Physical appearance

What does a well-fed baby look like?

Babies fill out after birth, following a typical pattern: (1) the tummy fills out first, then (2) the face and neck, and then (3) the thighs. Healthy babies have a bulging tummy, but it should feel soft and the baby should generally be happy. If it is suddenly hard and big and the baby starts screaming, contact your health-care provider immediately or go to a hospital. Within a few weeks of birth, the neck should be hidden under a roll of fat and hard to clean. Rolls develop on the insides of the thighs, too, and there should be no loose skin. The thighs of premature babies take longer to fill out. As babies become toddlers, they start looking leaner and less fleshy.

A) Well-fed babies are fleshy and not thin

This is a well-fed baby with a full neck, a full tummy, and fleshy thighs. She looks engaged and not stressed.

Babies fill out after delivery. This process follows a typical pattern:

1) The tummy will flesh out first

Within one to two weeks of delivery and when your baby is lying down, you will notice the tummy bulging out below the ribs. Healthy babies look as if they swallowed a beach ball. The tummy should feel soft and the baby should generally be happy.

In the unlikely event, that your baby’s tummy is suddenly hard and big and the baby screams, see your health-care providers immediately or proceed to a hospital as this may be an emergency. 

2) Next, the face and neck fill in

When the baby is lying on its back, within a few weeks after birth, the neck should be hidden under a fat roll and hard to clean.

3) Lastly, the thighs get fleshy 

Within a few weeks of delivery, the thighs get fatter and have rolls of fat and any loose skin on the inside of the thighs disappears.

Premature babies and those born small, are born with very little fat and it takes their thighs longer to fill out. This is normal.

4) Long-term changes

After the first year of age, children start looking leaner and less fleshy.

B) Well-fed babies look contented or happy

This well-fed baby looks contented and relaxed.

Well-fed babies look contented. They are relaxed and look happy. They occasionally scowl when something is bothering them. Constant scowling can be a sign of the baby not getting enough milk or that something else is bothering the baby.