Monday, November 11, 2013

Weird Newborn Stuff: The First Two Weeks

Baby Y is just three weeks old now, and I'm remembering all the weird stuff about newborns, especially very, very new newborns. Newborn babies aren't like older babies, and they definitely aren't like older children or adults. They sometimes seem quite alien!

So what weird stuff is actually normal for your newborn?

Alien and Animal Noises
Newborns make weird noises. They snort and snuffle. They mew and wail. They trumpet. Baby Y alternately reminds me of a kitten, an elephant, and a hippo. Sometimes it looks like they're in a badly-dubbed movie, where the sounds coming from their mouths don't seem to match the shape their lips are making. It's bizarre, but it's normal!

Remember, newborns are just figuring out how their mouths work. They're just learning how to make sounds. In the womb, they couldn't make noises, so while they could practice moving their limbs, sucking, and mimic a breathing pattern, they couldn't actually make noise because they didn't have air to breathe and pass across their vocal cords. They also don't have much fine control over what their lips and tongue are doing, so they can't intentionally make specific sounds. Enjoy the weird alien noises your baby makes. Soon enough, she'll be repeating syllables and mimicking you.

Strange Eyes
If your baby is destined to be blue-eyed, she will likely be born with her true eye color. But if your baby will have brown eyes, he will likely be born with a dark grayish-blue eye color that will change over the next few months as the brown pigment starts to show up. Newborns also can't focus beyond about 12 inches from their faces (interestingly, about the distance from his face to Mom's face when nursing or being held) and will often appear cross-eyed.



Umbilical Stump/Bellybutton
The umbilical cord stump takes approximately five days to two weeks to fall off. In the meantime, it basically dries out and rots away. It's...gross. It may smell bad. It may ooze blood. And yet, it does not hurt the baby. Everyone (nurses, doctors) who saw my baby told me "don't do anything to it." You don't need to wipe it with alcohol, you don't need to use any creams or ointments. Just keep it dry and wait. And sure enough, on day 5, off it fell. But boy was it stinky until it fell off and started to heal!

Random Arm and Leg Flailing
When a newborn gets really hungry, he'll start waving his arms around frantically, but once you get his face near the boob, he'll often turn away from it or push it away accidentally! Poor kid hasn't figured out how all these body parts work. When he's calmer, he might also move his arms very gracefully, as if conducting his own internal orchestra. As for the legs, their muscles are still quite tight when they're so little, from being curled up in the womb. They'll kick their legs, especially during diaper changes, in a most unpredictable fashion. I've learned to "work with the kicks" when putting pants or a footed sleeper on a tiny baby, and it's hard to keep their little feet out of their diapers when you're changing them. Not to mention how much my newborn hates having his diaper changed and cries hysterically and kicks like mad whenever I try.


Angry Face!
Their facial expressions are as random as their noises and arm movements. They're still learning what has meaning. My favorite expression is the angry face when he's about to cry. He's just so mad that he isn't drinking milk yet! And, of course, most two-week-old babies don't smile yet, but sometimes a passing gas bubble will elicit something that looks like a smile, and is at least a preview of that beautiful expression you'll be seeing very soon.

Pooping and Farting are Whole Body Experiences
A newborn trying to poop is just about as dramatic as his mother was a few days prior trying to push him out! The legs kick in and out, the back arches, incredible sounds emerge from the tiny throat, until finally...pffffft, out shoots whatever was building up inside. The best is when they look completely surprised at the feeling. Newborns let you and everyone within a 50-foot radius know when they're having intestinal difficulties. And just as a word of advice: Don't change a diaper right away when you catch them pooping. Give it a few minutes to make sure he's really done, and then another few minutes after that just in case. Sometimes the act of wiping will stimulate some additional...output.

Rooting
Of course, the most important way your newborn will communicate with you is by rooting when she's hungry. When she gets really enthusiastic, she'll resemble a baby bird eagerly awaiting her mother's return with some delicious regurgitated earthworm. Only, hopefully your milk is more palatable than regurgitated earthworm. Sometimes the rooting is so enthusiastic that she won't realize you've presented your nipple for her nursing pleasure, and she'll root in the opposite direction. It takes a few weeks for everyone to figure out where everything is.

Reflexes
If your baby feels like he is falling backward, he will fling his arms out and startle. If he is lying calmly on his back, his arms will end up in the "archer pose." These are strange newborn reflexes that are outgrown fairly quickly. There are others, such as "stepping," where if you hold a baby upright and let his feet touch a surface, he will appear to try to walk.



Switched Days and Nights
Most newborns, especially in the first week, have no idea about the very important difference between day and night. For them, in the womb, it was always dark, and often they were more likely to be awake at night than during the day. Many new babies will sleep very nicely during the day and then much more fitfully at night - or even be wide awake! - for a few days or even a few weeks. Eventually, their biological rhythms will start to match yours, and they'll learn that sound sleep is for the night. Expose them to daylight and activity during the day, and make sure you keep things quiet and unstimulating during the night, and they'll get it figured out. I certainly won't tell you "sleep when the baby sleeps," because I hate that advice, but it probably wouldn't be a bad idea to share at least one of your new baby's daytime naps in those early days. Remember, you need your rest, and you might have to get it during the day for a little while.



Enlarged Genitalia and Other Unfortunate Hormonal Side Effects
Baby boys are often born with proportionately large genitalia and can even get erections (although not through sexual arousal, of course). Baby girls and boys(!) sometimes have breast buds, can get mastitis, and may even produce a small amount of breastmilk. Both boys and girls may develop facial acne. Baby girls sometimes even have period-like bleeding. All of these strange events are a result of the mother's hormones still circulating in their tiny bodies. Eventually all of these excess hormones will clear out, never fear.

What weird things happened in your baby's first couple of weeks that freaked you out but turned out to be totally normal?

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