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20 Surprising Facts Your Doctor Didn't Tell You About Your Newborn

Posted by Alexandra Porto on

It doesn't take long to realize that babies are amazing! They're adorable and constantly growing, but these tiny little creatures are also quite complex and full of surprises. Sure, your doctors cover many bases when it comes to preparing you for that little one. Here are some facts we bet they didn't tell you.

Some are shocking or sound bizarre, but they are all true. Next time you stare down at your little one, feel free to marvel at their skills and all those inner workings that you had no idea existed. Now, spread the word to other Mamas, too!

Babies have more bones than adults

Photo Credit: CDC, Unsplash

1.      Babies are born with more bones than adults

A newborn comes into this world with about 300 bones. That's 94 more than adults' 206 bones. This is because many of a baby's bones will harden and fuse together as they develop in the months and years after birth.

For example, an infant's skull is soft in spots and comprised of three bones joined by cartilage. This helps your baby's head fit through your birth canal. By two years old, these separate skull bones fused into one solid piece. This is also why your baby is so flexible and can easily curl up, but it makes their skeleton much more fragile than an adult.

2.      At birth, they recognize the sound and smell of their mother

If it feels like your baby knows you as soon as you hold them, it isn't just your imagination. From 23 weeks on, your baby is able to recognize your voice. Even with their middle ears filled with mucus and fluid at birth, it's impressive how they still can differentiate your voice from other sounds.

Studies have shown that babies even prefer a woman's high-pitched voice over lower-pitched male voices, and they remember sounds from the womb. So, if they heard your dog barking while you were pregnant, it could be the reason why they don't flinch around the family dog's howls later on.

In addition to knowing your voice, your infant has also grown attached to your natural scent. When your baby is upset, they can even be comforted by Mom's smell. For this reason, it's best to steer clear of strong perfumes in the hospital and when bringing your baby home for the first time.

Another amazing bonding fact about your baby is that humans are the only species that will smile at their parents as infants. How great is that?!

No tears are shed when they cry

Photo Credit: Laura Garcia, Pexels

3.      No tears are actually shed when they cry

You might be reading this and saying that can't be right; my baby cries all the time. But, we promise this is true. While they might be "crying," newborns cannot produce real tears until three to 12 weeks old.

While their tear ducts are not fully functional, infants can produce enough moisture to prevent their eyes from drying out. After a month or so, their lacrimal glands kick into gear, and visible tears can be seen. Peak crying usually happens 46 weeks after gestation so prepare yourself in advance.

If they are past the three-month mark (older for preemies) and no tears have formed, or you see tears in one eye but not the other, you might want to check in with your pediatrician to rule out a clogged duct or dehydration.

4.      Everything they see is in black & white or gray, and they are nearsighted

When your baby is born, they cannot see all that much. Studies show that their vision is limited to black, white, and gray colors, while vivid colors are much more blurred if seen at all. They are also nearsighted and can only see about 8 – 12 inches in front of them. Everything else presents as blurry shapes and lights.

By eight weeks, they can see faces more clearly. This is likely why you might find them gazing into your eyes while you are breastfeeding. They will likely also be able to see the color red a bit clearer. You can help your baby explore in this close range of sight with bright toys in various shapes. At one to two months old, they'll be able to focus on the toy as you move it.

After four months, your baby will be able to distinguish red from green and see a broader range of colors, with blue and purple being the last colors they recognize. Their vision also develops for longer distances at this time too.

5.      They do not have any kneecaps

If you look at an x-ray of your baby, you'll be shocked to see only tiny smudges where you'd expect their kneecaps to be. This is because cartilage doesn't show up as bones do on an x-ray.

A baby's "kneecap" is made up of cartilage and called a patella. It takes quite a while to develop into kneecaps like adults. Babies' soft knees can absorb shock while they are constantly crawling.

Over the next few years, their cartilage hardens into bones. This process is known as ossification. By the time they enter preschool between three and five, their kneecaps will be fully developed, and finally, appear on an x-ray as solid bones.

