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Abnormal Behavior in Newborns

by Jennifer Zimmerman

Since new parents are often exhausted, and newborns don't have many ways to communicate, it can be difficult to tell whether your little one is exhibiting any abnormal behaviors. Behaviors that might be obviously abnormal in older infants and toddlers, such as lagging behind in milestones, are not evident in newborns. However, there are signs you can look for if you're worried about your brand-new bundle of joy.

Extreme Stimuli

Your newborn should react to loud noises, whether her response is to cry or to cringe. If the noise is loud or abrupt enough, she may also exhibit the Moro reflex. This reflex occurs when a newborn is startled; they throw out their arms and legs and extend their neck. Your baby should also respond to bright lights by blinking or crying. If your newborn does not respond to extreme stimuli, talk to your pediatrician about your concerns.

Feeding

Sometimes newborns have a hard time getting used to sucking, swallowing and breathing when it is time to eat, so initial challenges with breast- or bottle-feeding are not abnormal. However, your little one should be rooting, turning her head side to side until she finds the nipple. She should also be able to suck on her fingers or a pacifier when you place it in her mouth. If your little one is not waking to eat or is crying while feeding, that should be a concern.

Strength

Newborns are surprisingly strong. If you tickle your baby's palm, she should hold onto your finger very tightly. Soon after birth, she should also try to raise her head whenever she is placed on her stomach. When you hold her upright and place her feet on the ground, you'll feel her stepping instinctively. If your newborn is not doing these things, or seems particularly floppy, that is considered abnormal.

Vision

You may notice that your newborn's eyes wander and may even cross. Startling as it may be to you, it's perfectly normal. Your little one's eye muscles just aren't that strong yet. She should be able to focus, however briefly, on objects 8 to 12 inches away from her face. Newborns can't see the full range of colors yet, so your baby should prefer looking at objects with a high contrast, such as black-and-white patterns. Most of all, though, your baby enjoys looking at your face.

About the Author

Jennifer Zimmerman is a former preschool and elementary teacher who has been writing professionally since 2007. She has written numerous articles for The Bump, Band Back Together, Prefab and other websites, and has edited scripts and reports for DWJ Television and Inversion Productions. She is a graduate of Boston University and Lewis and Clark College.

Photo Credits

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