it is normal and actually the reason the baby can fit through the birth canal and allow room for the rapid brain growth in their first year of life. Their head will eventually become a nice shape, so don’t fret.
My babies are born bald, but many newborns are born with hair. That hair will usually fall out and that hair may not resemble what their actual hair color will be. My niece was born with dark hair and now at age 3 has the kind of blonde hair that people pay hundreds of dollars for to achieve in a salon.
Some babies get Cradle Cap – crusty or oily scaly patches on their scalp. It is not itchy or painful for them. It will usually clear on its own within a few months.
Sometimes babies are born with a skin tag. It basically looks like an extra piece of skin hanging from their face, ear, or wherever they have one. Sometimes it will fall off on its own or it can be removed.
Acne – this can be very surprising for a parent when a baby has a full case of baby acne. Baby acne is so common and will usually clear on its own. It is not indicative of future skin – for example, one friend said that her daughter had a horrible case of baby acne and now she has beautiful skin. Don’t use acne medicines or pick or scrub the acne. You can wash the baby’s face with warm water 1 – 3 times a day and then pat dry. (source) There are also people that say to put breast milk on it. (You’ll see, I’ll say that about almost anything. Baby crying? Spray breast milk in their face. Just kidding.)
Eyes – Color – a baby’s eye color can change many times before their first birthday.
Many babies have blocked tear ducts which means their tears can’t drain normally and the eye gets irritated. There can be yellow gooey gross stuff and it’s not pleasant to look at. The doctor can tell you if it’s conjunctivitis or blocked tear duct. There are people who say to put some breast milk on it and it helps it clear.
Teeth – Teething starts anytime between 3 months – 12 months of age. Usually the lower front teeth are first followed by the top front teeth. Teething deserves its own post, so that’s all I’ll say for now.
Ears – If a baby is SCREAMING and has a cold, it is usually an ear infection. Ear infections also deserve its own post. Unfortunately, my life right now is dealing with double ear infections.
Nose – Did you know that milk can come out of a baby’s nose? It is really unnerving but it’s okay. As one friend wrote, “freaked me out but it’s ok apparently don’t need to run to hospital :)” It’s funny but it is true, how are we supposed to know anything?! We just take this baby home and we’re in charge. What did people do before google?
Babies can also sneeze a lot in the beginning, they are clearing their nasal cavities. If you find your baby is stuffy, you can put saline drops in and use the bulb aspirator to clear the way. Here’s a how-to give nasal saline drops. It can also be helpful to put a humidifier in the room but make sure to keep it clean.
Mouth – It is not uncommon for a baby to have a tongue-tie. This can cause difficulty with latching and possible other long-term speech issues. Obviously if you notice a tongue-tie speak to your doctor. Many will opt for it to be corrected with a one-second long procedure where the doctor cuts it.
While we are talking about their mouth, let’s touch upon eating. Babies can eat SO often. For the first 4 – 6 weeks I feed my babies on-demand and it really feels like it is ALL the time! Breastfeeding can take a full hour, so right when you’re done you have a very short window before they are ready to eat again. Nursing can definitely hurt in the beginning, I have some tips in my post about everything you need to know about your postpartum body here. Something not in that post that a friend pointed out is that if you are pumping, there are different sizes of the pump shield. The pump comes with a standard size but if it hurts you to pump make sure you are using the correct size shield.
Babies need to burp and usually need help to be burped. Some babies are fast and easy burpers but others you need to work really hard for your burps and you need to switch positions. One friend wrote, “Patience is KEY and switch positions if you are having a hard time getting a burp – (sitting up in lap with holding baby’s jaw to prop head up, over the shoulder, or while baby is sitting rotate the body in a circular motion, also it might be helpful for baby to lay flat for a few min before trying to burp)”
Many babies spit up a lot. My babies could not be without a bib or we would have multiple clothing changes a day. When bottle feeding we had to take out the bottle every 2 oz to burp him and he would still spit up a lot after each feed.
Some babies have reflux and are very uncomfortable during/after eating. For sure speak to your doctor if you are in that position. You can also look into a pediatric chiropractor as they have a lot of success helping babies with acid reflux.
Wow, all that and that was just the head. And, I know I left out a ton of things.
The skin on babies hands and feet can peel, it’s normal but aquaphor can help.
Babies may be born with long fingernails. And as they grow, you may have to deal with them every 2 -3 days! It feels like every other morning we are doing “Manicure” in the house. Some people feel comfortable with filing, some trimming using special baby-safe nail cutters and some using baby emery boards. Whatever you use, be prepared to do it often 🙂 Since the baby has very little control over their movements, they end up scratching their face. Most people put the baby – mittens on to prevent them from scratching themselves. I did that with my first baby, and I did for the first day with my second but then my midwife saw and she explained that when babies are touching their face with their hands they are building the nerve connections with the brain and that the hospital she works at advises against mittens. I don’t have the research to back it up, and I’m not writing this to tell you what to do, it was just something that I didn’t know and I trust her and therefore I didn’t use mittens for my second baby.
