Newborn characteristics

Newborn characteristics

Newborn characteristics

1- Physical characteristics:

“Neonate,” is the name for newborn babies from birth till the age of one month. If the neonate has a strong cry and moves actively, with pink skin and nails, that means he is in a good health.

Most newborns breathe faster than adults, usually more than twice as fast. The respiratory rate for newborns (40-50 times/minute), and heart rate, (140-180 beat/minute). These vital signs increase when the baby cries or when disturbed, due to any reason.

After the second month of birth, respiratory rate will decrease to (30-40/minute), and heart rate decreases to (120-140 beat/minute).

Neonate body temperature is around 37c◦ (98.1f), and are very sensitive to the surrounding temperature as their capacities to detect temperature adjustments are not yet well developed. Thus, room temperature has to stay constantly warm, and the neonate shouldn’t be covered completely. Put your hand behind his back if there is sweating. This means your child is too warm, either due to high room temperature or heavy, warm clothes. Within days, the umbilical cord dries and turns to a black color. It falls off within two weeks and ends at the umbilicus. Before it falls off, it is advised to give the neonate a sponge bath. When it falls off, clean the area with an alcoholic bandage once or twice daily until it heals completely. Newborn characteristics

You should ensure that the area does not become irritated when you change your baby. If it is persistently red and it does not dry during the first three weeks, you should consult the pediatrician immediately.

2- Neonatal reflexes:

Reflexes are the actions of the neonate in response to certain influential factors. It is so important in neurological and muscular maturation, though it does not seem to be highly specialized.

There are some reflexes that are considered a sign of, “self-dependence,” of the baby, in the future:

A- Sucking reflex:
Newborn characteristics
The baby starts lactation the moment he is born and he acts similarly when you touch his cheek, the baby tries to turn his head and suck anything that touches his cheeks, this is related to his ability to swallow and breathe, and they are important survival actions.

B- Catch reflex:

It is an obvious reflex, just like the sucking reflex. If you extend your fingers toward your baby, he will catch them and he might even elevate his body a little bit.

Toes are not that sensitive but if you touch his foot he will extend his toes and flex them again, this involuntary reflex means that the baby needs to be held by his mother.

C- Stepping reflex:

A Newborn can take a few steps, if you hold him, put the baby in a horizontal position with his feet touching the ground. You will notice that the baby will step on the ground by bending his back forward a little. This can be noticed shortly after birth.

D- Startling Reflex in newborn baby:

It is related to the sudden loss of balance, due to loud sudden sounds, or it may be related to a sudden change in position.

The baby extends his arms and legs and moving fingers and toes. Then all the limbs are extended like he is hugging something. He may cry at the same time. If this reflex continues for 3 to 4 months after birth, you should consult a doctor as this may be related to brain problems in the newborn.

Video of lactation

F- Harmonious neck reflexes in newborn baby:

This reflex can be seen after the first four weeks of birth. The baby is lying on his back, and moving his head in a certain direction while the arm on the same side extends. At the same time, the limb on the other side is flexed with the hand directed behind the head. This kind of reflex shows the stronger, more dominant hand, which is usually the right side.

3- Brain development in newborns:

Brain cells that are responsible for mental processes start developing early in fetal development. Studies have shown that the highest rate of brain cell development is at 18 weeks of pregnancy and continue until the first two years after birth.

During the second stage of development, from 2 to 4 years, further developments are still fast but occur at a slower rate than experienced during the first stage.

At 8 years of age, these cells are barely growing. Full brain development is reflected by the feeling of stability, strong curiosity, the ability for accurate observation and conclusions as opposed to, “stuffed information.”

What is the parent's role in helping their child during the rapid stage of brain development?

Parents should make their baby feel their endless love and concern. Also, recognize his movements and signals. And, the most important thing they should give them is the nutritional supplements necessary for brain growth, during this period.

4- Stimulus and response for newborns:

It has always been thought that the most important senses for the newborn appear late, but it has been found that they do start developing early, since birth. For example, if the newborn hears a voice, he turns his head and eyes toward the voice. This means that he wants to know what he is hearing.

Visibility for the newborn is limited, usually from 20-30cm. He is able to see shades and can observe darkness and light. But it is so important to know that vision and hearing are quite joyful for your baby. Hearing develops gradually for the fetus. That is when he hears his mother's heart beat. The experienced mother knows how to calm her baby with soft synchronized voices, such as soft music to sleep. The ticking clock, pillows and colored covers, voice activated moving toys, all these things can affect the baby.

Touching is the most developed sense for the newborn. If you touch the newborn, you will notice his reaction immediately, or his happy reaction when his parents hold him in their arms. It might seem a natural thing, but it is a major necessity for the development of our touching sensation. When the baby feels his parents' love and care, a positive concept for his, “self,” develops. It is also important for emotional, physical and mental development. Smell and taste are as sensitive as touch sensation.

