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Understanding your newborn baby’s body

7-minute read

Key facts

  • You may observe things in your newborn baby that you did not expect.
  • Your baby may have head swellings or skin changes. They may be a normal variation or may require a check-up with your doctor.
  • Your baby’s umbilical cord will change from how it appears at birth to how it appears before it separates.
  • Your hormones can affect your baby in the first few days and weeks of their life, including bleeding from the vagina, appearing to have breasts and sometimes even producing breast milk.
  • Your newborn baby’s urine may appear to have blood in it — this may be urate crystals, which is nothing to be concerned about in the first few days.
  • If you are ever unsure if something is normal or not, speak to your midwife or doctor.

What will my baby look like when they are born?

Every newborn baby is unique, and your baby will have their own special look. Often, these variations are within the range of normal appearance. Sometimes, your baby might look different to how you expected — there may be swelling, or an unusual colour or another feature. Many of these will settle down soon after birth.

Your baby’s head shape will partly depend on how they were born. Some newborns may have a small amount of swelling from travelling through your birth canal during labour. After a vaginal birth, your baby’s head may look cone-shaped, or longer than expected. The shape of your baby’s head may go back to looking more like the shape you expect over time. Your midwife or doctor will check your baby’s head to make sure any swelling is normal and will resolve on its own. If you notice a flat part or bulging area on your baby’s head, speak to a midwife or doctor.

Umbilical cord

You baby’s umbilical cord will be moist at birth and become dry and brown with time. When you baby is between 5 and 15 days old, the cord will completely dry and separate from your baby’s belly button area.

You should always wash your hands before touching your baby’s umbilical cord. Keep it clean and dry with water and cotton buds. You can use a neutral soap-free cleanser if needed. Don’t cover your baby’s cord with the nappy; allow it to get as much air as possible. The skin around the cord should not be red, hot to touch, smelly or have pus. If this happens there may be an infection and you should see a midwife, nurse or doctor.

Read more on how to care for your newborn baby’s umbilical cord.

Umbilical hernia

After the cord has separated, if you notice a lump sticking out of your baby’s belly button, if could be an umbilical hernia. It happens when a small amount of bowel slips between their abdominal muscles. The bulge may look bigger when your baby is crying. An umbilical hernia doesn’t cause pain, and usually doesn’t need surgery.

If the hernia is still large after your baby turns one, speak to your GP about having it checked by a paediatrician or surgeon.


You may notice your baby’s skin or whites of their eyes look yellow. This could be jaundice and it should be checked by a midwife or a doctor, since it may need treatment. There are many different causes of jaundice and it can come on any time from the first day of life to after the first week.

Jaundice is common in newborn babies and is not the same as jaundice in adults.

Your baby’s risk of jaundice that needs treatment is higher if they:

Read more about the causes and treatments for jaundice here.

Blood in urine

You may notice something that looks like blood in the urine in your baby’s nappy. It may be a substance known as urate crystals that have an orange-red colour. These can be normal in the first few days of life, and occur in around 1 in every 4 babies. If your baby is older than this, it can be a sign of dehydration, so you should speak to a doctor or midwife.

If you are concerned that your baby has blood in their urine, save their nappy to show the doctor or midwife.

Bleeding from the vagina

You may notice a small amount of bleeding from your baby’s vagina. This occurs in up to 1 in 25 newborns in the first week of life. It is because you baby was exposed to your oestrogen while they were in your uterus. After birth your baby is no longer getting your hormones, and bleeding occurs when the hormone level decreases — this is known as ‘hormone withdrawal’.

Vaginal bleeding in the first few days of life that happens as a result of pregnancy hormone withdrawal does not need treatment, and it is not a sign that anything is wrong.

Breast tissue in males and female newborns

Your baby may appear to have breasts. This is because they have been exposed to your hormones while they were in your uterus. It usually takes around 2 weeks to resolve in male babies and may take a few months in females. If your baby has one side that looks larger than the other, or the breasts look red or have pus, then you should show a midwife or doctor. Don’t massage the breasts as this can slow the process of it resolving.

Breast milk (‘witch’s milk’)

In addition to it looking like your baby has breasts, there may be discharge or ‘milk’ coming from your baby’s breasts. This also due to your baby being exposed to your hormones while they were in your uterus. It may be associated with your newborn having more than average breast tissue. There’s no need to worry about this, and the milk usually stops by the time your baby is 2 months old. Your midwife or child health nurse will examine your baby and can reassure you if you are concerned.


When your baby is born, their skin might look blue and blotchy. They will probably have amniotic fluid, blood, and a white cheesy substance called vernix on them — this is normal. Around a minute after being born, their skin will turn pink as they start breathing. Their hands and feet might still seem a bit purply blue colour at times. Your baby may have a little bit of skin peeling.

After a vacuum-assisted birth, your baby may have bruising (haematoma) over the area of their scalp where the cup was attached. After a forceps birth, your baby may have marks or bruising on their face or scalp from the forceps, which fade quickly.

There are many different birthmarks or rashes that your baby may have. Some of these are normal, while others may need your doctor’s attention. Always ask a midwife or doctor if you notice something on your baby’s skin that you are not sure about.

Learn more about your baby's first 24 hours.

Resources and support

If you have any questions or concerns about your newborn, speak to your midwife, doctor or child health nurse.

Mater Mother’s Private Brisbane has information about taking care of your new baby.

Do you prefer to read in languages other than English?

The Victorian Government's Health Translations website has newborn health information in a range of community languages.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: February 2024

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