You dream about your beautiful baby for 9 months and expect it to be the most perfect little angel…and then you give birth to your little alien look-alike. How could something so beautiful look so strange and do the weirdest things? Newborns are funny! As unsettling as it may be for new parents, many of the things about newborns that look so odd are totally normal. Here are the most common—and how to tell if the weird should be worrisome.
Babies’ bowel movements consist mostly of liquid, so it’s easy for them to be propelled out with force. Don’t be surprised if you have a couple of diaper sessions in which your baby (or you) end up covered in the stuff. We have one piece of advice: just get used to it. Oh, and have lots of wipes handy. Weird or Worrisome: As long as the color and texture of baby’s bowel movements stay consistent, your baby is fine. If you notice a major change in hue or consistency or blood in her stool, it’s time to call your doctor.
There’s a loud noise and your baby jumps and reaches his arms out. What the heck?! In the beginning, your baby is learning how to control his body and reactions and is often interrupted by natural reflexes. This funny one is known as the Moro reflex and is exhibited when a baby is startled by something or feeling scared. Babies may experience even more of these jerky movements when they’re sleeping. Their nervous systems are immature and uncoordinated, and their involuntary actions often become even more uncontrollable while they’re napping. Babies can flail about so much that they wake themselves up! There’s no need to worry, though. These spastic movements normally pass by 3 or 4 months of age. Weird or Worrisome: If your baby’s not exhibiting any of these funny movements, you should be worried. Call your doctor if you fail to see any funny or jerky reactions.
Remember those hormones that made you crazy during your pregnancy? Well, guess what? They affected your baby too. Extra estrogen can be passed through the umbilical cord and cause your sweet baby (yes, even boys) to develop breast buds. The same hormones that cause your breasts to swell and milk glands to be stimulated can do the same to your baby’s breasts. What’s even crazier is that these tiny little breasts can actually leak fluid. No need to fret, though! This condition should go away as your baby clears himself of the extra hormones. That’s usually within a few weeks or months. Weird or Worrisome: If you notice any redness or severe tenderness around your baby’s breast you may want to call the doctor. It’s helpful to take your baby’s temperature to make sure that he’s not running a fever due to infection.
Flaky, dry, brownish crusty spots on your baby’s head can look nasty, but it’s totally normal. No one really knows why it happens, but it’s considered a form of dermatitis (inflamed skin). Some experts think that hormones babies get toward the end of pregnancy cause a baby’s oil-producing glands to go nuts, resulting in cradle cap. It often shows up in the first few months of life but goes away after six to 12 months. It’s not contagious, and you can help your baby get rid of it more quickly. Doctors recommend that you rub your baby’s head with a little natural baby oil daily, and then use a fine-toothed comb to lightly scrape some of the dry skin off. Weird or Worrisome: There’s nothing really to worry about with cradle cap, but if you see the rash getting more severe or spreading to different parts of your baby’s body, it’s time to call the doctor. Whatever do you, don’t pick it off with your fingernails!
Sneezing and Mucus
There’s nothing cuter than the sound of a baby sneezing. There are a bunch of reasons why your baby may be filled with mucus, and the main one is once again Mom’s overabundance of hormones. Remember how you were stuffy and felt like you had a perpetual cold—especially in the later months of your pregnancy? Well, your baby is experiencing the same thing. Hormones make mucosal linings thicker, causing airways to get clogged. Your baby also may be sneezing because she’s trying to get some stuff out of her nose like dust, extra mucus, or sometimes even amniotic fluid. This condition should also clear up on its own, but in the meantime, some moms swear by nasal aspirators to help make baby more comfortable. Weird or Worrisome: If your baby is coughing or wheezing along with sneezing, it may be a sign of infection or allergies. Have your doctor check her breathing passages and swallowing to make sure that everything is normal.
So you’re presented with your baby and you think “Holy cow!” His genitals might look huge compared to the rest of his body. Before you panic, know that this is a very normal condition for both newborn girls and boys. For up to a few days after delivery, hormones and extra fluid that your baby retains can collect in the genitals and cause swollen testicles in boys and swollen labia in girls. In time, your baby will shed the extra bloat across their whole body (sometimes up to 10 percent of their weight!) and everything will return to normal size. Weird or Worrisome: If you still notice swollen tissue after a week or two, you may want to check with your doctor, particularly if you have a boy. They can develop a condition known as hydrocele, which is benign but can take some time to clear up.
Your baby comes out of your womb and his head is shaped like a cone. You panic and think “My baby’s going to look like an alien forever!” Let us ease your mind. Coming out of the birth canal is pretty tough work, and fortunately, nature has provided tools to make it easier on your baby. His head is malleable and can adapt to the shape of the canal to allow for a smoother exit. It may look weird at first, but his head will return to its normal shape within a few weeks after birth. You may notice, however, that in time he might develop some flat parts on his head. This can be caused by lying on one side for an extended period. To avoid or cure this, doctors recommend alternating sleep positions, holding baby a little more often, and increasing tummy time. Weird or Worrisome: If you’ve tried everything and your baby’s head won’t return to normal, your doctor may recommend some help, such having him wear a helmet.
Your newborn has a lot of new things to manage and can sometimes can have a little trouble with muscle control and being able to focus. No worries! Your baby is getting stronger every day and should be able to master the skill in no time. Sometimes, though, it may only appear that your baby’s eyes are crossed. This is an optical illusion known as pseudoesotropia. The broad bridge of your baby’s nose and extra skin folds can hide the whites of her eyes and just make it look like her pupils are pointing inward. You can check to see if this is the case by looking closely to see if her pupils match up and move in the same direction together. Weird or Worrisome: If your baby is still showing signs of crossed eyes at 6 months of age, you may want to bring her in to have her checked. She could have a condition known as lazy eye or another issue.