This can be proved by observing the reaction of the baby to breast milk and to synthetic milk. When his mother gives him the bottle after breast feeding he refuse it as he has become used to the smell of his mother and the taste of breast milk.

So, as said before, the baby has major physiological functions that makes him able to react to different external stimuli. The desired stimuli will enhance the growth of the baby. If there is over stimulation, this will confuse and disturb the baby.

Deciduous teeth:

The first teeth start to develop between 5 to 8 months after birth. They may appear earlier or later but this shouldn’t be a concern if the baby is in good health. If the baby develops some symptoms, such as, excessive salivation, desire to bite anything in his hands, this may indicate that his teeth are about to appear. You can feel his teeth if you touch his gum with your finger. Give him something to bite, like a carrot, biscuit or a rubber biter. You should acknowledge the strong association between teeth and fluoride. Regardless of the time these teeth appear, the permanent teeth are hidden in gum tissues, so to keep your baby's teeth healthy and free of cares, you should supply him with a fluoride treatment available through your Dentist and some doctors.

Taking care of newborn skin:

The most important reason why parents like holding and touching their baby is his soft and delicate skin. You should moisturize his skin with lotion around his heals and elbows and folded areas, because these areas are prone to dryness.

After a bath, use the powder on the folded area to prevent skin lesions. Cut the nails while he is sleeping to prevent scratches. Avoid harsh clothes as these will cause skin redness. Your baby should wear a hat when going out. In addition to moisturizing lotion to protect his skin, it is advised not to expose him to direct sunlight for long periods.


Babies need a certain amount of sun light, and fresh air for healthy and good growth.

Sunlight is important as it produces Vitamin-D, which is important for bone, skin development and blood circulation.

At two months of age, it is preferred to expose your baby to fresh air and sunlight unless his weight is less than 4.5kg. Pick a sunny, warm day to take time for a walk in his stroller. This helps in adjusting his body temperature in a steady manner when he is exposed to different temperatures outside. On your first day, do not take a long time, on average 20 minutes. You can increase your time outside gradually up to an one hour if he is in good general condition. If he is exposed to direct sunlight for long period, he may get sunburned. That is why you should put some cream on exposed skin before going out, in addition to wearing a hat.

It is preferred to use a comfortable stroller that is bent a little bit backward. You should also make sure that he is not wearing too many clothes. This is the best way to expose the baby to sunlight. A nice sunbath can be given to the baby on the balcony, or close to the window. The best time is between 10 AM and 3 PM during spring and autumn, or between 1 PM to 2 PM during winter months and just before sunset in the Summer. It is appropriate to be done one to two hours after a meal. The baby’s head should be covered or put under an umbrella to avoid direct exposure to sunlight.

Taking care of the baby during summer:

Your baby will face difficult times during hot summer days. He may not have a desire to eat, and his digestive functions may weaken. And he may become upset more often. The main concern for his mother is how to protect him from summer diseases. First, you have to keep him at home in the coolest room. You can give him several baths on hot days. Do not allow him to lay naked. Instead, put some light clothes on him and change him continuously. Cover him with light sheets when he sleeps and do not force him to eat. Give him good amounts of fluids such as juice, vegetables and barley tea. Give him his milk or food cold, and mash his food so that it will be easy to digest.

Keep his bottle and plates clean and keep them sterilized by boiling them. The baby should be kept away from fans or air conditioners. Natural air is preferred but if the room temperature is above 30c° (86f), you can switch on the AC.

If you have to use pesticides, your baby should stay outside for more than one hour after refreshing the air in the room. It is preferred to use screening against mosquitoes instead of pesticides. Do not forget to take him to the Doctor for his vaccinations, as scheduled.

Taking care of the baby during winter:

Winter is a difficult time as is the case in summer. As said before, temperature regulation centers in the baby as he still immature. He can easily get cold and flu, which may lead to serious diseases, if not treated properly. Keep your baby in a warmer area at home. Usually, it is the room and / or window toward the Southern area. Keep the room temperature around 20C°. If it is less than 10C°, he will be at a risk of having a cold and if it is less than 5C° he will suffer from frail frost. This is not good care.

The best method for warming the room is an electrical heater. If you choose gas or kerosene, you should pay attention to the potential of poisonous gases and make sure that there is good ventilation. Put a protective barrier around the heater, to protect the baby from burns. Do not over dress him, as this will impede his movement.

When the weather gets better and it becomes warm, open the windows to refresh the air and try to let him enjoy the warm sunlight.

