Welcoming a new baby is such an exciting time. It can also be overwhelming trying to keep up with feedings, diaper changes and sleepless nights. As you get to know your little one, it may be helpful to be aware of some of the unexpected things they may do that are normal for newborns.
Here are a few of the most common newborn quirks that I am asked about by new parents. Even though these are generally normal behaviors, do not hesitate to mention something to your child’s pediatrician. We would always rather offer reassurance about something that isn’t a cause for concern than miss something that is.
In response to a loud noise, change in position, or for seemingly no reason at all, your baby may “startle” with arms and legs suddenly stretched out. These jerky movements are called the Moro reflex, and typically peak in the first month and disappear by two months. This reflex can happen while a baby sleeps and even wake them up. Swaddling your baby to sleep can sometimes decrease the chance of this happening. If you are concerned about your baby’s movements, take a video to bring to your baby’s next well visit.
Baby’s first poops are usually black and sticky. This type of poop is called meconium. Over the span of a few days, baby’s poops should progress from black to brown to green and finally to yellow. Baby poop is usually quite soft and sometimes even runny. This means sometimes it can come seeping out the sides of the diaper, up their back and all over everything. The first explosive poop is typically a shock to new parents, but rest assured you’ll be a pro at managing these blow outs in no time. Many babies will poop with every feed, others once a day and some babies may go a few days between poops. As long as baby has a soft poop when they go, this is usually not cause for concern.
If you notice any white or chalky poops for two or more diaper changes, it’s best to call the pediatrician to make sure everything is okay. For more detail on newborn poop, check out this blog post one of my colleagues wrote.
Baby’s hiccups are often felt during pregnancy and can continue after they’re born. They will likely come after feedings and can last for a long time. Hiccups are caused by a spasm of the diaphragm and are normal. Babies will eventually outgrow these frequent hiccups.
Newborns also tend to sneeze frequently, and usually this is not a reason to think they’re sick or allergic to anything. With their very small nostrils, any little dust particles, mucous build up or residual amniotic fluid from delivery can be enough to trigger a sneeze.
If you notice your baby's sneezes are accompanied by wheezing or other breathing concerns, it’s best to check in with their pediatrician so that they can make sure your child is breathing comfortably, swallowing normally, and that their lungs sound clear.
Pimples aren’t just for teenagers! Babies can also get their own version of blemishes, usually showing up around 2-3 weeks of age. Typically these breakouts occur on your baby’s cheeks and nose but can also turn up on a baby’s forehead, chin, scalp, neck, back or chest. Neonatal acne is generally nothing to worry about and tends to go away on its own in a few weeks or months. If it shows up after about 6 weeks, your pediatrician will assess whether it could be something else, like eczema.
Babies often develop white, yellow, or brown flaky, peeling skin on their head called cradle cap. In most cases, it’s harmless. I tell parents they can use a little baby lotion/oil at bath time or even overnight and then brush or comb it gently to try to keep it at bay. It should disappear within the first month or so, but sometimes it hangs on a bit longer. If it appears to spread past your baby’s scalp, mention it to the pediatrician who may prescribe an ointment.
Life outside the womb requires a lot of adjustment, especially for your little one’s eyes. A newborn’s eyes might not always move in unison, which means baby can appear to go cross-eyed. This is normal in the first 2-4 months and will improve as the eye muscles get stronger. As a pediatrician, it’s something we monitor during all those well visits in the first year.
The soft spot on top of baby’s head can make parents a bit nervous. This opening allows for newborn’s head to fit through the birth canal during delivery and for rapid brain growth in the first year of life. Fortunately, this spot, called a fontanelle, is quite durable and usually closes between 12 and 18 months.
Babies can make a lot of noise outside the expected cries and coos. Grunts, snorts, and even groaning are common among newborns. Oftentimes, these noises are caused by a baby's nasal passages being quite narrow in the newborn stage, so even a small amount of mucous can make baby sound congested. If your baby is making a lot of noise, you can try clearing out the nose with a nasal aspirator or NoseFrida. But please note, if it sounds like your baby is having trouble breathing when making these grunts, call your pediatrician right away.
These are just a few of the topics that commonly come up during a baby’s first few check-ups. There are plenty more! So if your newborn is doing something unexpected, just ask their pediatrician. Never substitute an internet search for the advice of a trusted medical professional, whether your child is a newborn or teenager! We are here for you.