Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Newborn (Latin neonatus) is an infant who is within hours, days or in the first 28 days after birth. An infant (Latin infans ~ unable to speak; speechless) is the very young offspring of humans.  A newborn's shoulders and hips are narrow, the abdomen protrudes slightly, and the arms and legs are relatively short.  The average birth weight of a full-term newborn is approximately 7.5 pounds but is typically in the range of 5.5 to 10 pounds.  The average total body length is 14-20 inches.  The Apgar score is a measure of a newborn's transition from the uterus during the first minutes of life.  A newborn's head is very large in proportion to the rest of the body, and the cranium is enormous relative to his face.  While the adult skull is about 1/8 of the total body length, the newborn's is about 1/4.  At birth, many region's of the newborn's skull have not yet been converted to bone, leaving soft spots known as fontanels.  The two largest are the diamond-shaped fontanel, located at the top fron portion of the head, and the smaller triangular-shaped fontanel, which lies at the back of the head.  Later in the child's life, these bones will fuse together in a natural process.  A protein called noggin is responsible for the delay in an infant's skull fusion.  So that's why they say "use your noggin for something other than wearing a hat!"
During labor and birth, the infant's skull changes shape to fit through the birth canal, causing some children to be born with an elongated head.  It will usually return to normal on its own within a few days or weeks.  Some newborns have a fine, downy body hair called lanugo which will disappear within a few weeks.  Infants may be born with full heads of hair; others, particularly white infants, may have very fine hair or even be bald.  The scalp may be temporarily bruised or swollen and the area around the eyes may be puffy.  Newborns' digestive tracts have never been used prior to birth.  Meconium has the function of standing in for fecal material and allows the intestines to develop to the point where they can process milk immediately on birth.  This material is passed by the child in the first few days.
Immediately after birth, a newborn's skin is often grayish to dusky blue in color.  As soon as the newborn begins to breathe, usually within a minute or two, the skin's color reaches its normal tone.  Newborns are wet, covered in streaks of blood, and coated with a substance known as vernix caseosa, which is to act as an antibacterial barrier.  The newborn may also have Mongolian spots, various other birthmarks, or peeling skin, particularly on the wrists, hands, ankles and feet.  A newborn's genitals are enlarged and reddened, with male infants having an unusually large scrotum.  The breasts may also be enlarged, even in male infants.  This is caused by naturally occurring maternal hormones and is a temporary condition.  Females may actually discharge milk from their nipples (sometimes called witch's milk) and a bloody or milky-like substance from the vagina.  This is considered normal and will disappear in time.  The umbilical cord of a newborn is bluish-white in color.  After birth, the umbilical cord is normally cut, leaving a 1-2 inch stub.  The umbilical cord will dry out, shrivel, darken and spontaneously fall off within 3 weeks.  Hospitals may apply triple dye to the stub to prevent infection, which may color the stub and surrounding skin purple.
Upon entry to the air-breathing world, without the nutrition and oxygenation from the umbilical cord, the newborn must begin to adjust to life outside the uterus.  Newborns can feel all different sensations, but respond most enthusiastically to soft stroking, cuddling and caressing.  Gentle rocking back and forth often calms a crying infant, as do massages and warm baths.  Newborns may confort themselves by sucking their thumb, or pacifier (dee dee.) The need to suckle is instinctive and allows newborns to feed.  Newborn infants have slight vision, being able to focus on objects only about 18 inches directly in front of their face.  While this might not be much, it is all that is needed for the infant to look at the mother's eyes or areola when breastfeeding.  Depth perception does not develop until the infant is mobile.  A newborn cries when wanting to feed.  When a newborn is not sleeping, feeding or crying, he may spend a lot of time staring at random objects, usually anything that is shiny, has sharp contrasting colors or complex patterns will catch an infant's eye.  However, the newborn has a preference for looking at other human faces above all else.
While still inside the mother, the infant could hear many internal noises, such as the mother's heartbeat, as well as many external noises including human voices, music and most other sounds.  Although a newborn's ears may have some fluid, he can hear sound from before birth.  Newborns usually respond to a female voice over a male voice.  This may explain why people will unknowingly raise the pitch of their voice when talking to newborns.  This change of voice is called motherese.)  The sound of other human voices, especially the mother's, can have a calming and soothing effect on the newborn.  Loud or sudden voices will startle and scare a newborn.  Newborns prefer sounds that were a regular feature of their prenatal environment.  Newborns respond to different tastes, including sweet, sour, bitter and salty substances ~ with a preference toward sweets and for the smell of foods that their mother ate regularly.
Infants cry as a form of basic instinctive communication.  A crying infant may be trying to express a variety of feelings including hunger, discomfort, overstimulation, boredom, wanting something or loneliness. 
Breastfeeding is the recommended method of feeding by all major infant health organizations.  Studies have now shown that there is a direct link to a decline in sudden infant death syndrome and babies that have been fed with mother's milk.  If breastfeeding is not possible, or desired, bottle feeding is done with expressed breast milk or infant formula.  Infants are born with the sucking reflex allowing them to extract the milk from the nipples.  Infants have an instinctive behavior know as rooting with which they seek out the nipple. 
Mike and Margarita have been getting ready for their bundle of joy and have the crib assembled.  At our home we have the embellished bassinet at the ready for our little Dillan.  I had to contain myself with bringing home too many baby items as they grow so quickly and he already has enough from their baby shower.  I pulled out a few stuffed animals and prepared them for his arrival.  The smell of Dreft soap on baby sheets and comforters still brings a wave of memories.  It amazes me how the sense of smell has tremendous triggers.
When Dillan comes over to our place, we have the old changing table and cute little onesies with car- cars, booties, sock hats and blankies for him to snuggle in.  As infants grow so quickly, we can always save them for the next grandbaby!  Wayne and I must sharpen our skills with putting together baby contraptions for we spent too much time trying to put the stroller together, when, in fact, all we had to do was insert a few straps here and there ~ not so complicated after all.  We'll get there.  That is to be the joy of grandparenting ~ it's not so hard this round.  Going from mother to grandmother is a happy passage.  I was told to adopt this motto:  I take life easy, but I haven't slowed down.  The joy of being a grandma is that I can love just because they are adorable ~ I can't spoil kids by loving them.  There is no such thing as too much love.  I can read books and sing all the songs and nursery rhymes I sang to our sons. If they ask me what worked for us in raising the boys, I'll offer anecdotes from my personal experience. If they need time to be together and bond, I will be with baby while they go out to dinner and enjoy alone time (which will mean talking about baby the whole time, anyway.)  I hope our grandson always feels like we couldn't wait to see him.  
I know you are with your great-grandmas Helen and Virgie, baby Dillan.  Feel their love and smooches as you have been and when you decide to enter our lives, we will continue their affections.  Take your time and when you're ready, we will be here with open arms.  Your mommy and daddy are very excited to see you and there is so much love down here, precious one. 
You are our rainbow.  xo