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10 Extremely Surprising Facts About Babies

by Mark Oliver
fact checked by Jamie Frater

Nothing seems more fragile and helpless than your newborn child, held in your arms for the first time. It turns out, though, that newborns are actually incredibly durable and capable little things in some ways. Your newborn child can do things that you can only dream of. But we only discovered this through some scientific experiments that are completely insane—and that you shouldn’t try on your own baby.

10 Newborns Can Swim


Photo credit: MasterFinally

A group of scientists decided one day that it would be a good idea to dip 36 newborns’ faces into cold water and just see what happened. Surprisingly, instead of committing mass infanticide, they discovered something amazing—the babies instinctively knew how to hold their breath. They survived and even came out giggling and smiling.

Babies can do more than just hold their breath, though. In another experiment, researchers had parents hold their babies in the water with their tummies down. The babies started kicking and moving their legs in a doggy-paddle motion that actually kept them afloat.

The experiments proved that newborns have an instinctive ability to dive and swim. Researchers also found, though, that we lose it when we turn six months old—something they presumably discovered through an experiment that went slightly less well.

9 Young Children Can Grow Their Fingertips Back


If your child accidentally loses part of a limb, you might not need to panic. According to Dr. Christopher Allan, “Kids will actually regrow a pretty good fingertip, after amputation, if you just leave it alone.”

It’s something that Dr. Allan discovered with an eight-year-old patient. She had cut off the tip of her middle finger in a bike spoke, and Dr. Allan couldn’t figure out how to reattach it. So he told the family, “Just stick the tip back on and hope for the best.”

When the girl came back a few weeks later, she had wisely ignored Dr. Allan’s advice—and her fingertip had grown back on its own. Further research has proven that this isn’t an isolated case. Kids can grow fingertips back as long as the slice doesn’t go past the edge of the nail.

8 Newborns Have Monkey-Strength Grips


When a newborn baby wraps his tiny hand around his parent’s fingers, it’s such a precious and life-changing moment that it never even occurs to most parents to think, “Let’s see how high I can lift this thing before he lets go.”

Fortunately, that’s exactly where a scientist’s mind goes, and they’ve found the answer. As it turns out, if you lay a baby down and place your index finger in his palm, your baby will cling on with so much strength that, if you lift him into the air, he’ll hold on—and he won’t fall.

You should not try it, though. Sometimes, the baby will spontaneously release his grip in the air, a fact discovered by scientists who felt that counting on a newborn’s strength to hold him in the air would probably be fine and that nothing tragic would occur.

7 Children’s Fingerprints Disappear Incredibly Quickly


Fingerprinting technology has taken crime-fighting a long way. Criminal plots are undone every day by the telltale prints left at the scene of the crime—a fate that could have been avoided if they’d just had the common sense to train a group of toddler thieves to commit their crimes. Because, as it turns out, children’s fingerprints don’t stick around.

An experiment had children up to age 17 shake vials of alcohol between their thumbs and forefingers. Then the vials were tested for fingerprints. The researchers found that children’s fingerprints quickly vanished while adults’ prints stayed behind. Scientists believe this happens because children have more fatty acids in their fingertips, which make the fingerprints less permanent.

6 There Is No Limit To The Amount Of Sugar A Child Can Enjoy


Sugar doesn’t react in a child’s body the same way as in an adult’s. A child’s body is begging for sugar, so it has a lot of positive effects. In fact, for kids, it even works as a natural pain reliever.

They’re designed to like it—and there’s no limit to how much they can take. Adults will describe anything with more sugar than a can of Coca-Cola as “too sweet,” but kids have no limit.

An experiment gave kids glasses of water mixed with sugar and asked the kids to say when it was getting “too sweet.” By the end of the experiment, the researchers were giving the youngest children glasses so full of sugar that it wasn’t even mixing—and they still felt it could use a little extra sweetener.

5 Newborns Can Crawl—As Long As It’s Toward A Boob


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Normally, children don’t start crawling until they’re 7–10 months old. As it turns out, that’s because they don’t have the right incentive. If a baby’s motivated enough, you can get them to crawl as soon as they come out of the womb.

