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Terrifying Things Newborn Babies Do That Are Completely Normal

Bringing home a fragile, helpless new baby is scary enough. But then you start to notice they have some seriously freaky characteristics. Try not to worry, because these terrifying things newborn babies do are actually completely normal.


Disclaimer: This is not to replace medical advice. If you have concerns about your baby, you should always consult a doctor.

Pulsing head/soft spots

Newborn babies are typically born with one or two soft spots, or fontanelles, on their heads. These are gaps in the skull plates which allow room for the rapid brain growth to come.

You may be afraid to touch these soft spots, but even without the layer of bone there is still a reasonable amount of protection. Normal baby care should not pose a threat to the head.

One frightening sight to see is when your baby’s soft spot appears to be pulsing. Rest assured, you are not witnessing your child’s brain bulging or anything as bizarre as that. It’s simply the blood rushing through baby’s veins which pulses in relation to their heart pumping blood throughout the body.

Sleeping with eyes open

things newborn babies do

It can be unsettling to see your little one sleeping soundly while they seem to be looking right back at you! But sleeping with eyes open (or partially open) is actually very common in babies.

Known as nocturnal lagophthalmos in the medical community, sleeping without the eyelids shut is harmless in babies under 12 months. If it concerns you, or you want to prevent baby’s eyes from becoming dry or irritated, just gently stroke their eyelids shut.

The reason babies can sleep with their eyes open is unknown, but may be related to their differing sleep cycles and spending more time in REM sleep than adults.

Changes in breathing pattern

Ever settle in to sleep with your baby nearby, only to sit up in a panic because it sounds like baby’s breathing suddenly pauses, followed by rapid short breaths? It’s completely terrifying, but also totally normal.

Due to their immature respiratory systems during the first few weeks of life, babies may have bouts of Periodic BreathingWhen this happens, baby will return to breathing normally on their own without intervention.

Take caution that Periodic Breathing is NOT the same as baby stopping breathing or struggling to breathe. If you notice any signs of respiratory distress or lips turning purple or blue, seek emergency medical care.

Exaggerated startle reflex

Newborn babies are born equipped with the instinct to startle easily. Their entire body will suddenly jolt as they throw their hands up in response to a loud or sudden noise.

The freaky part? Sometimes they do this when there is no noise or trigger whatsoever.

Slightly different is the Moro reflex, which is a newborn baby’s response to the feeling of being unsupported or falling. He will throw his arms up and out and draw his knees in to his chest when being lowered down quickly (or out of nowhere when they’re sleeping!).

Babies can wake themselves up from this involuntary movement, so swaddling can help little ones feel secure and stay asleep.

Crossed eyes

things newborn babies do

For the first 3 months of life or so, it is normal for your baby to occasionally go cross-eyed.

Seeing your baby’s eyes cross may cause you to worry that they will look this way forever, but don’t believe old wives’ tales that “the wind will change and they’ll get stuck like that!” It just takes time for baby’s optic nerve to develop and for the eye muscles to start working together.

If your baby gets older (6 months+) and his eyes are still crossing frequently, have an eye doctor evaluate him for strabismus. This is a treatable condition if detected early.

Explosive poop

Newborn baby poop is interesting at best and terrifying at its worst!

The first couple days of life, baby is still passing meconium, the black/green tar-like stool from when they were chugging amniotic fluid in the womb. If you’re the lucky one who gets to change these first bowel movements, you’ll find them to be about as easy to wipe off baby’s bottom as syrup.

Once you’re out of the meconium period, newborn poop changes to yellowish brown and seedy, like dijon mustard. It can be quite watery, and it’s normal for it to seemingly explode out of your little one’s tiny bottom with surprising force.

These explosive poops tend to shoot up a newborn baby’s back, causing the dreaded “poop-splosions” that stain clothes and require full outfit changes. Definitely inconvenient, but completely normal.

Peeling skin

things newborn babies do

When you imagine your baby after birth, you likely imagine beautiful, soft, flawless skin like the babies in a diaper commercial.

The reality of newborn skin looks more like the aftermath of a horrible sunburn: flaking and peeling all over, especially in creases like the ankles, hands, and feet.

The reason for this skin shedding is the loss of vernix, the waxy coating that protected their skin while they were in the womb. Once this is shed (and likely rubbed off vigorously at birth), the sensitive skin is dried out and exposed to all new harsh elements.

Wondering what you should do? The flaking and peeling will likely go away on its own in a couple weeks. It is not recommended to put any lotions or skincare products on such a young baby. If you feel compelled to put something, make it something natural and edible such as olive oil.