Even their tonsils have taste buds

Photo Credit: Jelleke Vanooteghem, Unsplash

6.      Even their tonsils and throats have tastebuds

Unlike adults who have taste buds only on their tongues, babies have tastebuds on their tonsils and back of the throat. They also have nearly 30,000 taste buds which decrease in adulthood to about a third of that.

So when a baby eats a one ingredient puree that seems quite bland, it packs an intense flavor for them. While they can acutely taste sweet, sour, and bitter, they cannot taste anything salty. They do not develop this taste for salt until they are about four months old.

7.      They are born able to swim

Babies are born with a diving reflex that allows them to adapt to being in water naturally. They instinctually know how to breathe underwater. Also, because of the higher position of their larynx, they can breathe and swallow simultaneously, just like fish do.

This reflex also allows their heart rate to slow down and innately respond by flapping their arms and legs. While it's an incredible thing to see, they quickly lose this ability before they are six months old.

8.      Their heart beats twice as fast as yours

Most adults' heart rate is around 70-80 beats a minute while at rest. By contrast, your baby's average heartbeat is about 180 beats per minute at birth, then drops to around 140-150 bpm. As they grow, their heart rate typically will drop to around 115 beats per minute by the age of one.

Even more interesting, an Israeli University discovered that when a mother and infant stare into each other's eyes, their heart rates start to coordinate in as soon as a few seconds. Talk about being in sync!

They can crawl an hour after birth

Photo Credit: Laura Ohlman, Unsplash

9.      Within an hour of being born, they can crawl

But babies don't learn to crawl until much later! Crawling in the traditional sense, sure, but we are talking about a "breast crawl." Swedish scientists first studied this phenomenon in 1987. They noticed that when newborns were placed atop their mother, they could crawl to reach their mother's breast within only an hour of birth.

Since the fantastic discovery, both UNICEF and the WHO recommend mothers immediately make skin-to-skin contact with their baby to enable this breast crawl instinct and aid with breastfeeding.

10. Their food preferences start in the womb

When babies are in the womb, their nutrients are absorbed through their mother via the umbilical cord. Because of the many tastebuds that we learned babies have, they can taste a whole lot from even the tiniest bit of what you ate, starting five to six months into your pregnancy.

For example, if you eat many onions, that flavor makes its way into your amniotic fluid, and your baby recognizes it. It's believed that this can even impact the flavors your baby will prefer later in life. So, when first eating solid food, they will lean toward the tastes they recognized while you were pregnant and breastfeeding.

11. They can be pretty hairy

Have you ever seen a baby with a hairy back and chest? You might think we are joking, but a thin layer of hair can appear all over your newborn. In utero, this thin layer of hair called lanugo regulates your baby's body temperature.

Not to worry if your baby is hairy. This extra layer falls out naturally in the first few weeks after birth. Even the hair on their head can fall off up until four months. While lanugo won't grow back, a new head of hair will grow back afterward.

12. Baby girls might get a pseudo period

Please do not panic if you happen to see blood or discharge in your newborn girl's diaper. While they are in your womb, they absorb high levels of female hormones. At birth, this sudden drop in estrogen can cause pseudo menstruation similar to what women experience later in life.

It's quite common and happens to a quarter of baby girls within their first week then goes away. There can also be a white discharge released as well during this timeframe. It's perfectly normal and not a cause for concern. However, if bleeding occurs after six weeks, that is irregular and should be looked into by a doctor.

Babies' eyes change colors

Photo Credit: Felipe Salgado, Unsplash

13. Most babies are born with blue or gray eyes that will eventually change color

Genetics and a protein called melanin are responsible for your baby's eye color. This protein is activated by light once a baby is born. If a tiny amount of melanin is released, your baby will have blue eyes. If more is secreted, their eyes will be green or hazel. Brown eyes have the most melanin secreted.

