Sometimes the little gremlins just don't make sense. Fake coughing? Obsessed with tags? Baby erections? We answer the most common questions new parents Google.
1. Why do babies eat their feet?
Because babies like to put things in their mouths and their feet are, like, right there. ‘Mouthing’ is a development milestone, and your tot will typically discover it can chomp its feet at between four and eight months. If you could put parts of your body that you can’t currently reach into your mouth, you’d experiment too. Albeit not in front of your mum.
2. Why do babies’ eyes change colour?
Most Caucasian babies are born with blue eyes, but only about 20 per cent retain the shade as adults. (African and Asian babies are typically born with grey or brown eyes, which get darker). Babies are born without much melanin, yet another reason why it’s not cool to take them tanning. When the child’s melanin production ramps up, after six months, eye colour often darkens.
3. Why do babies sleep so much?
Being a baby is exhausting and they need sleep for proper development. Newborns can kip up to 18 hours a day as they adjust to a new environment and experience rapid growth. WiseGEEK also notes that “growth hormones are secreted by the pituitary gland at a much faster rate while babies sleep”. Don’t get used to it. Like, say, looking at Ivanka Trump before having to listen to Ivanka Trump, it’s just a blissful pause before the coming horror.
4. Why do babies fake cough?
This is attention-seeking behaviour. In teenagerdom, this behaviour may become pushbike wheelies (if you’re lucky), drug experimentation (if you’re not), or (worst of all) teenage angst poetry. For now, however, don’t worry. Consider it charming. “Around six months, when the fake coughing first begins, babies are really starting to get how the world works,” says baby researcher Dr Peter Vishton. “Your child has noticed that when someone coughs, you’re very solicitous, so she’s doing it to get some attention.” Give it to her. Babies are adorable! At least 50 times better than poetry.
5. Why do babies throw food on the floor?
Babies throw shit, yo. They’d throw you if they could. They’re experimenting with the world. To a baby, the texture of food squishing in their hands, the sound it makes splattering on the floor, is a sensual delight. Just like the banana they mashed into the remote control keys is a sensual delight that’s locked your TV on the weather channel.
Also, because babies are dumb (in that they can’t talk), and they may be communicating something. For example: “MY SIPPY CUP IS EMPTY!” *throws sippy cup*. You can try firm-but-gentle verbal dissuasion when they throw things, though they’ll likely ignore you. Try it anyway. It’s not like there’s anything on TV (unless you like weather).
6. Why do babies use sleep sacks?
Ever been trapped inside a person? Of course you have, and not in a fun and sexy way, like when Homer got stuck entirely within Mr Burns in that Treehouse of Horror episode. You were a foetus once, too, but you’ve probably forgotten how cramped it was in utero. There ain’t much space to move inside Mum, and so baby likes it nice and claustrophobic when they’re just out.
Also, both swaddling and sleep suits stop babies from involuntarily flailing their arms about like a windsock man at a used car dealership. This is called the Moro or startle reflex, which can otherwise wake them up. Just make sure your sleep sack is a safe one, SIDS-wise, and be sure to always put them down on their backs.
7. Why do babies only have red marrow?
It’s true: babies’ bone marrow is solely of the crimson variety. Do not try to check this. Red blood cells, platelets and most white blood cells arise in red marrow. The color of yellow marrow is due to the higher number of fat cells. From birth, your body needs to make a lot of blood because it’s growing. By the time you reach adulthood, it will be roughly 50/50 red and yellow.
8. Why do babies overeat?
You’re feeding it too much. Overfeeding is when a bottle-fed baby is chugging down more formula (or expressed breast milk) than they need, and it can lead to dramas including excessive puking, Michelin Man-fatness, nappy churn-through and hellish, foul-smelling shits.
You’re likely over-stuffing the kid because it’s sleep deprived — which can mess with bub’s hunger cycle — or you’ve conditioned Junior to feed whenever he’s sleepy, or you’re missing hints that it’s full, or you’re falsely thinking it’s hungry when it’s crying for some other reason, like it saw a cat.
This is an easy mistake to make, especially when feeding shuts baby up (sweet, sweet silence!). It’s nowhere near as serious as underfeeding, but if you’re concerned, help, and a longer list of warning signals, are available here.
9. Why do babies ignore you?
Don’t worry, the real ignoring won’t kick in until the early teens. As for your baby, it’s probably totally normal. “There should be social interaction by two to three months, but it’s not going to last all day long,” says paediatrician Tanya Remer Altmann. “Your baby is going to get tired of socialising, and at some point in the day will want to be mellow and left alone, and that’s okay.” Don’t freak out. But if bub never, ever smiles, and eye contact is non-existent, speak with your doctor.