Bizarre colored spit up

When I was in the hospital after delivering my last baby, I noticed a spit up stain next to his face that looked almost exactly like a small egg yolk.

Seeing as this was my fourth baby, I was sure I had seen all there is to see regarding baby spit up before. But I had never seen bright yellow colored spit up before, so I was a bit scared that something was wrong with my newborn.

The nurses came and took a look and said it’s actually normal to see really strange spit up for the first 48 hours after birth. The reason? Baby is still clearing out mucus and amniotic fluid from his nine month stay in the womb.

(Another factor- remember colostrum is darker, yellower, and thicker than regular breastmilk!)

In addition to egg yolk yellow, newborns can have other freaky colors show up in their regurgitation.

You may notice red or brown flecks, a pink tinge, or small streaks of blood your newborn baby’s spit up.

This can certainly be frightening to see but it is easily explained by the baby swallowing small amounts of maternal blood. During delivery, it is normal for baby to come into contact with its mother’s blood and it can enter baby’s mouth. Another possibility for breastfed babies is that mom’s nipples can crack and bleed, which would certainly result in baby swallowing some of mom’s blood.

Grunting and snoring

things newborn babies do

Many first time parents are surprised to find out just how loud newborn babies are when they sleep.

The amount of grunting, sighing, heavy breathing and snoring can cause some parents to worry about their baby’s breathing or sleep quality.

Strange sounds during sleep are actually normal for small babies.

For one, their nostrils are so tiny that they are easily congested. So even the slightest amount of mucus can cause them to sniffle and snore. Using some baby saline drops should help if that’s the case.

Even with clear nasal passages, newborns can still be loud sleepers. One explanation is the frequent partial wakings babies experience as they pass through the lighter sleep stages in the sleep cycle. During these, they may move around and make noise or even cry out before settling themselves back into sleep.

These are just some of scary things newborn babies do!

Were you ever afraid of something your baby did when it was actually totally normal? Tell us in the comments!

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things newborn babies do

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The 5 Things You Must Do for Breastfeeding Success

One thing I hear all the time from friends who struggled with breastfeeding is “I wish I had done things differently at the start”. Pregnancy is such a whirlwind with all the preparations we make for baby, especially when it’s the first. Many people don’t give much thought to breastfeeding ahead of time, assuming it will just happen naturally after birth. The truth is, being prepared and knowledgeable can be the difference between breastfeeding stress and breastfeeding success.

must do for breastfeeding success

1. Nurse as soon as possible after birth

Following an uncomplicated delivery, request that the baby be put directly on your chest for skin-to-skin. Just following birth, the baby has a window of time when they are unusually alert and awake so you want to take advantage of this period. Research has shown that babies that attach to the breast within an hour after birth have more successful breastfeeding outcomes months later when compared to babies who were not placed at the breast until 2 hours later or more.

In the event of a C-section or other complications, it may not be possible to breastfeed within that first hour. Just make sure your medical professionals know that you wish to breastfeed as soon as it is safe for baby and mother.

During those first attempts at breastfeeding, some babies immediately latch on correctly and instinctively suck, swallow and breathe correctly. (Remember they have had practice in the womb drinking amniotic fluid and sucking their thumbs!) Other babies will not latch on right away but instead just hold the nipple in their mouth or move their tongue unproductively. This is not cause for concern, and after a few more tries baby should catch on.

2. Meet with a lactation consultant

If your goal is to breastfeed, part of your planning during pregnancy should be to line up a lactation consultant. Many hospitals have their own on hand, or you can ask your OB for a referral for one to meet with you shortly after birth.

A lactaction consultant has expertise at checking to make sure the baby has the proper latch and can fix any latch problems early on. A bad latch can cause damage to mother’s nipples, pain when nursing, poor letdown and subsequently poor supply. Meeting with a lactation consultant while you’re still in the hospital can prevent problems from happening later on. She can also make sure your posture and positioning is correct so you aren’t straining your back while nursing or disturbing your incision if you’ve had a C-section.

Note: I have heard a few stories of people who had a bad experience with a specific lactation consultant. If you are unhappy with yours, do not be afraid to find a different one! She is providing a service to you and if your needs are not being met, by all means have them met elsewhere.

Need help finding a lactation consultant in your area? The United State Lactation Consultant Association makes it easy with this searchable map.

3. Check for tongue tie

Some doctors do this routinely but you should take it upon yourself to make SURE yours does. I have heard a few breastfeeding horror stories centering around an overlooked tongue tie!

