99 Fascinating Facts About Babies

  1. A baby cannot taste salt until it is 4 months old. The delay may be related to the development of kidneys, which start to process sodium at about that age.l
  2. In medieval Europe, leeches were commonly used to treat babies’ illnesses. For example, leeches were placed on a baby’s windpipe for croup. Additionally, teething babies were commonly purged or bled.l
  3. In China, a baby is born with a birth defect every 30 minutes. Birth defects in that country have increased nearly 40% since 2001.h
  4. The protein that keeps a baby’s skull from fusing is called “noggin.”k
  5. A baby’s eyes are 75% of their adult size, but its vision is around 20/400. By six months, a baby’s vision should reach 20/20.j

  6. Newborns are more likely to turn their head to the right than to the left.j
  7. The inner ear is the only sense organ to develop fully before birth. It reaches its adult size by the middle of pregnancy.e
  8. Within a few days of birth, a baby can distinguish between the touch of bristles that are of different diameters.e
  9. A baby has around 10,000 taste buds, far more than adults. They are not just on the tongue but also on the sides, back, and roof of the mouth. Eventually these extra taste buds disappear.e
  10. Adults have 206 bones. When babies are born, they have 300. Their bones fuse as they grow, resulting in fewer bones as adults.k
  11. The intestines of a newborn are about 11 feet long. The length will double by the time the baby grows to adulthood.k
  12. A newborn urinates about every 20 minutes and then roughly every hour at 6 months.l

  13. Human babies are the only primates who smile at their parents.l
  14. If a person who was born 8 lbs. and 20 in. at birth continued growing at the same rate as he does the first year, by the time he reached 20, he’d be 25 ft. tall and weigh nearly 315 lbs.l
  15. A baby is born in the world every three seconds.e
  16. Famous premature babies include Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Napoleon Bonaparte, Mark Twain, Pablo Picasso, Auguste Renoir, Stevie Wonder, Johann Goethe, and Sir Winston Churchill.d
  17. The largest number of babies born to a woman is 69. From 1725-1765, a Russian peasant woman gave birth to 16 sets of twins, seven sets of triplets, and four sets of quadruplets.f
  18. In 1978, the first baby was born in Antarctica: Emilio Marcos Palma.f
  19. Each year, over four million babies are born in the U.S.k
  20. Approximately 80% of infants are born with some form of birthmark, usually “stork bites” and “port wine stains.”k
  21. Approximately two or three of every 1,000 children in the United States are born deaf or hard-of-hearing. More lose their hearing later in childhood.i
  22. Babies can suffer serious health effects if their mothers have an STD, including death, low birth weight, conjunctivitis (an eye infection), pneumonia, neonatal sepsis (infection in the baby’s blood stream), neurologic damage, blindness, deafness, acute hepatitis, meningitis, chronic liver disease, and cirrhosis. Many of these problems can be prevented if the mother receives prenatal care that includes screening for STDs.m

  23. Some scientists suggest that shaking the head to mean “no” derives from newborns turning their head away from food when they are full.k
  24. A baby can recognize the smell and voice of its mother at birth. It takes a few weeks before a baby can see the difference between its mother and other adults.k
  25. A baby’s first social smile appears between four and six weeks after birth.l
  26. The heaviest baby on record to survive was a 22 lb. 8 oz. Italian baby born in 1955. In 1879, a woman in Canada gave birth to a 23 lb. 1.92 oz. baby that died 11 hours after birth.k
  27. In the United States, more babies are born on Wednesday than on other days of the week. Sunday is the slowest day.j
  28. In the United States, more babies are born in late summer and early fall than in other times of the year. February tends to be the month when the least babies are born.j
  29. Utah has the highest birthrate in the U.S., at about 21 babies per 1,000 people. Vermont has the lowest birth rate, with slightly more than 10 babies born per 1,000 people.c
  30. In 1970, the average age for a first-time mom in the U.S. was 21. In 2008, it was 25.1.c
  31. At birth, babies have no kneecaps. Kneecaps do not develop completely until after six months.k