Speaking of scratching their face, some babies like to sleep swaddled with arms in, some like to sleep swaddled with arms out or one arm out. You can either make your own swaddle or you can buy the pre-made swaddles that velcro. If they like arms out, you can do it up in a way that allows their arms out.
Between 5 – 15 days after your baby is born their umbilical stump will fall off. You need to keep it clean and dry so it doesn’t get infected. They don’t take a bath fully emerged in water until it comes off. Fold the diaper down so it isn’t touching it, and dress them in the newborn undershirts which are shirts and not bodysuits. The American Academy of Pediatrics used to recommend cleaning it with alcohol but they have since found that untreated cords heal faster, so now they say do NOT use alcohol to clean the stump.
A Babycenter article talks about what signs of infection would be.
“Infections are rare, but consult your healthcare provider if:
- Your baby cries when you touch the cord or the skin next to it.
- The skin around the base of the cord is red.
- The stump smells foul or gives off a yellowish discharge.” (source)
Speaking of bellies, babies can be very gassy. Gripe water can do the trick or Little remedies and the many other options out there. If the gassiness is leading to extreme unhappiness, it is time to talk to the doctor and look into causes. Sometimes it could be that some newborns are not yet able to digest milk and the mother would be advised to cut out dairy or switch to a non-dairy formula and see if that helps. People also find success with a pediatric chiropractor for gas or colic in babies.
I can’t move on without addressing newborn bowel movements. There are several websites dedicated to newborn poo from the colors to the frequency. There is so much to say on the topic so I won’t get into it, except that babies can poo mid-feeding, and then you guessed it – are hungry again. Also, there is actually such a thing as projectile-poo. I kid you not, my son once pooed while the diaper was open and it hit the door in front of the change-table. I have witnesses.
I think you aren’t really a *parent* until you experience an up-the-back poo explosion. Most parents can recall their first experience with an up-the-back and can laugh at it now. And how do you get the undershirt off without getting the poo on their head? Well actually, the undershirts are designed to do exactly that!! Those shoulder flaps on every undershirt are there so that you can take the onesie off downwards by rolling it down and not needing to drag it above their head. See here for a video tutorial.
**If you have multiple up-the-back or fronts in a row, it is time to size up your diaper. To avoid experiencing that each time, when you see the diaper starting to become snug, size-up. Sizes 1-3 seem to move fast, and then they stay on size 4 a long time.
Speaking of diapers, once your baby is sleeping longer stretches and not waking up to eat at night, overnight diapers are KEY. My favorite are the Pampers Extra Protection overnight diapers (Not just the Baby Dry. The extra protection have purple packaging). They only start at size 3, but they run smaller and you can size up with overnight so don’t be afraid to try even if your baby is still in a size 2 during the day.
Boys pee in your face. and on your wall. and in their own eyes. You will learn quickly that at the beginning you should cover their penis with a wipe so that if they do pee with the opening of the diaper at least it is not in your face. They also pee when they get in the bath. I don’t have a girl, but my friend said she was surprised that girls pee falls down so you could be changing a diaper and not realize and then the changing pad is all wet!
There is so much more to say but it is getting late. So far with my blog, I have always done each post in one sitting. I think about it in advance and do research but once I actually sit down to write the post, I write it and then post it. I decided if I stop mid-post it will be on my head and then the blog will become a burden which I don’t want it to become since I am really enjoying writing it!
So to wrap up:
A lot of the comments I got from friends weren’t only about actual things about the baby that surprised them but also touched upon just having a baby in general. The first few weeks are a blur – you don’t feel like yourself, the baby needs 24/7 attention, you are really just figuring each other out and it is tough. (ask family and friends for help!) Some people are obsessed with their baby from day one, while others will take a few weeks to really get to know their baby and form that same bond. Many mentioned that babies cry a lot and they weren’t expecting that, and my favorite line my friend sent – “Sometimes the baby cries so hard it looks like her head will pop off her body.”
The beginning is also when the baby doesn’t yet smile or give you any love, but hang in there – it will come!!
Babies also come with so much gear and they have special detergent and body wash and more. It is like they are a really picky house-guest. It is so unbelievable how a tiny little thing can come along with so much STUFF.
I want to mention Post Partum Depression. 1 in 8 new mothers suffer from PPD. I have read many articles about women who wanted their whole lives to be a mother and when they became one they were miserable. Many women feel embarrassed and ashamed and try to ignore their feelings but it is a serious issue and should not be left untreated. There should be no shame and hopefully as with other issues the stigma of PPD will slowly fade. Your doctor can help and there are also organizations that can help you get the proper care. My friend recently told me about Sparks, an organization that is encouraging and helping women get help.
The newborn stage passes so fast and it seems to be the stage most often forgotten. When a mother is having her second or third, I have often heard, “I don’t even remember what to do with a newborn!” Also, if you have a few years between your kids, you are basically a first-time mom again because all the rules and gear have changed. While all the rules and gear have changed, here’s what doesn’t change: A baby brings a lot of joy, a lot of sleepless nights, and as one of my best friends wrote, once you have that bond with your baby “you love your baby so much it’s like having a heart outside your body.”