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Basics About Your Newborn’s Body

For the past nine months, you’ve been getting ready for your baby’s arrival. But now that you’re bringing home your bundle of joy, you’re a little worried. How will you ever remember everything you learned about what to expect in those first few weeks?

Even the best-prepared parents may be surprised by a few things that are quite normal in newborns, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). 


These common spots and stains may be present at birth and are usually harmless. Many eventually disappear on their own: 

  • Stork bite or nevus flammeus. This is seen on the forehead or on the back of the neck, or both. This mark almost always disappears as the child grows.

  • Mongolian spot. This mark, which may look like a bruise, appears over the lower back and upper buttocks on darker pigmented babies. This spot frequently disappears by age 5 or 6.

  • Congenital nevus. This is also called a mole. Moles don't disappear and may grow larger over time.

  • Port wine stain. This is a red to purple mark that may appear anywhere on the body, but frequently on the face. This mark tends to grow larger over time.


It’s not uncommon to see a tiny bit of blood in your daughter’s diaper for the first couple of weeks. This tiny bit of vaginal bleeding is a response to the withdrawal of maternal hormones now that she’s not in the womb.  


Mom’s hormones that are still in your baby’s system may cause breast tissue to grow slightly, in both girls and boys. These lumps may last for a few months, but should then go away.  

Cord color

You’ve probably been told that your baby’s umbilical cord stump will fall off on its own. But, did you know it will turn yellow and then brown or black first? 

Odd movements

Newborns’ bodies are ruled by reflexes. So, your baby won’t be able to control most movements very well for the first few months. His or her chin, arms, or legs may seem shaky, especially when crying. 

Other skin conditions

Rashes and other skin conditions are common in newborns. Here's a look at several:

  • Acne. Newborn acne, or pimples that can break out on the baby's face, usually appears at 2 to 3 weeks of age. The cause is unknown, but it seems to be associated with maternal hormones (maternal androgens) that pass from the placenta to the baby during pregnancy. The acne may worsen by 1 month but generally goes away without treatment. It may be helpful to gently wash the baby's face once a day with a mild soap to keep milk residue off the skin.

  • Cradle cap. Cradle cap looks like scaly white patches on the scalp. These patches are usually gone in a few months.

  • Erythema toxicum. This is a reddish-colored rash with small yellowish-white raised bumps in the center that may be seen on the face, trunk, legs, and arms. The rash may appear within the first couple of days after birth and last for about a week. The rash typically disappears without any treatment.

  • Milia. These tiny white bumps can appear on your baby's face. They will go away in a few weeks.

Rapid breathing

Healthy newborns average 40 breaths a minute; adults take 12 to 18. An infant’s breathing may pause for up to 10 seconds. Then, the baby resumes breathing.   

Soft spots

The two soft areas on your baby’s head are known as fontanels. They’ll be there until the bones in the skull knit together. When your child cries, they may bulge. The soft spots may pulse along with their heartbeat.  

If you feel your child is ill or if something just doesn’t seem right, call your health care provider.

Reducing the risk for SIDS and sleep-related deaths

Here are recommendations from the AAP on how to reduce the risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and sleep-related deaths from birth to age 1:

  • Get prenatal care. Routine prenatal care is critical for reducing the risk for SIDS.

  • Breastfeed your infant. The AAP recommends breastfeeding for at least six months, and continuing breastfeeding for one year or longer if desired by the mother and infant.

  • Make sure your baby is immunized. An infant who is fully immunized can reduce his or her risk for SIDS.

  • Place your infant on his or her back for sleep or naps. This can decrease the risk for SIDS, aspiration, and choking. Never place your baby on his or her side or stomach for sleep or naps. If your baby is awake, allow your child time on his or her tummy as long as you are supervising, to decrease the chances that your child will develop a flat head.

  • Always talk with your baby's doctor before raising the head of their crib if he or she has been diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux.

  • Offer your baby a pacifier for sleeping or naps, if he or she isn't breastfed. If breastfeeding, delay introducing a pacifier until breastfeeding has been firmly established.

  • Use a firm mattress (covered by a tightly fitted sheet) to prevent gaps between the mattress and the sides of a crib, a play yard, or a bassinet. This can decrease the risk for entrapment, suffocation, and SIDS.

  • Share your room instead of your bed with your baby. Putting your baby in bed with you raises the risk for strangulation, suffocation, entrapment, and SIDS. Bed sharing is not recommended for twins or other higher multiples.

  • Avoid using infant seats, car seats, strollers, infant carriers, and infant swings for routine sleep and daily naps. These may lead to obstruction of an infant's airway or suffocation.

  • Avoid using illicit drugs and alcohol, and don't smoke during pregnancy or after birth.

  • Avoid overbundling, overdressing, or covering an infant's face or head. This will prevent him or her from getting overheated, reducing the risks for SIDS.

  • Avoid using loose bedding or soft objects—bumper pads, pillows, comforters, blankets—in an infant's crib or bassinet to help prevent suffocation, strangulation, entrapment, or SIDS.

  • Avoid using cardiorespiratory monitors and commercial devices—wedges, positioners, and special mattresses—to help decrease the risk for SIDS and sleep-related infant deaths.

  • Always place cribs, bassinets, and play yards in hazard-free areas—those with no dangling cords or wires—to reduce the risk for strangulation.