This process doesn't happen overnight and can gradually take place six months to a year while their body produces enough melanin to determine your baby's actual eye color. In the meantime, expect to see a few different shades as their eye color will continue to change based on how much melanin is secreted.

14. Baby stomachs are only the size of a hazelnut

Infants are constantly being fed, and one of the main reasons is the size of their stomachs. At birth, their tiny tummies are only as big as a hazelnut and can hold just one teaspoon of food at a time. This means they don't have room to finish all of that milk in one sitting.

Even tiny air bubbles take up precious room, which is why they need to be burped in between frequent feedings constantly. Not to worry though, over time, this will be easier as their stomach grows quickly. Two weeks after they are born, it should already be the size of a chicken's egg.

15. Many babies are born with small breasts & 5% of them even lactate

Because of the estrogen we've mentioned, babies absorb in utero; many have tiny breasts at birth. Not to worry, though. It can happen to both males and females and will go away on its own in a few weeks once they are not exposed to their mother's hormones.

Some babies might even leak a bit of milk from their nipples. While this is relatively rare, occurring in about 5% of babies, it is not a cause for alarm. It, too, will go away in two months or less.

16. Their inner ears are fully developed before birth

Most of your babies' organs take a while to develop fully, but not the ears. Your infant's inner ears are fully developed before they are even born. At around nine weeks, slight gill-like indentations form on your baby's neck. Ears evolve from these "gills."

By 20 weeks from gestation, the inner ear reaches its full adult size. And by your 35th week of pregnancy, the inner ear, outer canal, and outside of the ear also develop. This allows your baby to hear sounds even within the fluid conditions of your uterus.

Birthmarks are common

Photo Credit: Arun Sharma, Unsplash

17. 80% of babies are born with birthmarks

You might think a pink or red birthmark is an abnormality, but when it comes to baby's the opposite is true. It is much more common to be born with a brightly colored birthmark than not. Nearly 80% of babies are born with them, though it's more common in girls.

These marks can range in shape and size, but "stork bites" or "angel kisses" often appear on the forehead, nose, or back. Usually, these are caused by extra pigments or the fast-producing blood vessels and are harmless. Most of them will even disappear after a few years.

18. Newborn's intestines will double in size as an adult

At ten weeks, your baby's intestines begin to take on their typical folded shape to allow for more nutrients to be absorbed. As this process continues, their small intestine grows to about 9-11 feet long at birth. On the inside, fingerlike projections called villi also form to aid in digestion.

Amazingly, your baby's intestines are not unique in size but also in their increased absorbency. Large proteins and carbs can easily pass through their small intestines at birth. Over time, as gaps in the intestinal wall close, this is no longer able to occur. By the time your child is grown, the size of their small intestine will have surprisingly doubled to around 18-22 feet long.

19. Babies are born with about 70 innate reflexes

Many mothers are familiar with a baby's Moro reflex when they suddenly throw their head back, spread their arms and fingers out, and wail. Did you know this is just one of nearly 70 reflexes that your baby has at birth?! Talk about talent.

Many of these reflexes are due to evolution and are innate to aid in survival. Other reflexes include a stepping motion that mimics walking, a rooting reflex that changes their head position when caressing upon their cheek, and a grasping reflex that allows them to cling onto your finger with that tight grip. Pay attention to your newborn's motions, and you are sure to discover many more.

Enjoy laughing together

Photo Credit: Kiera Burton, Pexels

20. After 3-4 months, they will laugh about 300 times a day

Getting to the laughing stage is one of the greatest joys of being a mom. Around three months old, babies start to express laughter. Usually, it'll begin with cooing and then turn from giggling into full-blown LOLs. Babies' amusement is endless at this phase producing many more laughs than adults who average only about 20-60 laughs a day.

Studies have found laughter is excellent for babies' and adults' health, boosting their immunity through T-cells and lowering blood pressure. What a great excuse to get silly together and have fun laughing.


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