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Parental Advisory: The Ugly Duckling

Will my baby always be weird-looking?

By Rebecca Odes and Ceridwen Morris |

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.

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About Rebecca Odes and Ceridwen Morris


Rebecca Odes and Ceridwen Morris

Rebecca Odes is a writer, artist and mother. She was inspired to write From The Hips during her first pregnancy when she discovered every pregnancy book she came across made her feel anxious or irritated. She lives in New York City with her husband and two children.

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5 thoughts on “Parental Advisory: The Ugly Duckling

  1. SE says:

    Our daughter was several weeks early. She had bruising, a purple face, bloodshot eyes (this lasted for a month or more), a severely lopsided head, and jaundice. At three months–gorgeous. So just relax and give him a little time!

  2. ZBecks says:

    Ha….no one is suppose to worry if they are going to have an ugly baby.I always did. I’mnot gonna lie.Of course, I would love the child either way, but I was always curious as to how my children were going to come out…especially with them being bi-racial. You never know if they are gonna get this nose or that nose. Kinda like a Mr. Potato Head.With my youngest, Slater-2.5, she came out and she had dark hair (my hair is black) with this jaundicy (i know, not a word) color. I didn’t know if she had jaunduce or if that was how she was just gonna look. But it was kinda funny looking.You always look at the ears to see what color they will be later. her’s were pretty much beige.Like the other mother said, a few months later, she looked like a cute baby. not all chessey.Now, at 2 and a half, she has blonde hair (her father’s hair is blonde) and she’s fair skinned (not Dita Von Teese fair, but like Vanessa Williams fair). Out of all my children, she looks NOTHING like me (cries) but I love her anyways.Trust me, you don’t want to obsesse over it, you’ll drive yourself crazy.and always know that they go through a few more “ugly” phases before adulthood anyways.

  3. mommaovfive says:

    My son’s weak chin had me worried for the first couple of years. He’s ten now and his chin has caught up to the rest of his face. Don’t worry, he’ll all balance out and you’ll for get you worried about his until you read it on a blog or post somewhere years later. :)

  4. Poor mommy says:

    When my baby girl was born she was as plain as a pork chop. But she had this very thick head of dark hair. I got so hurt when every single person made the same comment about her. As they scanned her face so they could give me a compliment about my much loved baby, they all went silent and then said “she has a lot of hair hasn’t she” That was it. The same comment from everyone. My poor darling little girl. Was she that ugly that they couldn’t scrape together one decent compliment????

    Well, she is 21 now and an absolute knockout. People are always commenting on how stunningly beautiful she is. She looks nothing at all like she did in her first few months.

    So chin up (pardon the pun) they change. Boy oh boy do they change.

  5. Peter Voth says:

    Yes, your fetus is extremely unattractive.

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