What’s normal and abnormal for newborns? New parents might be surprised to find out that many things they “think” are normal are not at all. Newborns are often mysterious beings that hold so many surprises for new parents (or parents who have been out of the newborn stage for some time). Keep reading to find out what seems like normal behavior for newborns that is surprisingly abnormal.
From sleep schedules to leg shape to skin conditions newborn babies often aren’t as they are depicted in the movies. Unless a person has raised a newborn already, most don’t realize all of the strange but normal things that newborns do. On top of sleepless nights, new parents are disoriented by the special circumstances that newborns present.
So why are new parents so confused about what should be normal for newborn babies? Much of what happens in the newborn stage is opposite of what one would think should happen. Newborn babies are so vastly different than a 3 month old or a 6 month old baby. Until a parent has went through each stage with their baby it’s difficult to understand the many difference between stages baby goes through in the first year. Keep reading to find out what newborns do that isn’t normal at all.
15 The ‘Coo’ Sound
Newborns mostly communicate through coos although they might make the occasional grunting noise too. A baby won’t start really cooing until about 8 weeks old. By 8 weeks old baby’s brain has developed enough to put together the throat movements needed to make vowel sounds like ah-ah and oh. This is just the tip of the iceberg though. She’s learned how to make the sounds but she won’t be able to do it on cue. It will take until 6-8 months for baby to learn enough communication skills to babble back to mom and dad. The first coos are just practice for what’s to come. If baby doesn’t start cooing by 3 months make sure to bring it up with the doctor as it could signal a problem with hearing.
14 Take An Even Number Of Breaths
Baby spent a lot of time preparing for life once he’s born. His lungs developed enough to support breathing. So most new parents expect baby to breathe evenly like an older child or adult would. It can be frightening then when baby begins breathing irregularly.
As surprising as it is, this is usually normal for newborn babies. Newborns usually alternate between fast and slow breathing. They may even have occasional pauses. Often times baby will make a whistling noise while breathing. This is because they mostly breathe out of their nose and may get milk or mucus stuck in there which creates the whistling sound.
13 Flash A Smile
It may seem normal for a newborn baby to smile but it really isn’t. Sometimes newborns will curl their lips up in what looks like a smile but this is known as a smile reflex. It isn’t that she’s smiling because something pleased her but rather her muscles moved to make it look like she’s smiling. The smile reflex will last about 2 months. Her first real smiles (that are caused by something pleasurable) will happen between 2 and 3 months. Sometimes people get confused about the major differences between a newborn baby and an older infant. They expect to be able to make a newborn smile and coo but in reality a newborn isn’t ready to do that. But don’t worry, in no time she will actually start to smile and by 6 months she’ll be doing it all the time.
12 Push Out Solids
Parents unfamiliar with newborns may think it is normal for the baby to have bowel movements similar to adults or older children. This would not be normal for a newborn. Baby’s first poos will be black and tar like. These first bowl movements are called meconium. They might be greenish black in color and its what was in baby’s tummy while he was in the womb. As baby starts to drink formula or the colostrom from early breast milk the dark, tar like BM will transition to a greenish yellow and loose stool. There could even be a little blood in it if baby swallowed blood during delivery.
In the next few days of life, baby’s stool will depend on what he’s eating. Formula-fed babies will have soft stools that could be any color from pale yellow to yellowish brown to light brown or brownish green. Breastfed babies will have loose and sometimes watery stools that have a mustard-like color.
11 Eyes Wide Opened
It’s often expected that a newborn baby will be wide awake during the day and ready to play. Other than for a little bit after being born, newborns tend to stay pretty sleepy in the first few weeks after birth. Visitors will pine to see the baby’s eyes and will probably be disappointed as baby sleeps on. Even when they wake to be fed or changed, they aren’t usually wide awake and definitely not giggling away. New parents may worry that baby is sleeping too much. Baby is using the time to grow, develop and process all of the new sights and sounds he’s taken in. All of the changes can be overwhelming to the baby and the many hours of sleep help him to cope with the information overload.
10 The Roll Over
Rolling over may seem like a normal baby activity, but it definitely isn’t normal for a newborn baby. Baby’s neck, back and leg muscles need to grow and develop more before she will be able to roll over. Babies usually start rolling over between 4-6 months. While baby won’t be able to roll over, many new parents are surprised to find out that baby can actually lift her head to get into a better position to nurse. While parents are always warned to support baby’s head (which they still need to do) baby is usually strong enough to search and locate mom’s nipple when placed on mom’s chest. Rolling over, though, takes strength and coordination of major muscle groups to be able to accomplish. Parents never know exactly when baby will begin to roll over and therefore should never leave baby alone on a bed or changing table where she could roll off.
9 Laying Completely Still
Without being around newborns often, it’s easy to believe that a newborn baby will lie still. They’re often portrayed as tiny fragile beings that can’t do anything for themselves (which in many ways is true). But try giving a first bath or changing a diaper and you’ll soon find out that newborns have a big range of movement. It’s so common for newborn babies to flail their arms and legs while laying down that swaddling is commonly used to keep baby from waking herself up. As baby is laying still and sleeping she might be frightened by a noise or somehow disturbed from her sleep. In response, she’ll probably kick or send her arms straight into the air. Keeping baby snuggled in a swaddle with her arms down can help to stretch her sleep a little longer and keep these jerky movements from wakening her.