  32. It is estimated that new parents in the U.S. will spend on average $7,000 the first year on a new baby’s diapers, formula, and day care. This does not include medical costs.f
  33. Babies born in May usually weigh on average 200 grams more than babies born in other months.a
  34. The number of babies born to single women is at record levels. In 2010, there were 9.8 million single moms living with children under 18 in the U.S., up from 3.4 million in 1970.c
  35. There were about 1,049 male babies born for every 1,000 female babies in 2006 in the United States. This ratio has been consistent for the past 60 years.k
  36. In 2006, there were 32.1 pairs of twins born for every 1,000 births in the United States. This rate has remained roughly the same, though between 1980 and 2004, the rate rose 70%.a
  37. Over half a million babies (1 in 8) are born prematurely in the United States each year. Low birth weight rate has increased 9% since 2000 and 24% since the mid 1980s.a
  38. Research has shown that cesarean babies are more likely to have breathing difficulties, as it is thought they may miss out on important hormonal and physiological changes that occur during labor.j

  39. During the nine months between conception and birth, a baby’s weight increases by 3,000 million times. Between birth and the end of its second year, an infant will have quadrupled in size.a
  40. In four or five out of every 100 newborn babies, there is discharge of milk from the nipples. This is due to unusually high levels of the mother’s hormones that leak across the placenta during pregnancy. Premature babies never have this discharge, only those who are full term.i
  41. A baby’s head is proportionally huge, being one-quarter of the total body length, compared to only one-eighth of the total adult’s length.k
  42. The grasp of a newborn baby is so strong that its whole body can hang in midair, with its bent fingers supporting its weight.k
  43. At the moment of birth, a baby’s heart beats at 180 pulses per minute. Within a few hours, the rate falls to 140 pulses. At 1 year old, the infant heart rate is 115 beats per minute. An adult’s average resting level is 70-80 beats a minute.k
  44. Research shows that a baby responds positively to the fragrance of its mother’s breasts and ignores breast pads used by other women. Even more striking is the discovery that a blindfolded woman has the ability to identify her own child from a host of other babies by scent alone.k
  45. New babies prefer looking at a drawing of a face rather than a random pattern, and they prefer smiling faces to grumpy ones.j
  46. Up until 7 months old, a baby can breathe and swallow at the same time.k

  47. Lina Medina, a 5-year-old Peruvian girl, was the youngest person to ever give birth. She gave birth to a boy on May 14, 1939.l
  48. An average baby will go through approximately 7,500 diapers a year.f
  49. On average, female babies spend a day longer in the womb than male babies. White babies, on average, spend five days longer inside their mothers than black babies, while Indian babies spend six days longer in the womb than white babies.l
  50. The very best chance a baby has of surviving gestation is when its mother is aged 22, an age which has been described as “the age of fecundity” in humans.l
  51. The chances of giving birth to twins are especially high in certain parts of West Africa. In Nigeria, for example, the odds are 22-1. Conversely, women in Japan are less likely to have twins, with the odds as high as 200-1.k
  52. The average weight of a baby at birth is 7-8 lbs. The smallest baby ever to survive weighed only 8.5 oz. at birth.k
  53. On the whole, boy babies are slightly heavier than girl babies. The average weight of a newborn boy is 7 lbs. 10 oz. while that of a newborn girl is 7 lbs. 2 oz.k
  54. The brain of a newborn accounts for 10% of its total body weight. In adults this figure is down to 2%. By the end of the first year, an infant’s brain increases in size two and half times, and by the end of the fifth year, it is three times what it was at birth. At all stages, the male brain is slightly larger than that of the female.e
  55. Babies are born with natural swimming abilities and can hold their breath. However, this ability quickly disappears.e
  56. At around 6 months old, a baby learns that each object is unique. Before this time, whenever it sees a bird in a tree, it always assumes it was the same bird.l
  57. Brain scans reveal that male babies have more asymmetrical brain hemispheres than female babies, and that female brains tend to have greater symmetry in the part of the brain concerned with complex mental processes. Female babies have more gray matter in the newer parts of the cerebral cortex, while male babies have proportionately more gray matter in the older, more primitive parts of the brain. Male brains are also significantly larger on the left.e
  58. The term “infant” is from the Latin infans, meaning “unable to speak” and typically refers to the ages from 1-12 months. A “newborn” usually refers to an infant in the first 28 days of life.l
  59. SIDS (Sudden Infant Syndrome) is responsible for more deaths than any other cause for babies 1 month to 1 year old, claiming 7,000 babies each year in the United States, or almost one baby every hour.n
  60. Eyesight is the least developed of all the newborn senses. Newborns can see best at a distance of only 8-14 inches, and until they are about three months old, they see best in their peripheral vision. Babies may also have difficulty distinguishing color tones.j

