1) Their eyes are almost as big as an adult’s
It’s their abnormally large eyes that makes babies so super cute, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that babies’ eyes are around 70% of their adult size. The length of a newborn eye is about 16.5mm, while an adult’s is 24mm. The most significant period of growth for eye balls is in the first year, with another spurt around puberty.
2) They have gills, tails, and fur
Don't worry, your baby isn't an alien. However, at some point your little one did develop gill slits (properly known as pharyngeal arches) in its neck while in the womb, which then developed into the jaw and ear bones (our ear openings are the last remaining remnants of those gill slits). Around the same time, at about four weeks gestation, a tail can also be seen, which then gradually recedes and forms what is commonly known as the tailbone (coccyx). The fur however, known as lanugo, is something you may see when your baby is first born. This fine, downy hair covers the whole of a baby's body in the womb, and provides insulation as babies have little in the way of fat reserves. It's quite common for babies to be born with remnants of this hair in patches on their body, but it usually disappears by itself within the first few weeks of life.
3) They are born without a body clock
As any sleep-deprived new parent will tell you, babies sleep patterns can be crazy and they can wake at the most inopportune times (3am, anyone?). But while this is a recipe for exhaustion for mum and dad, it’s perfect normal for a baby to have an unusual sleep pattern in the early weeks. This is because newborns aren’t governed by a circadian rhythm – the physiological impulse that lets your body know to sleep at night and wake during the day. It takes around 12 weeks for a baby to properly recognise the difference between night and day, and even longer (three-five months) before they settle at night.
4) They are born with more bones than an adult
It’s hard to believe that soft and squishy newborns actually pack more bones than adults. In fact, babies are born with a whopping 300 bones compared to adults' 206, because many of the bones fuse as we age. It all comes down to cartilage – the rubber-like substance that protects bones. Babies have more cartilage than bone. As a person grows, that cartilage turns to bone. So now you know.
5) They can remember the womb…
A study of 100 pregnant women in the Netherlands published in the journal Child Development, found that foetuses have a short-time memory of sounds by the 30th week of pregnancy. The foetuses in the study did not react to loud noises they had heard before. As newborns, babies recognise their mother’s voice from the womb and there is circumstantial evidence that a newborn won’t react to the bark of a family dog, as they’ve already been listening to that dog bark for three months prior to their birth.
6) They have three times as many taste buds as adults
If you’ve ever wondered how your baby happily munches on bland sweet potato or turnip, it’s because infants have far more taste buds than an adult, so they are actually experiencing a taste sensation with that one-ingredient puree. In fact, babies are born with a whopping 30,000 taste buds all over their tongue and on the roof of their mouth (compared to the average adult's 10,000). It could also explain fussy eating: a baby’s heightened sense of taste magnifies sharp, bitter flavours like spinach, so they prefer sweeter tastes like fruit and sweet potato.
7) They cry with an accent…
If you hit up a mother and baby group in Dubai, could you tell what country a baby was from just from its cry? Probably not, but as crazy as it sounds, researchers have found that babies cry with an accent from as early as week one. Research published in Current Biology studied the cries of 60 babies from French and German parents and found the tots cried with the same ‘prosody’ or melody used in their native language. The French babies cried with a lilt at the end, typical of French natives, while the offspring of German parents started their cries intensely then dropped off – echoing the speech patterns heard in Germany.
8) But they don’t produce tears…
Babies will cry a lot in the early weeks, but you might notice that no matter how red their little face gets, no actual tears reach their cheeks. The reason is that, while newborns are born with tear ducts, there is only enough water produced to protect the eye so there is no excess left to roll down the cheeks. As the tear glands develop, tears will be produced – usually around the one to three month mark, which can be a heartbreaking first for mum, but a perfectly healthy sign.