Your baby's first hours of life [Cradle Club]

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Your baby's first hours of life

After months of waiting, finally, your new baby has arrived! Mothers-to-be often spend so much time in anticipation of labor, they don't think about or even know what to expect during the first hours after delivery. Read on so you will be ready to bond with your new bundle of joy.

What newborns look like

You might be surprised by how your newborn looks at birth. If you had a vaginal delivery, your baby entered this world through a narrow and boney passage. It's not uncommon for newborns to be born bluish, bruised, and with a misshapen head. An ear might be folded over. Your baby may have a complete head of hair or be bald. Your baby also will have a thick, pasty, whitish coating, which protected the skin in the womb. This will wash away during the first bathing.

Once your baby is placed into your arms, your gaze will go right to his or her eyes. Most newborns open their eyes soon after birth. Eyes will be brown or bluish-gray at first. Looking over your baby, you might notice that the face is a little puffy. You might notice small white bumps inside your baby's mouth or on his or her tongue. Your baby might be very wrinkly. Some babies, especially those born early, are covered in soft, fine hair, which will come off in a couple of weeks. Your baby's skin might have various colored marks, blotches, or rashes, and fingernails could be long. You might also notice that your baby's breasts and penis or vulva are a bit swollen.

How your baby looks will change from day to day, and many of the early marks of childbirth go away with time. If you have any concerns about something you see, talk to your doctor. After a few weeks, your newborn will look more and more like the baby you pictured in your dreams.

Bonding with your baby

Spending time with your baby in those first hours of life is very special. Although you might be tired, your newborn could be quite alert after birth. Cuddle your baby skin-to-skin. Let your baby get to know your voice and study your face. Your baby can see up to about two feet away. You might notice that your baby throws his or her arms out if someone turns on a light or makes a sudden noise. This is called the startle response. Babies also are born with grasp and sucking reflexes. Put your finger in your baby's palm and watch how she or he knows to squeeze it. Feed your baby when she or he shows signs of hunger. You can visit our section on breastfeeding for tips to make these first feedings go well.