Tongue tie, or ankyloglossia as it’s called in the medical world, occurs in about 4% of newborns. It’s when the connective tissue holding the tongue to the bottom of the mouth extends too far. This makes it difficult for the baby to stick out their tongue, as it is seemingly “tied” down to mouth.

There’s a range in how severe tongue ties are. My fourth child was born with a mild tongue tie, meaning that his tongue was attached to the bottom of his mouth farther than normal but he was still able to extend the tongue past his lips. We monitored him at birth to see if he would need to have the procedure done to “snip” the frenulum (called a frenotomy). It turned out not to disturb his nursing so we opted not to do it. He has had no problems with his tongue tie since.

With a more severe tongue tie, the tongue is held almost completely to the bottom of the mouth. When the child attempts to stick out his tongue, the tongue will take on almost a heart-shape appearance as the center is still firmly tied down. Attempting to nurse a baby who can’t extend his tongue will result in painful, unproductive nursing.

must do for breastfeeding success
Photo credit: Top Health Doctors, Au

4. Feed on demand

Of everything you’ve ever read about what you must do for breastfeeding success, this is THE MOST CRUCIAL.

You can schedule your baby all you want after the first couple months, but in the beginning it is very important to breastfeed on demand. This is how you establish your milk supply.

The law of supply and demand is what regulates the entire breastfeeding process. Nursing frequently is what cues your body to make more milk. If you don’t nurse as often as baby wants, your supply will be too low. In the beginning stages when your body is just figuring out how much to make, it is not wise to go by the clock and try to “hold off” the baby from nursing again. Let nature do its thing and allow baby to determine how much milk you should be producing.

This means you will be breastfeeding very, very often in the first few weeks of your baby’s life.

One of the reasons newborns need to be fed very often is that their stomach is literally the size of a marble at birth. The small amount of colostrum you have to feed them after birth is enough to fill this tiny stomach. But their stomach is too small to keep them satiated for long, and they will need to refill themselves often, sometimes every hour to at the start.

Secondly, breastmilk is very easy for baby to digest. This is part of why it’s a perfect source of nourishment for your little one! It also means it is digested extremely quickly, much quicker than formula (about 1.5 hours vs. 3-4 hours). So even if you feel like you just fed them, they very well maybe hungry again.

It is extremely common and expected to feel like you are constantly feeding your baby during the newborn stage. Prepare for it and accept it!

5. Nothing else in the mouth for 3 weeks

The supply and demand process can be disturbed by giving baby a pacifier to try and buy time until the next feeding. When baby is crying to eat, that is the “demand”. Pacifiers delay the time between the baby demanding food, and you giving them the breast.  When you are still trying to regulate your supply this can disturb the cycle.

Many new moms inadvertently sabotage their own supply by worrying that they aren’t making enough milk. They may be tempted to pump and feed the baby bottles to see how much they’re getting. However this can lead to several more problems:

1.) The pump does not drain the breast as well as the baby does, so moms may see the amount they pump and think there is a supply issue when there really is not.

2.) Bottles are less work to drink from than the breast. The baby may decide he prefers the bottle and start to refuse the breast or start latching incorrectly at the breast.

3.) Pumping and feeding from a bottle may satisfy a Mom’s desire to feel “in control” of the feeding process. She may lose faith in her body’s natural ability to provide for her baby.

Remember that frequent nursing in the newborn stage is normal and does not mean the baby isn’t getting enough!

If you are unsure whether baby is getting enough, here are the signs:

must do for breastfeeding success

A note about nipple confusion: The idea of “nipple confusion” is debatable. Many babies, my own included, had no problem switching back and forth from bottle to breast. However I did not introduce a bottle (or pacifier) to them in their first few weeks of life.

Want to be as prepared as possible for breastfeeding?

The Ultimate Breastfeeding Class from Milkology covers it ALL. If you want to take a breastfeeding class but don’t have one near you or can’t work it into your schedule, this is perfect. The video format feels like you’re learning from a guru in person, but you can do it at home in your sweats whenever works for you.

The course is extremely thorough, and comes with some amazing bonuses like the Common Breastfeeding Issues Troubleshooting Guide, and Tips From Pumping Moms in the Trenches. It costs $19 and at the end you will be that breastfeeding expert that all your friends call when they have problems.

breastfeeding success

What questions or concerns do you have about breastfeeding? If you’re an experienced mother, what helped (or hurt) you on your breastfeeding journey? Share in the comments!

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