“I’m a new mom and am constantly freaking myself out over things my baby is doing, like throwing her arms up for no reason and bobbing her head. Is there a reason to be concerned, or are these normal behaviors?” Jade – Scottsdale
Every new parent at some point wonders: Is my baby supposed to do that? Is this normal?
Morgan Shandler recalls several moments of new mama anxiety during the first few weeks home with her daughter, who is now a busy one year old. “One thing that particularly freaked me out was when Violet would bob her head when attempting to nurse. It almost looked like she was having a seizure or like she was a broken down robot,” Shandler says. “But my pediatrician assured me it was a completely normal part of ‘rooting’ for the breast.”
Startle reflex: Parents also worry about seizures when their infant suddenly throws out their arms and legs as if they’re falling.
Pediatrician Jennifer Mellick, MD, FAAP, says that the startle or Moro Reflex is a normal neurological infantile reflex that disappears as the nervous system matures.
“If you believe in evolution, there’s probably some reason why mammals and homosapiens have this instinctual need to grasp, and if they’re falling, reach out to find something and grab on. Babies do that same kind of thing. If they feel like they are falling, they are going to throw their arms and legs out wide to find their caregiver and grab,” Mellick says.
If you’re ever concerned about strange movements that your baby makes, try to video record it, suggests Jennifer McBride, MD, internal medicine and pediatric specialist. “Nine times out of ten, baby won’t do the motion when in the office with us. If parents record it, I can see what the baby looks like when they are doing that movement and either reassure them or decide if we need to do something else,” McBride says.
Funny breathing: Babies have breathing patterns that alarm many newbie parents. Physicians call it “periodic breathing of the newborn” – and it’s completely normal. “They will almost pant for a period of time and then they will pause for several seconds-several seconds in baby breathing seems like a really, really long time. Then, they take a deep breath, let out a deep sigh and they pant again,” Mellick says.
Strange colored poop: Depending on whether your baby is breast-fed or formula-fed, the color of their poop can range from green and yellow to brown. Breast-fed babies will have more color variations since breastmilk is comprised of mom’s diet. “I get worried if the poop is a gray color or lacking in the brown or green tones or if there is ever blood or red in the diaper,” McBride says.
Difficulty pooping: Your baby may appear to struggle when they go, but as long as their poop is soft and doesn’t look like pellets or rocks (a sign of constipation), don’t worry. “Formula-fed babies don’t necessarily poop every day and sometimes that concerns parents, but the body doesn’t process formula as fast as it does breastmilk,” McBride explains. If your little one is passing watery diarrhea, contact your doctor as this can be a sign of an infection.
More zzz’s…pretty please? Among the most popular questions pediatricians field from tired parents has to do with sleep and when everyone in the family can get more of it.
Babies generally don’t sleep for long periods of time because they need to eat every few hours. Their tiny tummies can only hold so much milk.”As they get older, they still need to eat frequently because they need a large volume to get the calories they need to grow,” Mellick says. By about six months, your baby should be sleeping for a seven to eight hour stretch.
Wait, they changed: What is normal today probably won’t last since babies grow and change rapidly, but always consult your family physician with any concerns.
Freelance journalist Christa Melnyk Hines and her husband are the parents of two adolescent sons, who still do strange things! Christa is the author of Happy, Healthy & Hyperconnected: Raise a Thoughtful Communicator in a Digital World.