An experiment was conducted on babies immediately after they were born. The child was dried, laid on the mother’s chest, and not fed—just to see what would happen. For the first 15 minutes, the children just laid there. After a while, they started to spontaneously suck at the air, and before the test was done, the babies actually crawled over to the mother’s nipple and started sucking.

So you can get your baby to crawl. All it takes is about an hour of leaving a newborn child to fend for itself.

4 Newborns Have The Same Effect On Mothers As Drugs


If you’ve ever seen a mother holding a newborn baby, you’ve seen a woman looking happier and calmer than she’s ever looked in her life. And there’s a reason for that—it’s because that baby is messing with the chemicals in her brain.

As soon as a mother becomes pregnant, her body starts producing oxytocin. It’s a chemical that comes out in our bodies in all our happiest experiences. We get it when we fall in love and when we have sex, and it flushes us with a sense of calm and well-being.

Mothers get a surge of oxytocin when they nurse and when they make skin-to-skin contact with their babies, and it makes them euphoric. So, if a mom’s feeling a bit down, she just needs to rub that baby against her skin and start a chemical reaction that will make everything seem just fine.

3 Newborns Can Eat As Much As They Want Without Getting Fat


Photo credit: Arne Hendriks

It turns out that you don’t need to worry about your baby’s weight. Newborns have something called “brown fat” that can burn calories at incredible speeds. They have a lot of it, too. It makes up about 5 percent of a newborn’s body mass.

The purpose is to keep babies from dying when it’s cold. When the temperature drops, the brown fat produces heat and burns calories like nothing else. So much so that 85 grams (3 oz) of stimulated brown fat can burn 400–500 calories per day.

If you’re feeling a little jealous of babies right now, you’re not alone. Some scientists are so jealous of babies’ fat-burning powers that they’re trying to find a way to get those powers into adults. For now, though, this special ability is for babies only.

2 Babies Can Speak Dog


Your baby might not be able to understand every word you say, but she can understand somebody else pretty fluently—your dog. A study on six-month-old babies found that babies can understand a dog’s barks—even if they’ve never seen a dog before in their lives.

The study played recordings of vicious and friendly dog barks to the babies while showing them pictures of happy and angry dogs. They found that the babies looked at the happy dog when they heard a friendly bark and at the angry dog when they heard an angry bark. The babies could instinctively understand the tone of the barking.

Although the babies could match the barks to the pictures, that doesn’t mean the babies knew how to react. Even when the dogs were angry, the babies seemed to giggle and smile throughout the game. So you might not want to count on your baby’s life preservation skills.

1 Newborns Can Regrow Their Hearts


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An experiment conducted on mice found something incredible about newborn babies. You can surgically remove up to 15 percent of a baby’s heart, and it’ll grow back—and be as good as new.

The scientists took newborn mice that were less than one week old and cut up pieces of their hearts because, as it turns out, that’s what our government pays scientists to do. Amazingly, the mice grew back the lost tissue within three weeks—and the repaired hearts worked just like normal ones.

The scientists believe that this experiment would work on all mammals, including humans. But they haven’t proven it yet. For all the weird stuff that we let scientists do to our children, we’ve yet to issue a grant to anyone wanting to a surgically cut out pieces of a newborn baby’s heart.

+Further Reading


You might think that the topic of babies is not exactly ripe with fascinating topics . . . you would be wrong! Here are but a few of the many baby-related articles that we think you’ll find fascinating:

10 Stories of Bizarre Births
10 Ways Babies Are Smarter Than You Thought
10 Family Dramas Sparked By Babies Switched At Birth
10 Miraculous Stories Of Stillborn Babies Coming To Life
10 Things You Didn’t Know Babies Could Do
10 Amazing Babies Who Dodged Death

fact checked by Jamie Frater
Mark Oliver

Mark Oliver is a regular contributor to Listverse. His writing also appears on a number of other sites, including The Onion's StarWipe and His website is regularly updated with everything he writes.

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