10. Why do babies fidget?
If it’s happening while mum is (attempting) breastfeeding, it could be they’re having trouble latching on (try a different position); that the flow could be too slow or too fast; or your tot is dealing with gas. It could also be reflux — pray to Jesus, Odin and Lemmy that it’s not — or, er, baby could just be a little twitchy and irritable today. But most babies fidget at some stage, tit or no tit. “Reasons can be endless, common and completely normal,” says Aimee Carroll-Kierce, a breastfeeding counsellor for the Australian Breastfeeding Association, “but sometimes more complex than we first think”. If the tics and jitteriness seem relentless, speak to your GP.
11. Why do babies love tags?
Eh, it’s not super clear — sorry. But babies love stimuli, and an obsession with tags — on clothing, on toys, on anything — is de rigueur. “I think the answer lies in the fact that the tags are usually satin (nice slippery feel in fingers/mouth) and stick out from the shirt or toy,” says paediatrician Dr Janesta Noland. Maybe. “Babies like the tags on their clothes and stuffed toys because the tags are easy to play with, grab onto, and chew on,” says fellow paediatrician Dr Robert Kwok, who describes tags as “simple toys”. Many soft comfort baby toys, some with over a dozen tags, are marketed around this affinity.
12. Why do babies like to suck?
The suckling instinct is vital to their immediate survival, and so it’s programmed into them at birth. It’s like a taste for XXXX in newborn Queenslanders, poutine in baby Canadians, or abalone divers in even juvenile great white sharks. Sucking on stuff is comforting.
13. Why do babies zone out?
Life’s pretty busy when you’re a baby, what with all the pooping, wazzing dad in the nuts while he’s hanging out the washing, and hilariously rejecting the exact same go-to meal they loved yesterday. Sometimes baby will just stop for a moment of contemplation. “There should be social interaction by two to three months, but it’s not going to last all day long,” says paediatrician Tanya Remer Altmann. If the bub never, ever smiles, and eye contact is non-existent, just alert your doctor.
14. Why do babies cry?
They’re babies, duh. But those cries are usually code, and while it’s impossible at first, in time you’ll learn the subtleties and eventually figure out what they’re after. Hunger cries, pick-me-up cries, I’m-gassy cries, I’m-sleepy cries and I’m-sick cries are not always the same, and after a while parents will usually be able tell what their l’il tear klaxon wants. (Sometimes they just want to cry.)
If it’s for hours at a time and oh god I’ll give you a thousand dollars if you stop crying for two seconds please just stop I think I’m having an aneurysm, it might be colic. Congratulations and welcome to hell! But don’t abandon all hope — about 20 per cent of babies get it. It could also be reflux, a snappy portmanteau of ‘really f*cking sucks’, when the baby pukes a bit into its own mouth, as if it’s accidentally clicked on that Hulk Hogan sex tape. Like sex, both colic and reflux are pretty run-of-the-mill, but like Hulk Hogan, nobody wants it in the house.
15. Why do babies arch their backs?
Even more normal is when the kid just hurls itself wildly backwards when they’re having a tantrum, often exacerbating the situation by, say, poleaxing the coffee table. Don’t worry too much, “virtually all babies go through this phase,” says paediatrician Bob Sears, putting the action down to frustration and uncontrollable emotions.
16. Why do babies refuse to take the bottle?
Because while suckling is an innate reflex, a bottle is still not a boob. Be aware that it’s harder to introduce your kid to a fake plastic tit after the first couple of months. This refusal is, to put it mildly, stressful, as well as potentially life-ruining. But don’t try to shove junior back where he came from just yet. For a start, that won’t work. And second, there’s a series of steps you can try. Keep trying — you’ll almost certainly get there in the end.
17. Why do babies vomit?
They just do. Mild vomiting is more common in babies than it is at 18-year-old birthdays involving yard glasses and Jägerbombs. For example, your little one will often burp up breastmilk after a feed (AKA possetting), which is usually caused by minor feeding problems, like its tiny tummy being too full. If the kid is a normal weight, and hydrated enough, don’t stress. See the doc if the puking is forceful, accompanied by a rash or fever or there are other worrying symptoms — a handy list of which you can find here.
18. Why do babies throw their heads back?
This probably happens at about nine months, and the trigger is typically emotional — frustration, basically — stemming from being old enough to know what they want, or the way they want something to be, but unable to figure out how to get it. (Perhaps because they still lack coordination. Stupid babies.) If it gets too much, “you can also quickly set your baby down on a soft surface and allow her to throw herself backward on a soft carpet, pillow, or mattress,” advises paediatrician Bob Sears. Don’t go wandering off, though.
