Updated on January 26th, 2024 // by Katie Griffin
During the nine months you wait for your baby to arrive, you spend your time imagining the moment you lay eyes on him or her. What will my baby look like? But don’t be surprised if your baby doesn’t come out looking quite like you imagined. Months spent in a cramped uterus and a trip through the birth canal can leave newborns with features that you may not be expecting. Rest assured, though, your new love will be beautiful nonetheless.
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Table of contents
What Will My Baby Look Like? A Glimpse at a Newborn
Covered in Vernix
Your baby will be born with a waxy white substance called vernix covering her body. This coating protects your baby in the womb, makes it easier for her to slip through the birth canal, and provides a barrier to help protect her delicate skin. He or she isn’t dirty and it doesn’t need to be washed away. Just rub it in like lotion to keep your baby’s skin healthy and moisturized.
When a baby is born, his skull is in several different pieces to make it easier to squeeze through the birth canal. (As your baby gets older, those bones will fuse together.) The spaces between these bones are called fontanelles or soft spots. While you should be careful with these more vulnerable spots, they are protected by a tough membrane, so you can rub, touch, and wash these areas without worry.
Baby heads are disproportionately large for the size of their bodies. A newborn’s brain is 25% the size it will eventually be, while their body is only around 5% of its future size. Because the head is so big and is in several pieces, newborn skulls often become misshapen. This is especially true if they were in the birth canal for a long time. Your baby’s head may look pointy at birth, but it shouldn’t take long for it to round back out.
Babies are born with a wide variety of hairstyles, but all babies begin shedding that hair between 8-12 weeks. They may lose just a little or they may go completely bald. Don’t worry though, new hair will come in starting at around 3 months old. But don’t be surprised if it is a different color or texture.
Some babies — especially those born preterm — are born with a layer of fine, soft hair covering some or all of their bodies. This hair, called lanugo, grows on all babies in the womb, but is usually shed between 33 and 36 weeks gestation, before baby is born. Babies born with lanugo will shed it within the first few weeks.
Newborn skin is very thin and sensitive. It may look wrinkled and will start peeling soon after birth if it hasn’t already. This process is normal and will reveal a healthy layer of skin in a few weeks. You may also notice some bumps or blemishes appear on your baby’s skin. This is common as they adapt to a whole new environment.
Birthmarks – Your baby may be born with a birthmark, or one might show up in the first few days. Red splotches on the forehead and neck, as well as brown spots, moles, and dark patches are all common. Most birthmarks will gradually fade and some eventually disappear.
Jaundice – If you notice your baby’s skin or the whites of their eyes begin to yellow, they probably have jaundice. This is when bilirubin, a pigment released during the liver’s breakdown of red blood cells, builds up in the body. There may be several reasons why this happens often in babies, but it can be dangerous. If your baby has jaundice, he or she may spend a little extra time in the hospital. The problem usually corrects on its own within a few days, but if it doesn’t, your baby may spend a little time under a special light at the hospital.
Learn More: Newborn Jaundice & Bilirubin Levels
The muscles in your baby’s eyes are not very strong when they are born. Because of this, you may see them wander, cross, or turn in or out occasionally. If this happens constantly, let your doctor know. As their muscles develop, they will learn to focus, use both eyes together, and process the visual information they receive.
The color of their eyes may change over time as well. Eye color is related to the amount of melanin released in the body. That process takes about a year to complete. So a blue-eyed baby may end up green, hazel, or brown-eyed by the time their first birthday rolls around.
Sometimes babies are born with underdeveloped tear ducts. This keeps their eyes from draining properly. If your baby has “teary” eyes, this could be the culprit. Most cases clear up with no treatment by baby’s first birthday.
Swelling and Bruising
You may see some swelling in your baby’s face, especially around the eyes, during the first few days. This is caused by pressure on your baby’s face in the uterus and as they move through the birth canal. Bruising or a lump on the side of the head (caput succedaneum) can also occur if there is too much pressure. The swelling and bruising should go away within a few weeks.
Swelling also occurs in the genitals and breasts of both boys and girls. Hormones that pass from the mother to the baby cause this swelling. You may also notice a lot of vaginal discharge in baby girls and even some faint spotting of blood. Within a few weeks, their hormones will balance out and everything will start to look normal.
Who Will My Baby Look Like?
The other thing parents often wonder is who their baby will look like. You may know, in a broader sense, what a newborn looks like, but you may wonder which parent he or she will favor, which specific features you’ll see in his or her little face. Is there a way to see what your baby will look like? Unfortunately, there isn’t. Even the 3D ultrasounds can’t really show your future child’s eye or hair color, expressions, mannerisms. It’s like looking at a topographical map of a beautiful beachside getaway instead of being there in real life. What exactly your child will look like is a gift for you to open later — a gift that is new every day as your little one grows and changes.
Kopa Birth’s online birthing classes allow you to prepare for a natural hospital birth from the comfort of your own home, 24/7. Enroll today in our free online childbirth class and start preparing for your natural birth!
- Hill, D. (June 2020). Newborn Eye Color. American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/Pages/Newborn-Eye-Color.aspx
- Verhave, B. L., Nassereddin, A., & Lappin, S. L. (2020). Embryology, Lanugo. StatPearls[Internet]. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK526092/
- Woo, M. (Sept 2019). Why Do Babies Lose Their Hair? LiveScience. https://www.livescience.com/why-babies-lose-their-hair.html
- Stuart, H. C., & Stevenson, S. S. (1950). Physical growth and development: in Nelson WE (cd): Textbook of Pediatrics.
- Getting to Know Your Newborn. (Feb 2018). UK National Health Service. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/your-baby-after-birth/
- Iannelli, V. (Nov 2019). Blocked Tear Duct in Children. Verywell Health.
- Jaundice in Newborns: Parent FAQs. (June 2017). American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/Pages/Jaundice.aspx
- Adler, L. & DiMaggio, J. (April 2019). Caput succedaneum. U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001587.htm