By Professor Frank Oberklaid and Dr Leah Kaminsky, excerpt from 'Your Child's Health'
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The journey down the birth canal can do all sorts of things to your baby’s face and head, including bruising or squashing her head out of shape. Here are some perfectly normal things that might surprise or worry you when you first see your newborn.

Newborn sleeping

For several days after birth, your baby’s head may have a strange shape because it has been squashed during her passage down the birth canal. This soon returns to normal.

Your baby’s face or head might be bruised, especially if you had a forceps delivery. This heals gradually and will soon disappear. Some swelling of the scalp, called caput, may also be present and soon disappears. The swelling is all on the outside of the baby's skull, protecting the brain.


You can easily feel the diamond-shaped soft spot, or fontanelle, on the crown of the baby’s head. This is the point where the skull bones will join together when the baby is around 18 months old and the growth of the brain is completed. You might be able to see it pulse in time with your baby’s heartbeat. There is a smaller fontanelle towards the back of the head, which may be more difficult to feel.


Some babies are born with a full head of hair, which is usually brown. This starts falling out after several weeks, and is gradually replaced by permanent hair, which is not necessarily the same colour. Some babies, especially premature babies, have fine, dark body hair (lanugo) for the first month.


The eye colour of a baby at birth usually begins to change at around six months of age. Children who are going to have dark eyes tend to change a little earlier than this. Some babies are born with a blocked tear duct. The eyelids can look very puffy after birth, due to a build-up in pressure as the baby passes down the birth canal. This tends to clear up within several days. Sometimes part of the white of the eye is red due to a little minor bleeding; this will also clear up.

If the mother has not been given any painkillers or anaesthetic, which will influence the baby’s state of alertness, then from the moment of birth your baby will be able to fix her gaze on objects and follow them for a short distance. Babies can turn their eyes to where a sound is coming from, and prefer to look at objects that resemble the human face.


You may be worried that your baby has come out with a boxer’s nose! It is common for the passage down the birth canal to flatten her nose; and this corrects itself after a few days.


Most children are born without any teeth. If your child does have a tooth at birth, check with your dentist to make sure it is a normal tooth with a root structure and not just an extra tooth that can dislodge and be breathed in accidentally. The tongue in newborn babies has a very short band connecting it to the floor of the mouth. This usually stretches over time.


The ears of a newborn baby often look a little squashed. The cartilage hardens after about a month and the ears begin to take on their normal shape.

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