A newborn's life is hard. It might seem like all they do is eat, sleep, and fill those diapers, but their tiny bodies are going through a lot of changes.
Moms focus a lot on how much the baby grows — after all, that is a key indicator of the baby's health and whether or not they are thriving. But there are so many more changes happening for the little one. Some happen right away in the first moments of life. Others can happen over the next few weeks, like the baby's head reshaping after the birth. And some can happen subtly over the next year, such as the baby's eye color.
Moms might not even see some of the developments that take place physically for their newborn, so this guide might shed light on what is going on with that tiny little body. Here are 20 physical changes new moms didn't know newborns go through.
20 Baby's Head Reshapes
A newborn's skull isn't one big, hard shell around the brain. In order to ease the journey through the birth canal, the skull is made up of several bones that can shift in shape. That's why many newborns come out with a cone-shaped head. Thank goodness, though, most have their head return to a normal shape within a few weeks.
19 A Newborn's Heart Valve
The baby's heart changes in the moments after birth. It's part of a natural process that happens when the baby no longer relies on the mom's circulatory system and has to do the job on its own. The patent ductus arteriosus might not close as it should, and some newborns need surgery. But for most babies, it happens right away or closes in the first few months of life.
18 Birthmarks Aren't Always Permanent
Some babies are born with big red, brown, or pink birthmarks, and sometimes that can be off-putting to a parent. But some of these skin anomalies aren't permanent. The most common type of patches, known as stork bites, go away in a few years, and others disappear by the time the kid is 10. It's also true that some vascular birthmarks form in the weeks after birth, so the baby's looks can change either way. There are some treatments parents can consider, as well.
17 Little Baby Wrinkles Smooth Out
Tiny newborns can be covered with wrinkles at birth. It can even look like the baby had spent the day soaking in the tub. Of course, they kind of spent nine months doing that, living in amniotic fluid, so it's no wonder the baby will come out pruney-looking. But it won't take long for those little wrinkles to go away.
16 Their Umbilical Cord Will Eventually Fall Off
When the baby's first cells are formed, they divide up, with part of going to becoming the baby's body and the rest going to the placenta with the umbilical cord forming to connect them. Most parents choose to cut the umbilical cord within a few moments of the birth, but the stump remains for a while. A flap of skin forms that becomes the cute little belly button and the cord eventually falls off.
15 When Baby Goes No. 1
The baby starts to produce urine by the end of the first trimester of pregnancy, but there are still changes that happen after the birth. The kidneys start to rev up in the first two weeks of life, which means that there might be even more diapers. The urinary system continues to improve for the first several months of life.
14 Ears And Noses Can Change
There are a lot of physical changes that newborns go through after the birth, especially if they go through the trauma of being squished in the trip through the birth canal. Sometimes the nose can get flattened and the ears can be curled over or tucked in. In the next few weeks, while the skull is reshaping, the ears and nose can change into the situation that they should be.
13 Newborn Acne Is A Thing
Most moms think that they won't have to worry about their kid's skin problems until they become teenagers, but the truth is that newborn acne is a real thing that can crop up. About 40 percent of newborns experience it by the end of the first month of life, according to What to Expect, thanks to hormonal changes after the birth. It might be unsightly, but moms should resist the temptation to pop any baby pimples. They will go away on their own.
12 Baby's Bowel Movements Can Be Colorful
The baby's first poopy diaper is a doozy, but luckily, it's not going to be like that every time. That first bowel movement contains all of the waste formed in the womb, and it can look tarry and be really sticky. But the baby's poop will soon change to a different color and texture, which can be different depending on whether the mom breastfeeds or bottle feeds — and the color can change again once solids are introduced.
11 They May Have Blue Skin At The Beginning
Moms might be a little frightened when they first meet their baby and notice that their skin is blue or purple, but that happens a lot. The baby's circulatory system doesn't work that well right after birth, and it can take a while for baby to pink up all over. The arms and legs can be the last to lose their blue tint. It's normal, but moms should ask doctors if they have concerns.
10 Lanugo (Sadly) Goes Away
Babies can be really hairy at birth — and we're not talking about the hair on their head. Many newborns are covered in tiny hairs called lanugo all over their body. That hair protects their skin while in the womb, but it usually begins to come off in the last few weeks of pregnancy. It goes away within a few weeks of birth.
9 Watch Out For Yellow Eyes
While blue skin can be unnerving, the real danger can happen when the baby's skin is more yellow. All newborns get a bit of an orange coloring the first few days after birth because the liver can take a while to get up to speed in filtering bilirubin. The condition is known as jaundice, and in severe cases, it can result in brain damage, so moms should watch out if the yellow reaches the baby's eyes.
8 There Are Hormonal Changes For Newborns Too
New moms go on a hormonal roller coaster during pregnancy that reaches a peak during childbirth and continues for months after the delivery. But they might be surprised to learn that their little one goes through shifts after the birth too. That's because the hormones transfer to the baby, which can cause swollen chest and diaper areas. Those parts look a lot different a week after the birth when the hormones have passed.
7 Lungs Inflate
Babies practice breathing while in the womb, but their lungs don't work until after the birth. In just a few minutes, the lungs change dramatically and parents might not even realize it. The fluid has to be expelled, and that can be helped along with a natural delivery, and the lungs have to inflate. Some newborns struggle in getting their lungs to work—especially if they are born prematurely—because a lot of changes are going on.
6 Baby's Body Heat
One of the biggest struggles for a newborn is being able to keep their body heat up. The baby's little body is working to get used to the outside world, and doing the job that the mom's body did for nine months can be harder. It can help to have skin-to-skin contact after the birth, but the mom will have to keep the baby bundled and warm for several weeks until the body gets things figured out.
5 Gastrointestinal Changes
A baby's gastrointestinal system isn't done developing in the womb. There are changes still happening for months after the little one has entered the world. Moms should actually take that to heart, especially if they are dealing with bad reflux issues that result in a lot of spit up. It can take time, but the system will mature, and at some point, the spit up will stop.
4 Baby's Blue Eyes Won't Always Stay Blue
Most babies have blue eyes at birth, but that doesn't mean they will stay the way. The eyes don't produce very much melanin in the womb, according to Parents, but the pigment can be stimulated by light. That means that the color will change over time to the natural pigment determined by the baby's DNA. Most of the time, that true color is displayed by the first birthday.
3 Skin Can Darken
Newborn skin isn't necessarily the shade that it will be during the baby's life. Babies typically have very light skin at birth, even if their parents had darker tones. The darker color might be more prominent around the nails, around the umbilical cord, and in other spots. The rest of the skin can darken over the next year until the parents know exactly how the baby will look.
2 Baby's Immune System Gets Stronger
Newborn babies are really vulnerable. Their moms know that they need to be careful to keep them away from sick people because their little bodies aren't ready to fight infections. But over time, the baby's immune system matures and eventually, it won't be so dangerous. The best thing that a mom can do is to breastfeed to help with that immunity, but it will evolve and mature either way to protect your precious little one.
1 Newborn Hair Falls Out
Lots of moms could be stunned with the hair on their baby's head at birth. But the truth is that most of the time a newborn's hair falls out, and it could come back with another color or texture. Just because the baby has a surprising amount of thick dark hair at birth doesn't mean that the mom won't end up with a bald baby at six months. But the mom's hair falls out, so it's not that big of a deal. It'll grow back.
Sources: Medline, Children's Healthcare of Philadelphia, WebMD, Parents, What to Expect