While every parent participating in this trend undoubtedly loves and cherishes their newborns, it’s hard to deny that babies fresh out of the proverbial oven look, well, a little under-baked.
But according to Dr. Kelly Culwell, an OB-GYN and Forbes Health Advisory Board Member, there’s a fascinating explanation for why newborns look the way they do.
In the Know asked Dr. Culwell why newborns have that characteristic “smooshed” look after entering the world.
“The ‘scrunching’ of the face is actually swelling that usually occurs during labor and delivery,” Dr. Culwell said.
“This can be particularly noticeable if the newborn spent a long time in the birth canal (vagina) such as when the third stage of labor (the pushing stage once the cervix is completely dilated) is prolonged.”
And that strange-looking “goop” newborns are coated in? Think of it as a kind of in utero lotion for your baby’s skin.
“The ‘goop’ is called ‘vernix,’ and it develops when the fetus is inside the womb (uterus) to protect the skin from the amniotic fluid,” said Dr. Culwell. “It is like a layer of moisturizer.”
But if that “goop” has a dark green hue, it’s called “meconium,” and it might indicate that your baby took a little bathroom break during labor.
“This is actually a sign that the baby pooped inside the uterus, which can happen if labor was particularly difficult or stressful for the baby,” said Dr. Culwell.
“But it usually doesn’t cause any problems, as long as the material is suctioned out of the baby’s mouth right away after birth.”
Babies fresh out of the womb are also known for their distinctive coloration, which can contribute to their shocking appearance.
“Newborns are usually pink but can develop bruises during the birthing process,” said Dr. Culwell.
“It is also normal for hands and feet to be a little bit blue, as the newborn transitions from relying entirely on the placenta for oxygen to getting their oxygen through breathing.”
Their shape, too, can take new parents by surprise — specifically that of their little heads.
“Newborns can also have a ‘conehead’ appearance, especially with prolonged labor,” explained Dr. Culwell.
“The bones in the newborn skull are not fused together to allow for flexibility in making the way through the vagina during delivery. This usually resolves within a few days.”
Their head shape can also be impacted by how they were born, according to Dr. Culwell.
“There can also be swelling of the scalp over the area that was the first to come out during delivery, or if a vacuum was used to help with delivery,” she explained.
“These issues are less common in babies that are born by C-section if they didn’t spend much [or] any time in the birth canal.”
No matter how newborns look when parents first meet them, it’s sure to be love at first sight — even if that sight can be a little surprising at first!
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