8 strange but normal things about your newborn
By Marissa Burg, MD
Congrats to you, new Mom (or Dad!). It is such an exciting time. As a pediatrician who's taken care of thousands of sweet newborns and a mama to two little ones who experienced all the things (unexpected C-section, latch issues, the works...), I understand what an exhausting, frustrating, and heart-bursting-with-love time it can be.
With all your emotions magnified (thanks, hormones), it can help to know the facts about what's going on with that tiny baby of yours. Unfortunately, they don't come with a manual but that's what us pediatricians are here for :) Here are some strange but totally normal things about your newborn that you may not have read in the baby books. Check them off your list of new parent worries!
You know those pregnancy hormones you dealt with for nine long months? Well, they have some physical effects on your baby too. Newborns can have breasts (yep, both sexes!), labia or scrotal swelling, white vaginal discharge, or even a mini menstrual period. True story: my daughter looked like she could have breastfed herself as a newborn! Don't worry, all these things will go away as your baby's hormone levels decrease over the first month or so.
If you actually "slept like a baby," chances are your partner would move to the other room. Newborns are often quite noisy (both while asleep and awake) and I am not just talking about the crying. Most babies do a lot of groaning, grunting, snorting, and squeaking—especially while eating and sleeping. This is due to a couple of factors: baby's tiny nose easily traps mucus, plus their airway is made of soft cartilage which can flop around. This "floppiness" has a medical term—laryngomalacia—but it is very common and the noisy breathing will improve with time.
When my son was a newborn, I would sometimes wake in the night to find his bassinet missing from my room. My husband had moved him into the closet due to all his loud grunts! A fan or sound machine can be a great idea to help everyone sleep during those first few months. Don't worry, baby's breathing noises will become quieter as they grow—he won't sound like Darth Vader forever!
hiccups + sneezing
Speaking of noises, hiccups in babies are extremely common and often occur for no apparent reason—in other words, they are a reflex with no known definite biological function (one theory is that they may help to remove excess air from the stomach). Regardless of the cause, rest assured hiccups do not cause your newborn any distress. And while they're not totally preventable, there are some things that may help decrease hiccups in babies like burping during feedings and using a pacifier.
Sneezing is also a common reflex in babies and for this one we know the cause—it happens when their tiny little nasal passages get irritated. Again, it's nothing to worry about. It just means her senses are working well. You grow girl!
After all the kicking and somersaults in the womb, what did you expect? Newborns tend to have frequent jerking movements and spastic flailing of their limbs during the first few months. They usually last just a few seconds and may happen randomly or in response to a loud noise or sudden movement. Your little one's nerves are still maturing, but you can expect to see an improvement by the time your baby is around four months old.
This is actually totally expected in newborns! Life outside your womb takes an adjustment, and at first your baby can only see a few inches in front of them. As their eye muscles strengthen and they learn to focus their vision to see you, their eyes should straighten out. However, if your baby still appears cross-eyed at 6 months, I would get them checked out. Of course if you have any concern, contact your baby's pediatrician who will determine if they need a full eye exam.
straining to poop
Strangely enough, babies are not born knowing how to poop! It's actually quite complicated—they need to learn how to push with their stomach muscles and relax their glutes at the same time. This control improves over time as their muscles and nerves get stronger. However, in the meantime you might see your baby cry, grunt, scream, and turn red while straining and it can take them up to 30 minutes to poop. Don't worry—it's not constipation, and your sweet baby is not in pain. Yes, it can be hard to watch but just wait a few months and they'll be pooping like a pro :)
While some babies are born with little-to-no hair, others come out with peach fuzz covering their shoulders, ears, back, or even forehead. This newborn body hair is known as lanugo and it's more common than you think. A natural part of fetal development, lanugo appears on every baby in the womb to help regulate their body temp and protect their skin. It usually goes away before birth but sometimes it can stick around for a few months. Once it goes away, it should not come back.
Angel kisses and stork bites are common birthmarks found on newborns. Their medical term is nevus simplex, and they look like flat, pale-to-dark pink patches on your baby's forehead, eyelids, upper lip, nose, back of her head, or neck. Though they can appear very noticeable at first, they're nothing to worry about and usually disappear within a year or two.
Sometimes, you'll see them temporarily reappear when your child gets overheated or has a meltdown. And in some cases, a stork bite located at the nape of your baby’s neck just below the hairline may become permanent, but it's nothing to worry about. Their hair usually covers it anyway.
If any of these things have been keeping you up at night, I hope this list helps you rest a bit easier :). That being said, Mom and Dad always know best—if you are worried about something please bring it up with your baby's pediatrician. We are always happy to explain the "what's" and the "why's" to parents and hopefully offer some reassurance that your child is healthy!
Dr. Burg is Mom to Scarlett and Hunter and a Board Certified Pediatrician at Amherst Pediatric Associates in New York. She is also an Associate Clinical Professor at SUNY Buffalo Medical School and cares for newborns at three local hospitals. She received her medical degree at The University of Buffalo School of Medicine and completed her Pediatrics residency at Women and Children's Hospital of Buffalo.