Waiting for a little one to arrive can be a whirlwind of emotions and questions. What is he going to look like? Will he have dad’s nose? What’s her character going to be? Will she be a social butterfly like mom? Who is this tiny person about to be brought into the world?
The human body undergoes a huge physical journey from birth to adulthood. That tiny newborn infant will change dramatically within the first few months of life. Eye color, hair color, and facial features are all likely to alter as the baby grows up. A big baby won’t necessarily be a big child, and tiny newborns can grow into taller-than-average adults. But there are some physical traits that a baby will keep for life. The same goes for personality traits, too.
A newborn will express many unique personality traits from the earliest weeks of life. There’ll be clues to her personality in everything she does, from feeding to how she reacts to new situations.
Much of a baby's personality is genetically programmed, but how parents respond to a child’s basic temperament, and whether or not they alter their approach accordingly, has a huge impact on their eventual personality. With the right parenting, a shy, fussy baby can grow up better-adjusted than their easygoing peers.
Regardless of their physical traits and temperament, no baby’s future self is set in stone. Nurturing, understanding, and love will be the biggest influencing factor in shaping outcomes further down the line.
20 For Keeps: A Super-Chill Temperament
Temperament isn't fixed for life. Parenting style and other environmental factors do play a huge role in shaping personality. However, studies at Harvard University tested infants to see how they reacted to unfamiliar situations and then monitored them as they grew up. The 10 percent of babies on either end of the spectrum - those who got wildly upset and those who were super chilled and barely reacted at all - tended to retain their highly strung or easy going traits as young adults. For the 80 percent of babies whose reactions were somewhere in the middle, their emotional responses were more likely to evolve over time.
19 Will Fade: The Rooting Reflex
Newborns arrive in the world with a number of reflexes that help them through the first few months of life. The rooting reflex is one that allows them to seek out a momma or bottle to begin feeding. It happens when a corner of their mouth touches skin, and the head instinctively turns in that direction and baby makes sucking motions, looking for milk. It can also be triggered by stroking the corners of baby’s mouth or his cheeks.
By about three weeks, most babies will be able to move their heads voluntarily to start feeding, so the automatic movement fades away.
18 For Keeps: Port Wine Stain Birthmarks
About three in every 1,000 children has a port wine stain. It’s a flat, red or purple birthmark present on the skin at birth that can occur anywhere on the body, though about 65 percent appear on the face and neck.
They are caused by the abnormal development of vessels in the skin, which is, in turn, caused by a gene mutation in early pregnancy. They’re not inherited from mom or dad and they are not caused by anything that happens during pregnancy.
While they can darken over time, and develop raised bumps and ridges, they’re totally harmless and another physical trait that makes your baby beautifully unique.
17 Will Fade: A Misshapen Head
If you’re having a “normal” or assisted delivery, your little bundle of joy may pop out with a slightly odd shaped head, and this is perfectly normal - and temporary.
Babies have two soft spots on their skulls, known as fontanelles, and they allow the head to mold and change shape as it squeezes through the birth canal, making it easier for mom and baby.
Don’t panic. This odd shape will even out relatively quickly as the soft spots close and the bones in the head meet and fuse together. Babies born by cesarian will more likely have a round-shaped head.
16 For Keeps: Over-Sensitivity To Change
Some babies handle being passed from person to person just fine, and others, not so much. Some newborns are sensitive souls for whom every outing is an overwhelming experience.
Recognizing this temperamental trait can inform your style of parenting. Looking for ways to make the baby feel secure and happy during stressful situations will teach her how to control her emotions better.
A study by the University of Iowa found that fussy infants were more likely to have anxiety problems by the time they were tweens. Don’t worry, however, because studies have also shown that with the right fit of parenting style, super-sensitive kids can actually do better at cognitive, academic, and social adjustment than their easygoing counterparts.
15 Will Fade: Stork Bites
A stork bite is a very common type of birthmark that affects about a third of all newborn babies. Also known as a salmon patch, these marks are medically known as nevus simplex and are caused by the dilation of vessels.
