50 Things You Never Knew About Babies

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June 8th, 2010

The human body is a fascinating collective of efficient cells, nerve connections, thought processes and emotional forces, but when does all of it finally come together? Believe it or not, the first year of our lives could be the most important time in our development. Whether you’re enrolled in pediatric nursing school, are getting ready to be a first-time parent, or just want to learn more about how the human body and brain develop, check out this list of 50 things you never knew about babies.

Before Birth

Even before a baby is born, she can follow light, suck her thumb and cry. Here are more interesting facts about the development of babies before they’re even born.

  1. Older women have better chance at having multiples: Older women have higher levels of hormones, which means they’re more likely to produce more than one egg at a time and have twins or triplets.
  2. You may be able to predict gender: Use the Chinese Lunar Calendar to cross the month your baby was conceived with your age (the mom’s).
  3. Dad’s health can influence baby’s health, too: Mothers’ health isn’t the only factor that can pose risks to unborn or newborn babies. Dads should stop smoking and doing drugs and adapt a healthier lifestyle before conceiving.
  4. Early developing baby is smaller than a grain of rice: At just four weeks old — in the womb — your baby is “tinier than a grain of rice,” according to Australia’s Better Health Channel.
  5. Babies have fingerprints at three months: Even before they’re born, babies have fingerprints, which they develop around three months in the womb.
  6. All babies are at risk for spinal bifida: While drug and alcohol abuse, the mother’s weight, and other variables pose different risks for newborns, doctors believe that all babies are at equal risk for spinal bifida, which is why expectant moms are supposed to take folic acid supplements, in the first and second trimesters at least.
  7. Race determines twins: Another factor that could determine whether or not you have twins is race. Black African women are most likely to have twins.
  8. Babies can “see” light at seven months: Even though your baby is inside your tummy, he can open his eyes at seven months and even follow light.
  9. Babies start out as little balls of cells: In the first few weeks of pregnancy, your baby doesn’t have any recognizable definition. He or she is just a ball of cells — called a blastocyst — that are rapidly multiplying and moving into the uterus, where the baby will develop.
  10. Babies cry before they’re born: Babies develop vocal chords that are capable of crying before even leaving the womb.
  11. Babies are born with 100 billion nerve cells: They grow at a rate of 250,000 per minute, and will never have that many again.

Newborns

These facts about newborns will help you care for young babies and understand why they cry, suck their thumbs, and sleep so much.

  1. Babies like Wednesday: Apparently the day of the week that most babies are born (in the U.S.) is Wednesday. For over 15 years, it was Tuesday.
  2. “First” babies are smaller than younger siblings: Many times the first child born to parents is smaller in size than babies born later.
  3. More babies are born prematurely: Since 1990, preterm babies are born more frequently in the U.S., about half a million each year.
  4. Late afternoon and evening are peak crying times: You may feel like babies cry nonstop, but late afternoon and evening times are the most common times for babies to have crying sessions.
  5. Babies recognize moms first: Babies may start to recognize their mother’s voice even when they’re inside the womb, and they usually recognize their mother’s face earlier than they recognize other people and places.
  6. Thumb-sucking isn’t harmful: When a baby is still a newborn, there is no harm in letting him suck his thumb.
  7. They can protect themselves against choking: Called a protective reflex, babies’ tongues push out foreign objects in the early days to keep them from choking.
  8. Most babies are born with blue eyes: BellyBelly.com explains that your eventual eye color develops later, and that most babies are born with blue or blue-gray eyes.
  9. Newborns recognize the smell of breastmilk: You may notice that a newborn will get fussy or become more alert when his breastfeeding mother comes into the room. That’s because he can smell her milk.
  10. Babies cry two hours a day: Most babies reach a peak in overall crying time around 6 weeks old, and then settle down dramatically after 3 months.
  11. Heart rate and breathing rate is much faster than adults’: Babies’ hearts beat at twice the rate of adults, and they breathe at least twice as fast, too.

Eating and Sleeping

Get the facts about how much babies eat and sleep, and why.

