Bringing home your first baby is a wonderful time. But joy and love aren’t the only feelings new parents have when it comes to getting to know their newborn. Babies, though soft, snuggly, and sweet-smelling beings, can be confusing and stressful little creatures sometimes, especially if you’ve never had one before! In between the diaper changes, nighttime feedings, and recovery from childbirth, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and stressed out, especially when your baby is doing things you never expected them to do.
Don’t worry, though. Many of those bizarre jerks and movements, the strange quirks of behavior no one covered in your parenting class or prenatal appointments are totally normal and nothing to worry about. Here are a few of the strange and wonderful things newborns do that may seem odd but are actually normal. Of course, you should never hesitate to mention any concerns to your pediatrician.
1. Crossing their eyes
When babies are new, they’re still learning how to control all their parts, eyes included! If your bundle of joy seems to go cross-eyed frequently, it’s most likely nothing to worry about. They’re just learning how their eyes work. Similarly, when young babies sleep, sometimes their eyelids don’t close all the way or at all, and you may see their eyes moving rapidly back and forth. This is what we look like when we’re in the REM phase of sleep. It’s perfectly normal and you likely wouldn’t even notice it if your little angel’s eyes were closed.
2. Jerky movements
One of the most common questions new parents have is regarding their baby’s jerky, sudden limb movements. If your baby is constantly kicking their legs and moving their arms or making jerky movements, it’s totally normal.
Called the Moro reflex or startle reflex, it’s characterized by a sudden movement of arms or legs in response to stimuli, like a door closing or a dog barking. It can be unsettling for new parents when their newborn’s arms or legs suddenly go rigid, but it’s a normal reflex that typically disappears by about 2 months of age. If you think your baby’s Moro reflex is severe or otherwise concerning, don’t hesitate to take a video to show your pediatrician.
As your little one ages and starts solid food, you might notice gagging when they eat. It can be a scary sight, and many parents assume their baby is choking. Gagging when starting solids is a typical developmental quirk and happens as a baby learns to manipulate food with their tongue. The motion brings food forward into the front of their mouth and helps them learn to chew.
In a younger baby, gagging might be a sign that the flow of milk or formula entering their mouth is too fast. If your little one gags on the bottle or breast, consider changing bottle nipple size or expressing your milk after letdown occurs. Gagging can also be a sign of acid reflux in infants, so if your baby continues to gag after you’ve addressed any flow issues, you should mention this to your pediatrician.
While it’s adorable to see a smile on your baby’s face, the fact is until they’re about 4 months old, babies don’t actually smile. That little grin you see peeking out of the swaddle probably means your newborn has gas. It’s not uncommon for infants to form a smile when they’re trying to relieve some pressure, but don’t worry, they’ll start smiling at you in earnest very soon.
5. Constantly dropping things
When babies are new, if they drop a toy, they assume it’s gone forever and may be surprised when you hand it back to them. That’s because they haven’t yet developed the concept of object permanence — the idea that just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean it stops existing. At around 6 months, object permanence begins to develop. Little ones commonly begin dropping or throwing anything they can get their hands on just to see it return like magic when you hand it back to them.
Don’t worry, there’s likely nothing wrong with their hands or grip, but if they continue dropping things after around 15 months old, or if they seem to be dropping things frequently but unintentionally, it might be worth mentioning to your pediatrician.
All in all, babies can be mysterious and sometimes scary creatures to new parents. Luckily, most of the bizarre things they do are 100% normal developmental quirks that will pass with time.
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