What to Say When Newborns Aren’t Cute

scrunchy newborn

The call light at the nurses’ station goes off and I rush to answer it.

“We need a baby nurse in here!” my co-worker calls out. I gather my supplies and head over to the recently-delivered mom and her newborn son.  I take the baby from his beaming mother and transfer him to the baby warmer, where I can do my assessment and look him over.

“Aw, look at him!” I say with a smile to the new mother. “He’s got such cute toes!”

 Translation?

That is one not-so-cute newborn.

Let’s face it, not all newborns are cute. While I can remember thinking that my newborn daughter was the most beautiful creature to ever grace the planet, in looking back on her newborn pictures, I can see the truth a little more clearly through eyes not clouded by the first vision of motherhood—she was not a cute baby.

And as a labor and delivery nurse, I have seen my share of cute babies. But they’re not all so fortunate. Some gangly and scrawny, born screeching like bald newborn chicks, just need a little time before they can sprout from ugly ducklings. Some bear prominent and unfortunate characteristics of their parents, comical features that look out of place on a baby so new. And then, of course, there’s the trauma of birth itself, often swelling and bruising more little babies’ heads and faces into unrecognizable forms for the first 24 hours or so.

If you find yourself visiting a friend or family member with a baby falling into one of the above categories, don’t worry about gushing on and on about the baby’s cuteness. Her parents will already adore her, so it’s not like you have to convince them. Focus on her sweet new baby smell or the delicious weight of her in your arms, or point out how much she looks like her daddy. Parents eat that stuff up.

And if you are the recipient of the “cute toes” comment from your labor and delivery nurse, fear not: the majority of newborns change drastically, even in the first day and weeks. More than likely, you will be a fierce mama bear and think, as I did, that your baby is the most incredible and wonderful and gorgeous baby ever.

Which, of course, he is.

Cute toes and all.

Picture via Chaunie Brusie/J & J Brusie Photography

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What to Say When Newborns Aren’t Cute

Chaunie Brusie is a writer, mom of four, and founder of The Stay Strong Mom, a community + gift box service for moms after loss. ... More

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10 comments

  1. Kristi says:

    Agree, especially some of those premature little ones who haven’t had the time to put on any baby fat like at all. They look like aliens.

  2. Melissa says:

    I usually say “Oh, how small! ” or “That outfit is so cute! “

  3. Layne says:

    I’ve often thought that too about newborns, but after a few weeks almost all babies are just adorable!

  4. charmingexit says:

    I agree. Cute toes : )

  5. JessiLoveday says:

    one of my little brothers was an ugly newborn… When he was about 7 he was looking through the photo album and saw the picture of him at the hospital. He had no idea it was him, so he was all "that baby was so ugly, was that Brett?" (Brett is the older brother who was 9 at the time) and I tried not to laugh as my mom pulled out the photo and made him read the back. It took him a while, but once he realized he had just called himself an ugly baby he burst into tears. We all giggled while trying to console him. It was priceless.

  6. monette3 says:

    This is good advice…I like the suggestions she has for compliments that don’t have to be fake.

  7. Marina says:

    As a L&D nurse for 9 yrs. I can attest that majority of newborns are cute in the eye of the beholder.

  8. Great, no sonogram picture to gauge how adordorkable this baby is gonna be yet. Just the soothing sounds of his or her beautiful heart.

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