These reddish patches may be more visible when a baby is upset or crying, or if there’s a change in room temperature. Forehead, nose, eyelids, or on the back of the neck - wherever the marks appear, there’s every chance they’ll fade. In fact, more than 95 percent of stork bite birthmarks lighten and fade away completely.
14 For Keeps: Easily Adapts To New Situations
Each baby is born with an innate behavioral style. Right from the beginning, they’re all different, and some are certainly easier to care for than others. If your little one adapts positively to new situations, congratulations - you probably enjoy more sleep than most new parents. Not only that, but “easy” babies respond favorably to a variety of child-raising styles, which certainly makes the job of parenting that bit more manageable.
The Australian Temperament Project was a study conducted by psychologists over 30 years that examined how temperament affects a child’s experience of the world. It concluded that most children do not change radically over time. Good news for parents of adaptable babies.
13 Will Fade: Soft Downy Body Hair
All babies have soft downy body hair, also known as lanugo. It develops as part of normal growth in the womb and serves to regulate temperature and protect a baby’s skin. However, most babies shed this hair while still in the womb, but some babies, especially preemies, are born with this extra covering.
The hair can be white, dark, or without pigment and can cover any part of the body, including the back, shoulders, arms, forehead. If a baby is born with lanugo, don’t worry because it will likely fall out on its own within a couple of weeks.
12 For Keeps: Uninhibited Behaviour
Research suggests there are significant links between our behavioral traits when we’re just a few months old and our later personality. In one 2007 study, scientists in the Czech Republic measured temperament in infancy and found an association with personality in the same individuals a massive 40 years later.
Of all the behavioral traits, infant disinhibition showed to be the only significant predictor of adult personality. Infants who show low levels of motor activity and crying are considered uninhibited and the study showed that these babies were more likely to display extraversion and self-belief in their own abilities as adults.
11 Will Fade: Soft Spots On The Head
Newborns are delicate creatures and handling them can be very nerve-wracking for first-time parents. Their heads seem especially fragile thanks to the two soft spots in their skulls. Also known as fontanelles, these are perfectly normal gaps in the bones of the skull that allow the baby’s head to change shape as it comes down the birth canal.
It can be disconcerting when you notice these spots pulsing in time with your baby’s heartbeat, but you’ll soon get used to handling them. Plus, once the baby is born, they close up in no time at all.
10 For Keeps: Shy And Slow To Warm Up
If your baby only likes a few trusted people and is cautious in new situations, does this mean they’ll be shy later in life? Quite possibly, yes. Research suggests there are significant links between our behavioral tendencies when we’re shiny, brand new humans and our characters later in life.
But shyness is not a negative attribute. In fact, in some cultures it’s encouraged and regarded as a positive trait. Finnish proverbs, for example, value contemplation and forethought.
Also, cautious children are often very observant and may be more inclined to think through situations before they act, and that can only be a good thing.
9 Will Fade: Strawberry Marks
It might have a complicated medical name - superficial hemangioma - but a strawberry mark is, quite simply, just a collection of vessels that forms on the surface of the skin, instead of underneath. They appear in babyhood, sometimes not immediately, but will most likely disappear by the age of five.
They don’t often require treatment but they are worth mentioning to your physician. The Academy of Pediatrics issued guidelines advising that: “Waiting until they cause problems misses a critical window of opportunity for treatments that can prevent significant complications such as permanent scarring, skin breakdown, or medical problems.”
8 For Keeps: A Hyperactive Baby
Babies who move around constantly and get easily bored wither their surroundings are referred to as “hyperactive,” and it’s not a disorder, just a character trait. Babies who are physically tense, like a coiled spring ready to bounce into action, are referred to as hypertonic, and they may not like being swaddled or held too closely, stiffening their limbs and arching their backs when you try to snuggle up to them.
