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For Kelly and Mike Copeland, learning the gender of their baby was a long-anticipated moment, one they had chosen to save for delivery day. When that moment finally came, the proud father announced, “It’s a boy!”
“No,” said the OB-GYN, smiling. “It’s a girl.” How could a perfectly normal baby girl be mistaken for a boy? When she emerged from the womb, the baby’s genital area was swollen, a completely normal occurrence that results from a surge in maternal hormones through the placenta immediately before birth. (For the same reason, male newborns have an enlarged scrotum and may appear to have breasts or nipple discharge.)
Newborns on network sitcoms may present with nice, round heads, creamy complexions and perfectly proportioned little bodies, but real-life babies usually arrive with a variety of appearance nuances that can be perplexing—or even startling—to first-time parents. The good news is in most cases, such quirks are entirely normal and, almost always, temporary. To be prepared for what your baby may look like, here are a few things you might expect to see.
Stork Bites & Strawberries
Fair-skinned babies often have a hemangioma, a cluster of red blood vessels close to the surface of the skin that go by the name “stork bites” or “salmon patches.” They tend to disappear over several months; those that appear on the back of the neck are more likely to persist. “Strawberry hemangiomas” are more raised and last longer, but they, too, are most likely temporary: 30 percent disappear within three months; 60 percent within six months; and 90 percent within nine months.
Head shape» From pointy to perfect
I thought I’d taken enough classes during my first pregnancy to ready myself for just about anything, yet nothing prepared me for the initial shock of seeing my newborn son’s cone-shaped head. When the nurse placed a knit cap on Declan before putting him in my arms, I wondered if the cover-up was for him or me.
Of course, Declan’s head took on a lovely, kissable, round shape in time, as do all babies’. “The odd shape of the head is the result of the baby passing through the birth canal,” explains Richard L. Saphir, M.D., clinical professor of pediatrics at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. A newborn’s skull bones are not yet fused expressly to make delivery easier. The head takes on a more normal shape within two weeks.
Babies born by Cesarean section are more likely to enter the world with picture-perfect round heads, though not always: The tops of C-section babies’ skulls can appear flat, mimicking the shape of the womb. Flat-tops, which are more common in breech babies, change more gradually, Saphir says, sometimes taking a full year.
You also may notice your baby has a recessed chin; it’s just nature’s temporary way of making it easier for him to breastfeed.