What no one ever tells you about your baby.
During your pregnancy, your ob/gyn should give you a primer on what to expect during labor and delivery. Then, your pediatrician will step in with the lowdown on baby’s first few months — including basic feeding and care, as well as warning signs your child might be sick. Well-meaning friends and family will also weigh in with tips like, “Sleep when your baby sleeps.”
Yet some realities of life with a newborn will remain a mystery until you finally bring baby home from the hospital. To avoid any scary surprises, here’s a primer on some little-known facts about babies in those first few months.
Newborns don’t have perfectly round heads. If you’re expecting the kind of cherubic, round-faced angel you’ve seen in diaper commercials to pop out on delivery day, you might be disappointed. Babies who are delivered vaginally are often born with cone-shaped heads — the result of squeezing a pliable skull through the narrow birth canal. Your baby will also have two mushy areas on top of her head, called fontanels, where her skull hasn’t yet fused together. These spots may even appear to pulse in alien-like fashion (that’s blood flowing through baby’s head). Fontanels gave your baby’s brain room to grow. Her head should mold itself into a rounder shape as she develops and her skull fuses into place.
Babies get pimples. You might not expect to see your child’s first breakout until the teenage years, but about 20 percent of babies are born with acne. Pimples in a newborn are the result of mom’s hormones, which crossed the placenta during pregnancy and are now stimulating baby’s oil glands. There’s no need to treat baby acne — it should clear up on its own.
Poop can look like motor oil or mustard. No parent expects the contents of their baby’s diapers to be sweet smelling or pastel-hued, but the greenish-black ooze you’ll discover during the first few days of life can be shocking. This tar-like substance is called meconium, and it’s made up of water and the contents of your baby’s intestines (old cells, amniotic fluid, mucus). Over the next few days, the greenish-black should gradually transition to a yellowish color. If your baby is breastfed, her poop will start to look like Dijon mustard — yellow with little seeds. Formula-fed poop is closer to tan or brown in color.
Babies act on reflex. In the first few weeks of life, you might notice your baby suddenly throw his arms out and thrust his head back. This dramatic-looking response is called the startle reflex (or Moro reflex). It’s one of several natural reflexes baby is born with, along with sucking and rooting. After about three months, the startle reflex should fade, making your baby much less jumpy.
Some babies look cross-eyed. A newborn’s senses — including vision — take some time to develop. Newborns can only see about 8 to 10 inches in front of their face. As their eye muscles strengthen, babies can appear to cross their eyes as they try to focus. Some babies also have an extra fold of skin in the corner of their eyes that makes them look as if they have crossed eyes. In most cases, the crossing will go away in the first three or four months, as baby’s eye muscles develop and they grow into their extra skin. If your baby’s eyes keep crossing after that time, see your pediatrician for advice.
Babies are born with a sweet tooth. Taste is the most advanced sense in a newborn, as the taste buds form early in the womb. The type of flavor your baby prefers will undoubtedly be sweet. Studies have shown a dramatic difference in babies’ facial expressions when they’re given sugar water (a satisfied look) versus something sour or bitter (pursed lips). Experts cite an evolutionary reason for the choice. Sweets suggest that a food is a high-carbohydrate energy source, whereas sour or bitter tastes warn that it might have gone bad. Your baby will gradually develop a taste for other flavors. Once she’s on solid food, introducing a variety of foods can help her grow into a flexible eater.
April 07, 2020
Janet O’Dell, RN