19. Why do babies shake their heads?
It can be weird when junior sits their Stevie Wondering in his high chair after dinner, or zig-zagging like Axl Rose as he watches Peppa Pig, or head-bangs about in his cot like a ’90s Pantera fan. But it’s usually quite normal. “They do it because it’s rhythmic and it comforts and soothes them,” according to the Raising Children Network. “Sometimes children rock, roll and bang their heads more if they’re experiencing some anxiety or stress during the day. But rocking, banging or rolling doesn’t mean your child has an emotional problem.” Perhaps some soothing Sepultura will help them, and the neighbours, to nod off.
20. Why do babies have a soft spot?
They’ve got two, actually, on the top of their skulls, and each is called a fontanelle. These allow the skull to expand quickly enough to accommodate the rapid growth of your child’s brain as it grows. It’s an evolutionary development that allowed humans to grow smarter than apes. Suck it, bonobos.
21. Why do babies get erections?
22. Why do babies get zits?
Usually because they’re boy babies — it’s less common in girls — and blackheads and a few pimples are totally normal. “Acne results from inflammation of oil glands on the face reacting to hormones,” says Associate Professor Gayle Fischer. “A newborn baby is still affected by mum’s hormones and this may not wear off until they are about 12 months old.”
23. Why do babies pinch?
“Don’t poke the bear” is usually good advice. Babies are still learning, however, and will “bite, pinch and pull hair to experiment and explore their environment” — oblivious to (indeed, often delighted by) its effect upon you. This usually happens from about 6-12 months of age, and is another reason not to leave them alone with your dog.
24. Why do babies need the Hep B vaccine?
Er, to protect them from contracting Hepatitis B, usually from mum or another household Hep B carrier (who may not know they’re infected). US authorities suggest a baby who gets hep B during the first five years has a 15 per cent to 25 per cent risk for premature death from liver disease, including liver failure or liver cancer. Vaccinate your kids. Don’t be a mug.
25. Why do babies need to be circumcised?
They don’t, really (if they’re boys) and they really, really, really don’t (if they’re girls, when it’s rightly criminal, and f*ck you). The science isn’t particularly convincing one way or the other. Eighty per cent of Australian boys born in the ’60s had the snip. That’s now down to 15 per cent.
26. Why do babies hiccup?
First, this is as super common as ‘Common’ the rapper would be, had he been born on Krypton and grown up to defend Metropolis. Babies hiccup in the womb (which mum and even dad can often feel), and regularly keep it up until they’re around a year old. It’s a natural and involuntary reflex, and they’ll usually get over it in five to 10 minutes.
27. Why do babies cry in the car?
Elizabeth Pantley, prolific but very American author of The No-Cry Solution, says it’s typically “because your baby is used to more freedom of movement and more physical attention than you can provide when she’s belted into her seat”.
Pull over if you need to, but mostly, pay attention to the road; you can easily drive 50 km or more while the kid bawls in the back if you have to. I once went three-quarters of the way from Newcastle to Sydney, at night, in torrential rain, with the kid shouting like an interplanetary klaxon calling Cthulhu across dimensions in the back. The kid finally fell asleep in our driveway. He is fine.
28. Why do babies need zinc?
Who among us would possibly want to live in a world without zinc? Answer: It doesn’t matter what you want. You need zinc to live. Zinc helps with the function of your child’s immune system, and a deficiency can also slow your child’s growth. “Absorption is higher from animal foods than plant sources,” say boffins, “so vegetarian infants, particularly strict vegetarians, will need higher intakes“.
29. Why do babies cluster feed?
It’s normal for your sprog to demand multiple feeds over a few short hours. And it’s more common in the early evening, which kinda sucks. Some experts think it might be a mechanism to boost the mother’s milk supply. If it’s really doing your head in, or Mum’s, you can call the Australian Breastfeeding Helpline on 1800 686 268.
30. Why do babies drool so much?
Infants usually don’t achieve full control of swallowing, and of the mouth muscles, until they’re 18-24 months old. There are lots of reasons why your kid has suddenly gone full Turner & Hooch, and they’re all older and more ancient than that Tom Hanks movie reference. But it might be teething. If so, try not to go to the medicine cupboard too early. Instead, try rubbing their sore little gums with a damp washcloth or get them to chomp on a purpose-built teething ring (cooled in the fridge).
READ MORE FROM BEN SMITHURST:
- Nine things we’ll do differently during labour and delivery
- Six things I wish I’d known when becoming a new dad
- 10 things you don’t need to buy when you become a dad