  1. Babies develop flat heads after sleeping: Sometimes a baby will develop a flat head after sleeping on his back (the safe position). You can correct this by putting your baby on his stomach when he’s awake and getting him to “look left” when he’s lying down watching you.
  2. 5 hours is a full night’s sleep for new babies: While babies sleep a lot, a 5-hour rest is usually about all they need to “sleep through the night.”
  3. Babies can be breast fed until four months: Babies can receive all the nutrition they need to grow normally from breast milk up until four months.
  4. Babies should sleep on their backs even when they’re sick: Some parents may fear that their baby will choke if he vomits while sleeping on his back, but in fact, a baby’s natural reaction is to turn its head if it’s sick.
  5. “Breast-Fed Babies Know When to Say When”: This report from MedlinePlus indicates that babies who are breastfed consume less formula on their own from a bottle and may prevent obesity later in life.
  6. Newborns sleep 16 to 17 hours a day: Although they sleep more than half the day, newborns may only sleep one to two hours at a time.
  7. Swaddling helps babies sleep: While you may find it suffocating to be wrapped tightly while you sleep, young babies are comforted by tightly-wound blankets that keep them secure.
  8. There’s no set marker for starting solid foods: Many babies may start responding to solid foods at 6 months, while others don’t seem ready until they’re 2 years old.
  9. Babies need 200 to 400 IU of Vitamin D: Breast-fed and bottle-fed babies rarely get enough Vitamin D, which they need for bone growth, respiratory healthy, and more.

Learning

Here you can educate yourself on how babies learn, recognize words and faces, and use you as their guide to understanding the world.

  1. Babies start learning words at 10 months: Scientists have figured out that babies start to recognize words when they’re just 10 months old.
  2. They appreciate music early on: By rocking your baby to the beat of music, he will develop a stronger appreciation for it later.
  3. Babies “label” objects: Babies take the words you use when you talk about something and “label” the corresponding object. It’s a natural learning process.
  4. Babies learn by using all of their senses: It’s important to help your baby use all of its senses — including touch and smell — when teaching her new things.
  5. Babies’ brains grow faster in the first two years than at any other time: The brain’s nerve endings are all linking up during this important time.
  6. Babies learn by watching faces: Encourage family members and friends to make eye contact with your baby, since this is a principal way of learning for them.
  7. Babies recognize numerics: At seven months, babies demonstrated that they could recognize numerics, like monkeys. Read about the study to find out how.
  8. Babies learn from books: Reiterate familiar objects, animals, colors and sounds with your baby by using picture books.
  9. Babies pick up on conversation and speech rhythm: Speak clearly, make eye contact, and stress normal conversation and speech patterns so that your baby will develop a normal speaking rhythm, too.
  10. Babies start to imitate you at 10-12 months: This is when you can ask your baby to “help” you clean up or play pretend as a way of learning.

Growth and Development

Check out these facts to learn more about crying patterns, babies’ smiles, and when to expect drool.

  1. Crying patterns: Some doctors and scientists believe that babies who received more comfort when they cried were less likely to cry when they grew older.
  2. Smiles start at 6-12 weeks: Many babies start smiling before 12 weeks, but this is the general marker for normal development.
  3. Newborns don’t have the bridge of the nose: This may make it easier for them to be delivered naturally but results in a “pug nose” at birth. The bridge develops later.
  4. Drool comes at 2 months: The UCSF Children’s Hospital explains that when a baby starts to put her hands in her mouth — around 2 months — the drool quickly follows.
  5. Babies gain a lot of weight: Babies typically double their birth weight by 4 months and triple it by the one-year mark.
  6. By 13 months, most babies should be able to say several words: Besides “mama” and “dada,” babies should have been able to pick up a couple of more words by now.
  7. Babies born today have life expectancy of 78.11 years: According to the CIA World Factbook, the average life expectancy for today’s newborns is an average of 78.11 years — 80.60 years for females and 75.65 years for males.
  8. Cold babies won’t grow as fast: Since babies can’t shiver, they use up fat to keep them warm, which interferes with normal growth.
  9. Cause and effect: We know that toddlers and older babies are mischievous, but babies tend to experiment with cause and effect at just 5 months old.

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