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2.1. Neonate = newborn, 0-28 days

Babies are cool. They breathe 2-3 times faster than we do; their hearts beat 1.6 times faster. The head circumference, measured around the eyebrow and ears, is larger than chest circumference--lots of space needed for that cute, mammalian brain.

Check front and back soft spots where cranial bones will meet at 18 months and 6-8 weeks. Eyes clear, ears aligned, nares patent, palate intact, upper airway clear. Movement and extremities symmetrical, abdomen soft and round, umbilical cord with two arteries and one vein clamped, all nether parts and orifices in standard locations.

Babies, like superheroes, come equipped with all sorts of cool reflexes.

Rooting: stroke baby's cheek, and she turns towards the touch, mouth open, wanting milk.
Sucking: insert a gloved finger (or nipple) in her mouth, and baby sucks.

Palmer grasp: the pull-baby-up-using-only-two-fingers trick: give baby a finger in each palm, and she will grasp. Pull her up gently.
Moro: lowering baby, allowing her head to drop a little, elicits a startled response, tiny thumbs and index fingers forming letter Cs, arms extended, legs flexed.

Fencing: turn baby's head to one side, and she will move both arms and legs to fight you.
Plantar grasp: press against ball of baby's foot, and her toes flex, little monkey grasping a branch.

Babinski: stroke lateral surface of baby's sole, and her toes spread like a fan.
Stepping or dancing: hold baby upright with her feet touching a flat surface, and she steps up and down, a little baby march.

What babies cannot do is swim. A bradycardic reflex makes a baby up to six months old hold her breath and open her eyes underwater, even move her arms and legs like she knows what she's doing, but that doesn't mean she does.

Before learning to run (or do the butterfly stroke), baby must first walk. Some babies crawl; some never do. Everyone's different.

By the time we are grown we have lost all these reflexes, but also developed new ones: defense mechanisms, damage, invisible baggage. Perhaps the best trick, more easily said than done, is to let go.


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