It is difficult to keep the baby warm during a bath. It is better to bathe during the daytime when the weather is relatively warm.

The baby’s appetite does not change during the winter. Give him good amounts of warm food, rich with vitamins.

The usual physical examinations:

It is so important to visit the pediatrician on a regular basis to check on your baby and make sure that his growth is appropriate to his age. The first visit should be 4 weeks after delivery, then every 2 months until your baby is one year old. These regular visits are as important as visiting the pediatrician when he is sick; you can talk with your baby’s doctor, take some advices about unusual behaviors and about his growth and development. It is preferred to choose the clinic that is close to your home in emergencies.

You can check your baby’s temperature. If it is between 37C° to 37.5C°, this is normal. Body temperature may normally decrease a little in the morning and increase in the afternoon. The best way to measure his temperature is rectally. Hold your baby while he is lying on his abdomen, shake the thermometer till the red point drops below 37C°, put the thermometer gently in the anus, for 1-3 minutes, and do not ever leave your baby with the thermometer still in his anus. If you must leave him, remove the thermometer and start again later.

- Vomiting:

Newborn babies usually vomit what they had eaten last. His stomach is like a bottle in shape, unlike the adult stomach, which is like a sac in shape. Babies can easily vomit if you bend his back forward.

When you have to take your baby?

If he is vomiting for long time and if he vomits large amounts frequently, you should visit the doctor to check if there is something abnormal, like asthma, meningitis or duodenal stenosis.

- Diaper rash:

The genital area in the baby can be irritated and red from urine, stool or diapers. To avoid these problems, change the diaper frequently. Use moisturizing cream or powder or special ointments described by the doctor. When the area is red, try to expose it to the air, several times a day.

- Fever:

If the body temperature is above 38C°, use cold compresses on his forehead, or use skin patches, or keep his feet warm when you use skin patches. Cover them with dry towels to prevent direct contact with the skin. If the fever continues for hours, (< 37.8) you should consult a doctor.

- Constipation:

If the baby has difficulties in defecation, or his stool is hard, this does not mean he has constipation. The most important factors causing constipation are inadequate nutritional supplements, or frequent vomiting before giving any medication. You should try to realize the precipitating factors. If it is not due to a certain disease, give your baby adequate amounts of fluid. A warm sits bath can be helpful. You should keep in mind that some babies may defecate twice weekly without having any medical problems so always check his stool characteristics before becoming concerned.

- Jaundice:

Most babies will have jaundice in the first few days after birth. That is due to incomplete development of liver function. The liver is not capable of handling the yellow dye (bilirubin) from dead red blood cells. Functional jaundice (hyperbilirubinemia) disappears usually within two weeks. If the baby is not fully mature, if it persist for more than two weeks or if the baby has a serious condition, his head and toes get yellowish in color. This will be a pathological jaundice and the baby will need special care if the bilirubin level (yellow dye) increases to 20%mg. This may lead to a serious condition in which the brain cells will be affected and may be destroyed. Paralysis may occur so take care of this and do not wait too long before taking your baby to the doctor.

- Colic:

It is not a disease. Instead, it is a physiological thing during growth. The baby may cry without any symptoms such as fever, vomiting or diarrhea. Colic starts 3 weeks after delivery and may continue until 3 months old. In this case, the baby doesn’t sleep at night and cries in panicky way. Consequently his parents do not sleep and they may have difficulty tolerating this situation.

The most important causative factors are psychological stresses, strong intestinal cramps, intestinal dilatation due to environmental factors, or indigestion from over eating. If the colic worsens in the evening, it is due mostly to pressure caused by several factors, such as, sound of television, loud voices or changes in the environment of the house.

Sensitive babies are more prone to colic. If you face this problem with your baby, it will be difficult to calm him. You should try as much as possible to make him comfortable with the help of your family. If it is caused by the air, put the baby on your shoulder until he burps. Patting on his back may help him along.

Sometimes, these symptoms might be due to other causes such as allergy, gastrointestinal disorders, or peritonitis. If there is blood in his stool from the anus, take him immediately to the hospital without changing his diaper to show it to the doctor.

Growth and development during childhood:

Most of the development in everyone’s life happens during this period.

During the first year, the baby has major developments in almost every area. He starts to respond to his surrounding environment and adapt to it. He tries to regulate and change his functional abilities and potentials to become a complete, small human being.

Parents can not determine certain goals for their baby, the desired length and weight, or the potentials he should have. These things make every human unique from the others. Parents should give much attention to these things. If their baby does not have these desired goals, these important feelings will affect his emotions, making him over sensitive. Parents should be relieved and give their baby the required attention and passion, in order for the baby to be able to achieve the ideal development.

Last Update: 2011-09-01