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 scary things newborns 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.
Baby soft spot pulsing
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
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 Breathing. When 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.
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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.
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.
Newborn baby poop is interesting at best and terrifying at its worst! For some new parents, pooping may be the one of most scary things newborns do.
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.
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
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 newborns 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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