The newborn

16 August 2015


Many first time parents are often surprised by the appearance of their new-born baby. Soon after they’re born their appearance changes rapidly, but when they first arrive, a newborn baby may be covered in a thick white grease, known as vernix.

Some babies are born with a fine layer of hair on their body (lanugo), patchy skin, white spots on their face (milia) or slightly oval-shaped heads from their journey through the birth canal. All of these things will soon change and disappear shortly after birth.

When delivered, the umbilical cord will be clamped and cut. A small stump of this will remain with a cord clip attached. This will dry out and fall off, usually in about a week. Until this happens, it’s best to try to avoid irritating the cord stump. Gently clean around it with warm water and cotton wool and ensure it’s kept dry to minimise the risk of infection. 


It’s not strictly necessary to bath a newborn baby every day in the first few weeks. Their skin is delicate so avoid harsh soaps or body washes; bathing every day may strip the skin of healthy natural oils and cause dry skin. Many midwives and health visitors will recommend bathing a new baby every few days and ‘topping and tailing’ on the days in between (cleaning only the face and genitals, again using warm water and cotton wool). 


Newborn babies will spend most of the day sleeping in the first few weeks, often waking every few hours to be fed. Current guidelines for putting your baby down to sleep safely and to minimise the risk of cot death suggest that you should lay your baby flat on their back with no pillow. There should be no cuddly toys or loose items near their head, the mattress and bedding should be clean and a non-smoking environment is best for your child.


Breast fed babies usually feed more frequently (mainly due to the fact that breast milk being more easily and quickly digested than formula milk.) Most babies, breast or bottle fed will need feeding every 2-3  hours although this varies with each child. If your baby is feeding well, they should have roughly 5-6 wet nappies a day and several soiled nappies. The first soiled nappy your baby produces after birth will be dark green/black and tarry in appearance. But, as your baby starts to feed this will begin to lighten to a mustard colour.

If you’re concerned about your baby’s feeding or the content of their nappies contact your health visitor for support. 

A health visitor should contact you within the first few days after you’ve had your baby to arrange a visit at your home. This allows them to introduce themselves and provide you with useful information about local clinics, groups and facilities that may be of use to you. During this visit it’s normal for your baby to be weighed and measured and you’ll be given a child health record book to keep a log of this information. Your health visitor should provide you with their contact details so that you can reach them with questions or concerns. They’ll be able to provide support and advice from birth until your child reaches school age.

Do you have any questions about your newborn? Our experts are available 24/7 to help.