The detection of seizure in the newborn is a critical aspect of neurological research. Current automatic detection techniques are difficult to assess due to the problems associated with acquiring and labelling newborn electroencephalogram (EEG) data. A realistic model for newborn EEG would allow confident development, assessment and comparison of these detection techniques. This paper presents a model for newborn EEG that accounts for its self-similar and nonstationary nature. The model consists of background and seizure submodels. The newborn EEG background model is based on the short-time power spectrum with a time-varying power law. The relationship between the fractal dimension and the power law of a power spectrum is utilized for accurate estimation of the short-time power law exponent. The newborn EEG seizure model is based on a well-known time-frequency signal model. This model addresses all significant time-frequency characteristics of newborn EEG seizure which include; multiple components or harmonics, piecewise linear instantaneous frequency laws and harmonic amplitude modulation. Estimates of the parameters of both models are shown to be random and are modelled using the data from a total of 500 background epochs and 204 seizure epochs. The newborn EEG background and seizure models are validated against real newborn EEG data using the correlation coefficient. The results show that the output of the proposed models have a higher correlation with real newborn EEG than currently accepted models (a 10% and 38% improvement for background and seizure models, respectively).