From the moment that second pink line appears, onward into eternity, we mothers are surrounded by parenting experts. They have answers on everything from sleep training to feeding schedules, and while the sudden influx of information can be overwhelming, I’m pretty sure my personal panel of advisors forgot to mention these five facts about newborns:
- Their eyes cross. Newborns lack the muscle control required to focus their eyes for any significant length of time, so you’ll see a lot of crossing early on. For each of my girls, this lasted about six weeks.
- Their tongues turn white. Sometimes it’s a sign of thrush, but more often it’s mill buildup due to baby’s lack of saliva. It’ll only last a few weeks before it’s washed away by an endless flood of baby slobber–woohoo!
- Cradle cap. This was a killer for us. It starts off as just a flake or two in baby’s hair, which doesn’t seem that unusual since you’re already dealing with some acne on her face and some peeling of her wrists and ankles. But as those other skin issues fade away of their own accord, cradle cap is likely to spread over your baby’s scalp and stay there for months on end.
- Their hands can get stinky. I had always enjoyed the clean, sweet scent of other newborns in my life, but it wasn’t until I had my own that I discovered some other, far less decadent aromas. Of course they poop, and even their breath can get questionable at times, but the biggest surprise for me was the odor their hands took on. It makes sense, when you consider the way they’re scrunched in little fists all the time and often slobbered on without being properly dried. Add a pair of mittens covering them up for half the day, and those sweet little hands can get to smelling pretty sour. No one told me I’d be constantly washing hands that don’t really touch anything.
- They shake. This was probably the scariest one for me, because I worried something was terribly wrong with my child. It turns out it’s common for newborns to tremble–not just when they’re cold but at random times. They also flail their hands around when they’re crying. I have no idea why. I only know that it’s very common and it eventually stops on its own.
And of course no one tells you just how much love your heart can hold. They try, but no one can ever prepare you for the exhilaration you’ll feel at the sight of that first smile, the sound of that first giggle. No words can convey the peace and contentment that comes from feeling that soft, warm baby skin snuggled against your cheek. For all its challenges, new motherhood is a profoundly beautiful experience.