When you see pictures of an adorable newborn, you rarely see the umbilical cord stump hanging out of the belly button. The first time I saw a stump, I suddenly understood why they crop it out of the pictures. It looks like a shriveled up piece of beef jerky hanging off of your baby’s belly. Even though a hospital nurse demonstrates how to clean on either side of the stump, most moms are still nervous about touching it for the first time. They soon learn that cleaning the stump is nothing compared to waiting for The Launch.
The stump falls off during the first ten days, but the question is always when and where. You may be startled to find a bloody stump in the crib sheet one morning. It won’t exactly be The Godfather- bloody-head-in-the-sheets caliber, but it can still be shocking the first time. By the time you have more children, you will become jaded to disgusting things falling out of baby clothes, so you will barely flinch when a bloody stump-missile launches toward you from the dirty laundry. Until you are a veteran, however, you should be prepared for a ten day siege until the “weapon” is recovered.
Just when you thought the days of acne were long gone, your newborn develops more pimples than a teen on the night before class pictures. A newborn’s skin is extremely delicate, so don’t be surprised if you see a few rashes, flaking skin, and yes, baby acne. These pimples do not hurt, and they disappear within a couple of months. Babies do not spend time preening in front of the mirror, so they do not have the stress that a teenager might have. All you have to do is keep the affected area clean and wait patiently. And probably give your camera a rest for a few weeks.
Newborns also commonly have dry skin, so they do not need to be bathed with soap daily. (Really. Bath time insanity with older children is coming soon enough, so get your rest now.) Baby lotion should be applied generously to affected skin areas throughout the day. All three of our babies developed Cradle Cap, thick and crusty yellow or brown patches on the scalp. This harmless condition can be removed by rubbing baby oil on the baby’s head and then scraping the patches off with a comb or fingernails. You will marvel at how quickly you went from doing crossword puzzles on a lazy afternoon to scalping an infant.
The general rule of temperature control around a baby is that if you are comfortable, he probably is too, and vice versa. Unfortunately, this rule does not take into account that people have varying degrees of circulation. A man might announce that the weather is “warm and beautiful” when it is 60 degrees, and a woman will have to come back inside to get her parka. Grandmothers follow kids around during the summer, begging them to put on a sweater when it is eighty degrees.
Moms tend to worry that their baby is cold and consequently over-dress a newborn. Your newborn’s circulation will be underdeveloped for two or three months, and his hands and feet will feel cold. If a baby’s body feels warm, you can forget about the extra blanket. Overheating a baby can cause crankiness. (For the baby, although parents can get cranky, too.) Besides, you will need the blanket for your nap when you fold like a cheap card table from exhaustion.