Curious Parents

7 Amazing Facts About Babies

Babies are human just like the rest of us, but if you look at some of the ways they develop and behave, it may seem like they're a completely different species. Here are just some of the bizarre traits they have (and you had!) around the time of their birth.

They're Covered in Hair

Around the four-month mark, a developing fetus develops something strange: a mustache. Over the next month or so, this fine hair, called lanugo, gradually spreads to cover the whole body, then sheds completely before or soon after birth. Weirder still, the fine hairs that are shed in the womb don't just stay there — the fetus eats them. The ingested lanugo eventually comes out in the newborn's first bowel movement. And you thought babies were cute.

They Have More Bones Than You Do

You have something like 206 bones in your body. A newborn baby has about 300. Why? Because babies need to be able to squeeze through the birth canal, and keeping bones unfused makes them loose and flexible. The cranium, for instance, is in one piece in adults but made up of three unfused plates in newborns. At the same time, many adult bones were just cartilage at birth. A baby's kneecaps, for example, are just soft, spongy plates — and soft and spongy comes in handy when you're embarking on that thrilling action sport called "learning to walk."

They Can't Taste Salt, But They Can Taste Mom's Meals

Babies don't develop the ability to taste salty food until about five months of age (although you probably shouldn't give them salt until a good while later). But even while in the womb, babies can taste what their mother is eating, since strong flavors change the taste and scent of the amniotic fluid. Studies show that the flavors mothers enjoy while pregnant and breastfeeding can shape the baby's food preferences later in life.

Their Eyes Are Relatively Massive

A baby's huge eyes are no optical illusion. While their heads are just a small fraction of their adult size at birth, their eyes are already 75 percent of the size they'll be in adulthood.

They Can't Shed Tears

Everyone knows the wailing cry of a newborn baby, but what they might not know is that it doesn't come with tears. It takes about a month for a baby's tear ducts to fully develop, so up until that point, their eyes are dry even while their little lungs are wailing to the heavens. Even once their tear ducts are working, babies don't always tear up when they cry. Crying is their only form of communication, so sometimes they're just doing it to tell you something.

They Might See Upside Down

Your eyes actually perceive the world upside down, but your brain filters the image to make it appear right side up. It's believed that newborns' brains haven't yet developed the ability to make that switch, so until they're about a week old, they may see everything flipped. No need to worry — they also can't focus beyond about 12 inches (30 centimeters) in front of their faces until that point, so they're not missing much.

Some Can Lactate And Menstruate

We saved the weirdest for last. Pregnant women are brimming with estrogen, and their developing fetus gets a heavy dose. For that reason, a small percentage of newborns can actually lactate and/or menstruate. Nearly 5 percent of babies produce what's colloquially known as "witch's milk" in the first two months of life. Likewise, the sharp drop in estrogen baby girls experience after birth can trigger what's called pseudomenstruation in about a quarter of female babies, resulting in a little bit of blood in the diaper within their first week of life.

5 Amazing Facts About Babies

Key Facts In This Video

  1. Milk produced by mothers shortly after birth is low in fat, saturated with antibodies and is high in protein. 00:39

  2. Babies are born with approximately 270 bones. 01:33

  3. A baby's "soft spot" on the head is known as the fontanelle. 01:55

Written by Ashley Hamer January 8, 2018

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