Newborn babies emerge looking a little like very cute aliens, and sometimes their behavior seems extraterrestrial, too. But you can relax if you spy your cutie making some of these moves. They’re just part of how he’s learning to adjust to life here on Earth!
1. Hey! Help! (The startle reflex):
If your baby is startled or feels as if he is falling, his whole body will stiffen and he will throw out his arms wide with palms up and thumbs extended. It’s quite a difference from the usual curled-up, tucked-in position of a newborn, so it might startle you, too. But this action (also called the Moro reflex) shows that baby’s brain, spinal cord, and nerves are all working the way they should.
2. Hic! Hic! Hic! (Hiccups that won’t quit):
Baby hiccups are another experience that probably pain parents more than infants. Small babies are still learning how to coordinate breathing and swallowing, and sometimes it takes a while for their lungs and diaphragm to sort out what’s what. You can help by offering your newbie the breast or a bottle. Or if the hiccups start during a feeding, take a break and burp baby, and/or change her position. Eliminating or reducing distractions (like noise and light) during a feeding can help, too.
3. Uh, excuse me, cough, cough! (Pretend coughing):
It’s true—some little ones figure out that they can fake a cough to get your attention. At around six months of age, babies are learning cause and effect: If I do X (make a coughing sound), then my mom does Y (plays with me or talks to me). They think it’s fun and they are proud of themselves for getting what they want! It’s just fine to play along. In fact, that reinforces the lesson they’re learning. So, smile at your little actor and make your own funny noises.
4. Oops! Wrong way! (Backward crawling):
When babies are learning how to crawl, sometimes they accidentally go backward instead of forward. This can happen because your pint-size explorer is still figuring out how to get his legs and arms to move together; crawling is a pretty complex skill, when you think about it. Or it’s because his arms are stronger than his legs right now (you know, because of all those push-ups he has been doing!), so they propel him backward. He may eventually master the forward crawl, or he may stick with going backward until he learns how to walk. Either one is just fine (as are many styles of crawling).
5. Ouch! I did it again! (Head banging):
File this one under scary but usually harmless. Sometimes babies (starting at about six to nine months old) bang their heads repeatedly against their crib mattress while lying down, or against a wall or the side of their crib if sitting or standing. The repetitive motion helps them fall asleep. The same goes for rocking back and forth on hands and knees, or rocking the upper body while seated.
6. Smooch! Mwah! (Whole-mouth kisses):
Nope, your baby is not trying to bite your cheek on purpose, or slobber all over your face. She is just trying to give you a kiss, the same way you kiss her! But she is still learning to control the muscles in her lips and mouth, and she hasn’t mastered the pucker-up just yet.
7. Zzz! I’m watching you! (Sleeping with eyes open):
Yes, it can be a little creepy to behold your baby snoozing away while he keeps his eyes on you. But it’s not unusual or dangerous. It tends to happen during REM sleep, which is an active part of the sleep cycle. And babies happen to spend more time in REM sleep than adults do. If it bugs you to see those baby blues during a nap, you can gently close your little one’s eyelids.