  61. Most newborns will lose all the hair they are born with in the first three or four months of life.k
  62. Babies are not born with psychic tearing, or tears that indicates emotional distress, though they are born with basal tearing (enough tears to keep the eyes moist and healthy) and reflex tearing (tears that respond to an irritant). Between 2 and 4 months of age, a baby will start crying with tears when it gets upset.e
  63. Newborns prefer the cadence of their native language at birth, suggesting that some language learning starts in utero. Research suggests that babies may even cry with the intonations of their mother tongue.e
  64. Ancient Greeks were known to spit on themselves to ward off the Evil Eye, and the ritual extended to babies as well. Medieval nurses licked the faces of their charges, while peasants all over the world would spit in the faces of babies.l
  65. Babies all over the world have been adorned with necklaces, anklets, and amulets to ward off the Evil Eye. Some ornamental infant wear included odd numbers, (which were thought to have protective powers), crescent shapes, five-point stars, amber, red beads, tiger images, and coral.l
  66. In European and American societies, coral was often used as a teething aid or in rattles for babies, but its real function was to act as a protective element in the battle against evil. It was used specifically for first-born sons. Known since ancient times, the Greeks believed coral had grown from the blood of the Gorgon, Medusa.l
  67. Historians of the 18th century estimate that an infant was four times more likely to be a victim of homicide than anyone else.l
  68. One of the first foundling hospitals to be recorded was established by Datheus, Archbishop of Milan in A.D. 787. His intention was to help parents avoid eternal damnation in killing their children by bringing them to a hospital.l
  69. In Europe, milk was not pasteurized until the 1890s and was avoided, particularly for infants, because people believed their child would grow up to resemble the animal.l
  70. The Greeks thought that mother’s milk was produced in the uterus and transported to the breast by special vessels in the body. There existed since the Middle Ages a vague awareness that breast milk provided some protection against sickness—but colostrum, the fluid secreted after birth, was considered dangerous, and women were advised not to feed the newborn baby for a few days. An older child would draw the breast milk first.k
  71. In Medieval Europe, unruly babies were thought to be the result of inferior breast milk.l
  72. Up until the 7th century, doctors believed many infant sicknesses were caused by the presence of too much acid in the stomach. Babies were fed chalk, crushed eggshells, coral, and oyster shells mixed with their gruel to counteract the acidity.l
  73. Until the 19th century, babies were not considered to have personalities and, therefore, were not in need of the physical and psychological nurturing advised today.l
  74. Redheaded wet nurses were avoided because at least until the 19th century, it was thought that babies absorbed the characteristics of the person nursing them. Parents wanted to avoid the legendary tempers of redheads.l
  75. In 1235, Henry III decreed that Christian wet nurses could not nurse Jewish babies.l
  76. Depending on family economics, in the 18th century, babies were fed a kind of gruel made of flour and water. Known as “pap,” “panda,” or “caudle,” it was a breeding ground for bacteria and most closely resembled wallpaper paste.l
  77. Spoons were often used to feed infants and were known as “pap boats.” Expensive and elaborate versions were available to those who could afford it. The expression “born with a silver spoon in one’s mouth” probably evolved around the 16th century.l
  78. In Europe and America in the 18th century, it was tradition to wash a newborn and then scour it with salt. It would be purged of meconium with emetic syrup, oil of almonds, castor oil, or anything else the midwife had, including wine and whisky.l
  79. In parts of England, a newborn’s head was washed in rum for luck. It was common all over Europe to give the infant a dab of butter and a little sugar to signify the hoped for riches that the child would have in the future.l
  80. Traditionally the caul, which sometimes covered the head of an infant, was highly treasured and credited with magical powers.l
  81. Traditionally, the length of the cut umbilical cord was thought to predict the length of a male baby’s penis.l
  82. In Ancient Rome, an olive branch would be hung from the front door of a house if a boy was born, and a strip of woolen fabric was hung if the child was a girl. Eighteenth-century London houses hung strips of ribbon on their doorknockers: pink for a girl and blue for a boy.l
  83. One African tribe, the Kaffirs, punished the mother of twins as an adulteress as twins were thought to have been created by two different fathers. The Apache Indians ritually killed one twin, arguing that the mother did not have sufficient milk to feed two infants, and some Eskimo tribes left one twin outside to die in the cold.l
  84. Meconium, or the greenish-black sticky material in the baby’s digestive track, stands in for fecal material and allows the intestine to develop so it can digest milk immediately after birth.k
  85. The philosopher John Lock argued in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding that a baby is born with a “blank slate” or a tabula rasa. This is in contrast to the beliefs of Plato and the medieval church, both of whom believed babies were born with innate inequalities.l
  86. Psychologists believe that a baby’s self-awareness develops around 12 months old.e
  87. Object permanence is usually understood at 8-9 months of age.e