8 Sport A Perfectly Round Head
When you dream of how your baby might look, most parents don’t summon thoughts of the Coneheads. A perfect little angle with soft skin and a perfectly round head is what many new parents expect. But for some they get a different looking newborn (at least for a day or two). Vaginal birth can be a little strenuous on the baby’s head as it tries to squeeze through a narrow opening. Depending on the size of the baby’s head and the size of the opening this can cause the newborn’s head to look a little more pointed after delivery. Luckily nature has prepared baby’s head to be able to squeeze together for the birthing process and later resume a more rounded shape. The bones in baby’s head will take up to a year after birth to set, allowing plenty of time for the head to reshape.
7 Sleep Through The Night
Parents of newborns love to hear people ask, “Is the baby sleeping through the night?” It makes those poor sleep deprived parents think that maybe they’re losing their mind or maybe they’re making major mistakes in raising their baby. Is the baby sleeping through the night? Umm no…a newborn baby might top out at 3 hours of sleep at a time and many times its less than that. But sleeping 2-3 hours at a time (around the clock) is totally normal for newborn babies—especially if they’re breastfed. Bottle fed babies might be able to stretch sleep to about 4 hours a night but not much more than that. They need to constantly wake up to refuel and get a fresh diaper. Then before long it’s off to snoozeville again.
6 Have A Hairless Body
No expecting mom wants to imagine her baby being born covered in hair. But the truth is that most newborns are. The hair, though is usually very fine and light although sometimes it is darker. In the womb, baby was covered with more of this hair and lost some of it before he was born. The fuzz that covers baby’s face, shoulders and back is called lanugo. Usually it disappears around 36 weeks gestation but can take up to 40 weeks or longer. If baby is born with it (which is common and even more common for babies born early) it will fall out on its own by the time baby is 4 months old. If baby just has a tuft of hair over the spine it could be a sign of a neurological problem and should be brought up with your physician right away.
5 Enjoy Play Time
To the disappointment of many dads and nieces and nephews, a newborn baby won’t be able to (or interested in) playing with toys for some time. Dads usually excel at bonding with baby during play time but a baby usually isn’t interested in toys for several months. Newborns may be able to clutch a toy in his hand (with the same reflex that he grabs your finger with) but he won’t really play with it. Playing with a newborn is much different than playing with a 6 month old. Newborns need to be snuggled and gently talked to. Carrying baby in your arms from place to place is a great way to remain close and give baby an interesting view. The motion of walking around will help baby to feel calm and to release tummy gas.
4 Cuddle A Blanket
Since adults find comfort and warmth in sleeping with blankets it’s easy to assume that baby will too. Unfortunately, it is dangerous for baby to sleep with a blanket and it can easily become a suffocation hazard. Instead of allowing baby to sleep with a blanket, dress her in warm clothes. Keep the room warmer so she doesn’t need a blanket. A swaddling blanket may be used if extra caution is exercised to make sure that the blanket doesn’t become loose around baby. Sleep sacks or wearable blankets are another option that baby can’t wiggle out of. Baby won’t be able to safely sleep with a blanket until she is over a year old. Soft bedding or toys in the crib can increase the risk of suffocation or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
3 Have Smooth Skin
Many parents expect baby to have smooth skin when they’re born. Instead, though, it’s pretty normal for baby to have some sort of skin issues (that is usually harmless and a normal part of transitioning environments). Newborns commonly have pimples also known as baby acne from the rush of hormones prior to and during delivery. They may also have dry or peeling skin, small white bumps or salmon colored patches known as stork bites. Usually these issues resolve themselves although sometimes the stork bites or angle’s kiss never go away completely. Dark spots known as Mongolian spots are common in darker skinned babies and almost look like a bruise.
2 Keep Their Legs And Back Straight
It can seem normal for baby to have straight legs but often it isn’t. Since baby was curled up for so long in the womb, she will often have curved or bowlegs for the first few months of her life. It is also natural for her spine to have a curvature to it in the same way she was in the fetal position in the womb. It will take some time for her body, spine and legs to adjust to life outside of the womb. By about 7 to 8 months baby’s legs and spine will usually straighten out. A doctor will monitor this progression in the baby’s well child visits. Baby’s legs can continue to straighten during toddlerhood and should correct itself by age three. If your concerned about it have it checked out by your pediatrician.
1 Sleep On A Schedule
Exhausted parents of newborns may dream of when baby will sleep on a schedule. In the first few weeks baby may begin to establish a schedule for sleeping. Unfortunately that schedule has baby sleeping for a few hours then waking all throughout the day and night. This constant sleep-wake schedule can be exhausting for parents used to sleeping a solid stretch throughout the night. As baby gets a little older she may be able to sleep for longer stretches through the night.
At about three weeks baby will begin to have more alert times during the day. By 3 months old baby will begin to sleep longer stretches – about 5-6 hours. This is the time when her nap schedule will begin to take place with a morning nap, afternoon nap and evening nap followed by a longer stretch at night.
Sources: Parents, WebMd, BabyCentre, What To Expect
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