Having a hyperactive baby may make parenting hard work, but this is not a negative temperamental trait. There are lots of super creative, world-changing people who were at one time labeled hyperactive as a child.
7 Will Fade: Aquatic Instinct
Babies spend months suspended in fluid in the womb so it’s no surprise they have a natural affinity for water. One of the cool reflexes babies are born with is the diving reflex, also known as the bradycardic response.
This is an involuntary reaction in infants under six months of age who are submerged in water. This aquatic instinct causes babies to hold their breath and avoid inhaling water in response to the sensation of feeling water on their face, nose, and throat. This reflex also causes their heart rate to slow, helping them conserve oxygen. It’s a reflex also seen in seal cubs and other aquatic mammals, and it helps little ones survive underwater for longer.
6 For Keeps: Mongolian Spots
These pigmented birthmarks are also known as congenital dermal melanocytosis. Though the Academy of Pediatricians says that most Mongolian spots completely disappear completely by the time a child reaches the age of five, in some cases, they do not fade. A person may have the birthmark for life.
Mongolian marks are often present at birth and cannot be prevented. In fact, scientists don’t know why some babies get them and others don’t. What causes the coloration of these marks is pigment getting trapped in the skin's deep layers, making patches of grey, greenish blue or black skin. Luckily, they’re totally harmless and not worth worrying about.
5 Will Fade: Newborn Hair
Seeing your new baby’s hair for the first time can be such a wonderful surprise. Some arrive in the world without much hair at all, and don’t develop thick hair until they’re a few years old. Other newborns boast full heads of thick lustrous locks. But the hair your baby is born with may not bear any resemblance to the hair she’ll have as a child.
In the first few weeks of life, it’s common for newborn hair to fall out - some experts link it to plummeting pregnancy hormones - and when it grows back, it can have a very different texture and color. You just have to wait and see.
4 For Keeps: The Shape Of Baby's Belly Button
Belly buttons come in all shapes in sizes and how it looks later in life is determined by how it forms in newborns. They might look super cute, but a belly button is actually a scar that forms when the umbilical cord is detached from a newborn baby. Once the cord is cut, babies are left with a stump, and how the body forms scar tissue around this stump is what gives each belly button its unique shape, whether it’s an innie or an outie.
Outies can also be caused by a hernia or umbilical granuloma, which rarely require any medical treatment.
3 Will Fade: Eye Color
Gazing into your newborn baby’s eyes is one of the most magical experiences for any new parent, but as baby grows and develops, you might notice their eye color change too.
Some babies are usually born with dark eyes that stay dark, though the shade may vary during the first year. But other babies are born with dark blue or even gray eyes, and the color may change multiple times before the baby turns one.
It’s usually between the ages of six and nine months that the most dramatic change will happen, according to What To Expect. Amazingly, eye color can continue to change well into adulthood for around 10 percent of the population.
2 For Keeps: Cafe Au Lait Birthmarks
These light brown, flat marks are the color of white coffee (hence the name) and often have irregular edges. Sizes can vary but though they are usually present at birth or they can develop later in life. They can also darken with exposure to sunlight, so try and keep them protected when the baby is in the sun.
They don’t hurt or itch and are usually harmless, but it is worth just checking with your doctor. Having six or more cafe au lait spots under the arm or around the groin could indicate an underlying genetic problem called neurofibromatosis type 1.
1 Will Fade: Red Blotchy Skin
Of course, your newborn baby is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever set eyes on, but newborns don’t always come out with picture-perfect skin. Considering the journey they go on, whether a “natural” birth or cesarian, it’s not exactly a surprise.
One common newborn rash is called erythema toxic. It's little red blotches that are slightly raised and may have a small pus-filled dot in the center. Its cause is unknown but these clear up within a few days.
Baby acne is also very common - little pimples that are thought to be caused by exposure to hormones in the womb. These can last a little longer, even months, but will fade also.
Sources: Today's Parent; Healthline; NHS; Baby Centre; Medline Plus; Very Well Family; What To Expect; Live Science.