  88. Babies typically prefer a female voice over a male voice, which may explain why people raise the pitch of their voice when talking to babies, otherwise known as “motherese.”k
  89. In the late 19th century, it was medically accepted in Europe and America that “infants who persisted in the habit of sucking always become masturbators.” Not only were pacifiers considered unhealthy, parents were instructed to tie their children’s hands to their cribs or to stuff their hands inside aluminum mittens.b
  90. Babies in medieval Europe were often tightly swaddled in linen strips because it was thought that swaddling would help its arms and legs grow straight. It also served to immobilize the baby.l
  91. The infant mortality in medieval Europe was as high as 30-50%.l

  92. Female infanticide is still a major problem in India and China. Estimates indicate that 30.5 million females are “missing” from China.k
  93. To many Victorians, the sight of crawling infants reminded them of their ape-like origins, and they forced their children to learn to walk early with the aid of cages and walkers.l
  94. Research suggests that infants have a complex understanding of social interactions and hierarchies by 8-10 months of age.e
  95. After birth, the human brain more than doubles to reach 60% of its adult size by the time a baby is 1 year old. By kindergarten, the brain has reached its full size but it typically does not finish developing until the child is in its mid-20s.e
  96. The word “baby” may come from a baby’s babbling, as in “ba-ba-ba-ba.”l
  97. Research indicates that a baby’s name influences a baby’s life into adulthood. For example, a newborn boy with a more “feminine” name could lead to behavioral problems in life.g
  98. Children don’t remember much before the age of 3, due to what psychologists call “infantile amnesia.” Neuroscientists believe that early experiences never make it into long-term memory banks because the brain’s recording machinery isn’t functional yet or because memory is tied to language acquisition.e
  99. A baby will eat an estimated 15 pounds of cereal per year.c

a “22 Surprising Facts about Birth in the United States.” Baby Center. 2011. Accessed: June 14, 2011.
b Day, Nicholas. “Babies Suck: The Twisted History of Pacifiers.” April 26, 2010. Accessed: June 14, 2011.
v “Facts for Features.” U.S. Census Bureau. March 17, 2011. Accessed: August 1, 2011.
d “Famous Premature Babies.” Premature Baby. 2011. Accessed: June 14, 2011.
e “Fascinating Baby Brains.” Live Science. Accessed: June 14, 2011.
f “First Year of Your Baby.” Baby Names Now. June 8, 2004. Accessed: August 1, 2011.
g “Good or Bad, Baby Names Have Long-Lasting Effects.” Live Science. June 13, 2010. Accessed: June 14, 2011.
h Hu, Yinan. “Baby Born with Birth Defects Every 30 Seconds.” China Daily. October 30, 2007. Accessed: June 14, 2011.
i “It’s Important to Have Your Baby’s Hearing Screened.” National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. May 2011. Accessed: June 14, 2011.
j Margulis, Jennifer. 2005. Why Babies Do That: Baffling Baby Behavior Explained. Minocqua, WI: Willow Creek Press.
k Morris, Desmond. 2008. Amazing Baby. Buffalo, NY: Firefly Books.
l O’Hara, Georgina. 1989. The World of the Baby: A Celebration of Infancy through the Ages. New York, NY: Doubleday.
m “STD & Pregnancy – CDC Fact Sheet.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. March 25, 2011. Accessed: June 14, 2011.
n “What Everyone Needs to Know.” SIDS Network. 2009. Accessed: August 1, 2011.