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Parental Advisory: The Ugly Duckling

I am embarrassed to ask this, but is it normal for a newborn to have a recessed chin? I noticed my son had a weak chin in an ultrasound and now that he’s here, I’m obsessing. No one else has noticed or commented, maybe they’re being polite. Or maybe I’m hallucinating? My boyfriend is freaking me out about how bad my negativity could be for our son’s self-esteem. The last thing I want to do is be down on my boy! But still, is this normal? – Chin Up?

Dear Chin Up,

Though it’s not always voiced, worry over a new baby’s appearance is more common than you think. Despite that old adage, “a face only a mother could love,” even the most loving mothers (and fathers) can have some unloving feelings about their babies’ faces. Quite often the trait in question is simply run-of-the mill newborn weirdness. “He’s got such bad skin!” (Acne is normal in newborns). “She’s got a lifetime of painful hair removal ahead.” (That’s just leftover lanugo – the fetus’ downy body hair). There are optimistic interpretations too: “We’re both fair and freckled, but she lucked into a lovely olive complexion.” (Jaundice, anyone?)

You will probably be pleased to learn that, like cone heads and whiteheads, “weak” chins are extremely common in babies. We’ve heard that a recessed chin helps the baby move down the birth canal more easily. Imagine pushing out a seven-pound Jay Leno. Ouch. But once they’re born, they grow, and before you know it, voila! Chin, neck, jawline – the whole bottom of the face becomes articulated. A newborn’s chin is not a reliable indication of adult chin size. The overwhelming likelihood is that your child will not be chinless.

Some babies do have such a severely recessed chin that feeding is difficult. In these cases, a pediatrician and/or lactation consultant may be able to help.

We all wonder what our kids will look like, so as soon as they emerge we can’t help but scan for clues to their future appearance. But neonates really give very little away. They are bumpy, squished, colorful and oddly shaped. Their features don’t match up to the Gerber ideal: cherubic face, smooth skin, wide eyes. That’s probably because newborn images are not widely publicized: the babies we see in magazines and movies are almost always a ripe and adorable few months old.

When we look at our babies, we don’t just see them; we see ourselves, our partners, both families, and a world of opinions. So while it’s normal to worry, it’s also important to work towards reconciling your feelings about your child’s looks. Your boyfriend does have a point – not for now, but for the future. Even though your son may be “perfectly normal,” he probably won’t be Perfect. And ultimately he needs to know that’s perfectly fine with you.

Have a question? Email beingpregnant@babble.com

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