Babies are some of the most wonderful things in the world, aren’t they? At first they seem so helpless, so incapable of taking care of themselves. What many parents may not realize is that it’s all an act. Babies know exactly what they’re doing. Here are some lesser-known facts about babies for you to enjoy.
Babies Have Strange Abilities
In addition to their well-known talents — putting things in their mouths, causing diaper blowouts, and generally being cute — babies also have some strange abilities that go away as they get older.
1. A baby can breathe and swallow at the same time.
Notice how they can chug a bottle, seemingly without stopping? They can breathe and swallow simultaneously until about seven months old. This unique ability can be defeated by a stuffy nose, which is why babies just hate getting sick.
2. Most newborns cry without tears until they are three to six weeks old.
When they do learn to turn on the waterworks, their tears contain stress hormones. So the act of crying actually helps calm babies down. That’s the science, at least. Sometimes it sure doesn’t seem that way.
3. Babies are born with natural swimming abilities.
They can hold their breath, too. I have the feeling that this is related to spending so much time in the womb. The down side is that this ability quickly disappears.
4. Most newborns will lose all the hair they are born with in 3-4 months.
All right, so hair loss isn’t really an uncommon talent (especially among older men), and babies generally don’t have much hair to begin with, but I still found this interesting. And I know of at least two babies where the hair fell out and came back a different color.
Babies At Birth
The very fact that a baby has arrived is a miracle of biology, and that’s just the beginning. Here are some lesser-known things that are true about your baby on day 1.
5. A baby’s brain contains about 100 billion neurons.
Now you can understand why they pick up on everything. These neurons are pretty much what babies will have to work with throughout life. They will grow and change (and some may die) but new neurons generally won’t be made.
6. Approximately 80% of babies are born with a birthmark.
According to WebMD, There are two main categories of birth marks: red birth marks, which take their color from blood vessels and may even appear shortly after birth, and pigmented birth marks, which are always present at birth.
7. A newborn’s kneecap is made entirely of cartilage.
It won’t even show up on an X-ray for a few years. The cartilage is softer and facilitates growth. After three or so years, bone begins to replace cartilage, and by young adulthood, most of the cartilage is gone.
8. A baby’s heart beats 180 times per minute at birth.
This drops to 115 beats per minute at 1 year old. Within a few hours, it drops to 140. By adulthood, the typical resting heart rate is 70-80 beats per minute.
A Baby’s Senses
The senses are how babies learn about the world, but some are more keen than others in the first year of life. Here are just a few examples.
9. Babies are born nearsighted.
At birth, their vision is roughly 20/400. They can focus best on things about ten inches from their noses. Just the right distance: their little hands, and their mother’s face while being held. They’ll reach 20/20 vision by about six months of age.
10. Babies are born with sophisticated hearing.
They can work out where a sound is coming from just 10 minutes after being born. They can also recognize their mother’s voice, often on the day they’re born. In contrast, it takes about two weeks for the baby to recognize daddy’s voice.
11. A baby’s sense of touch develops from head to toe.
This is also one of the most advanced senses at birth. The mouth is the first region to become sensitive, which is why young babies put everything in their mouths.
12. A baby’s strongest sense is smell.
Babies can recognize their mothers by scent alone. Wonder what happens to this super-sense when they have a poopy diaper.
13. Babies like high-pitched singing.
Research has shown that babies prefer women’s voices to men, and high-pitched singing to low-pitched singing. You’ll also notice that you (and most people, by the way) tend to use higher tones when talking to a baby. That’s no accident: it’s an adaptation to the fact that you get a better response from a baby if you use a higher-pitched voice.
Some Facts About Parents
Let’s not forget those two amazing people who brought baby into this world: mom and dad. You’ll remember them as the dazed, sleep-deprived, yet mostly ebullient folks who probably haven’t showered or shaved recently.
14. New parents in the U.S. typically spend $7,000 in a baby’s first year
This doesn’t count medical costs, of course. But the formula, diapers, day care, and other costs begin to pile up rather quickly.
15. A new baby takes one night of sleep per week from its parents.
A new baby usually deprives each of its parents around 350-400 hours of sleep in the first year. That works out to around one nights sleep lost per week, per parent. You can begin to imagine why we devoted an entire web site to baby sleep training.
16. The average woman changes a diaper in 2 minutes and 5 seconds.
At that pace, the average mother spends 120 hours per year changing diapers. Interestingly, the average man does it in 1 minute and 36 seconds. So men will usually change a baby faster. But the real question is this: do they change it better?
Facts About Preemies
I heard this year from the president of the March of Dimes that pre-term birth has surpassed birth defects as the most common cause of infant mortality and morbidity in the western world. It’s a serious problem, and one the March of Dimes hopes to confront head on. That said, even preemies have some interesting facts to offer.
17. One in eight babies is born prematurely in the United States.
That’s about half a million babies each year! Low birth weight rate has increased 9% since 2000 and 24% since the mid 1980s.
18. Premature babies don’t sweat.
Infants born more than 2 weeks premature don’t sweat at all, even when too warm. In older infants, sweat developers first on the forehead, then on the chest, and later on the arms and legs.
19. Many famous writers, artists, scientists, and world leaders were preemies.
Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton, Mark Twain, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Pablo Picasso, Auguste Renoir, Napoleon Bonaparte and Winston Churchill are a few examples.
Your Growing Baby
I know that you’ve heard, over and over, that babies grow up fast. Let’s actually put some hard numbers behind that bit of village wisdom.
20. A baby will eat an estimated 15 pounds of cereal per year.
This obviously doesn’t start until your baby is old enough to eat cereal, which is typically around 6 months of age. Once they figure it out, babies seem to love cereal. But then again, who doesn’t?
21. A newborn baby will triple its weight by twelve months.
Between birth and the end of its second year, an infant will have quadrupled in size. If they carried on that rate, babies would weigh over a thousand pounds by age five!
22. By twelve months, a baby’s foot size equals half of their adult foot size.
Since babies that age usually have feet shaped like blocks of cheese, I believe this refers to length, not width of the foot.
23. A baby’s head is proportionally huge, being 1/4 of the total body length
Compare that to the head:body length ratio for adults, which is roughly 1:8.
How Babies Have Grown-Ups Beat
In addition to default adorability, babies have some advantages over us grown-ups — in addition to the fact that we pay the bills, feed them, change diapers, etc. Here are a few examples.
24. A baby has 300 separate bones at birth, but adults have only 206.
That’s almost 50% more! Several bones will fuse together as the baby grows. For example, the skull at birth comprises several bones that actually overlap one another during birth to help the noggin squeeze out. Amusingly, the researchers who discovered an essential protein for the fusing of skull bones named it noggin.
25. The brain of a newborn accounts for 10% of body weight. In adults, that’s just 2%.
It’s useful to keep this little statistic in mind when you’re amazed at how quickly your baby learns. If you’re worried that you’ll forget these numbers, just ask your child to remember them for you.
26. A baby has around 10,000 taste buds, far more than adults
They show up for the third trimester, not just on the tongue but also on the sides, back, and roof of the mouth. That’s allegedly why trying diverse foods during the third trimester is important for mom. Eventually these extra taste buds disappear.
27. Babies laugh on average 300 times a day, adults only 60.
All right, so that number only applies once babies learn to laugh. Still, it’s a reminder that babies probably enjoy life and take things much less seriously than we do. Probably because they don’t know about nuclear missiles or income tax. Still, when it comes to laughing, it’s advantage baby.