Normal Newborn Behaviors – Newborn Care Series

normal newborn behaviors
normal newborn behaviors

Disclaimer: The information in this article is not intended to replace medical advice from a doctor. Please, if you have any concerns at all, ask your pediatrician!

You’ve just had your baby and you’re trying to get into a routine. You’re learning and so are they. 

But then something happens that concerns you. Is that normal? Should you call the doctor? Take them to the ER?

Well, chances are that everything your newborn is doing are just normal newborn behaviors! *Phew!*

As a NICU nurse I get asked the “is that normal?” question several times a week. So I wanted to share with you some of the things that ARE totally normal (and some that are not!)

Why does my baby shake?

What’s normal: The startle reflex in babies is totally normal. But what is it? 

If you touch your baby and they jump (or splay their arms out), or if you accidentally make a loud noise and they jump, they are showing you their startle reflex! 

The startle reflex can be brought about by many things. I have seen a baby startle himself just by rubbing his hand across his breathing tube.

What’s not normal: If your baby is shaking or twitching, they may be having a seizure.

You can check to see if a seizure is happening by gently pressing on the body part that you notice is shaking or twitching.

If the movement stops, it is probably just your baby being irritable or fussy. If the movement continues, it is likely a seizure and should be brought to the attention of a doctor. 

Why does my baby have goopy eyes?

What’s normal: This is not a normal newborn behavior, per se, but a blocked tear duct is a relatively common occurrence in newborns. It can cause goopy or crusty eyes. 

A blocked tear duct can be treated at home. First, clean away the goop with a moist cloth.

Then, with clean hands, take your thumb and place it next to the inner corner of the eye, near the nose. Pressing gently, rub down the side of the nose. Now start in the same position, and sweep under the eye toward the outer corner.

This will help open the blocked duct naturally.

What’s not normal: A blocked tear duct should clear up in 1-2 days. If your baby’s eye is continually crusted and doesn’t seem to be getting better, OR if they are displaying other signs of infection, get them seen by your pediatrician as soon as possible for treatment.

normal newborn behaviors
normal newborn behaviors

Why does my baby stop breathing?

What’s normal: Periodic breathing is normal in premature infants and newborns. Your baby may stop breathing for up to 10 seconds and then restart with fast shallow breaths. 

This usually happens when they are asleep, but it can happen any time. 

What’s not normal: Babies that stop breathing for more than 20 seconds should be evaluated as soon as possible. If you’re concerned, take your phone out and time the episodes. 

Sometimes this pause in breathing can be accompanied with a drop in oxygen, so watch for color changes in your baby’s face and lips, too (turning blue, dusky, or pale). Even if the episodes are not more than 20 seconds, any color changes should be brought to the attention of your pediatrician.

This kind of breathing could be another sign of infection and needs to be evaluated by a doctor.

Why is there blood in my baby’s diaper?

What’s normal: Some female infants can have blood in their diapers as a sign of withdrawal from maternal hormones. It’s totally normal and nothing to worry about.

What’s not normal: In short, anything other than female withdrawal bleeding isn’t normal, and should be checked by a doctor. 

This DOESN’T mean that it is always something to be concerned about. 

For example, babies sometimes have bloody stool when they have had a lot of diarrhea. Tiny tears in the skin around the anus may be to blame. 

You still should have your baby evaluated by a doctor to rule out anything more serious. 

Why does my baby sneeze all the time? 

Sneezing is a newborn’s way of clearing his or her nasal passages. They can’t just take a tissue out and blow their nose, right??

You can check to see if they may have some visible boogers and help them out with some suction if necessary. But usually a couple sneezes does the trick!

Why does my baby always have the hiccups?

Remember when you could feel your baby hiccuping in the womb? One theory is that it helps a baby’s lungs develop in utero. But what about when they come out? 

The truth is, baby hiccups are pretty much just like adult hiccups. Babies might get them more often due to reflux because their bodies are immature.

But sometimes they just get them and we don’t really know why. They aren’t harmful, and generally don’t bother your baby.

No worries there!


Have you noticed any other normal newborn behaviors in your baby? Leave us a message in the comments!

& don’t forget to check out the other posts in my newborn care series!

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