The current hospital trend in care of brand new moms and babies is for the newborns to "room in" with their moms.  The idea is that mom and baby both get used to one another from the start. This being said, there are still times when the nurses mysteriously enter the room and announce that they need to do something to the baby.  They whisk them away and most moms don’t think much of it.  After all, it’s a great opportunity for a soak in the oversized bathtubs or perhaps steal a quick snooze.

I think they should be concerned.  Not because I think the nurses are delivering some kind of nefarious secret vaccine or spitefully offering pacifiers to all the breastfed babies.  I think parents should be aware of these secret times in the hospital nursery because this is where the babies themselves conspire and share trade secrets.  I imagine the new kid getting rolled in for his first bath.  When the nurse walks away, the kid in the next bassinet over, getting the pre-discharge workup, passes along the collective wisdom of all the newborns that have graced the inside of that nursery before.  This is the advice I am convinced each newborn hears, and the code they all swear to uphold.

Keep your parents on their toes. Literally. These little people promise one another that they will spend a good portion of each day forcing their parents to remain on their feet bouncing or pacing with the precious bundle in arms.  Even if the parent can provide the same motion while sitting, no substitute to actual standing will be accepted.

The "extra ounce" trick. Bottle fed babies get their giggles by agreeing to continue their hunger cues just long enough after finishing their first bottle for parents to make a second.  Of course, once offered seconds, babies drift instantly off to sleep after only a few sips.  This trick is especially fun for kids whose parents are very bacteria-conscious and refuse to keep prepared formula for any period of time once it has come in contact with baby lips.

The dinner bell. Nothing establishes a child’s new place in the family like the "dinner bell effect".  To practice this technique, babies instantly wake themselves from even the deepest sleep the minute the big people sit down to their own supper.

Keep ‘em guessing.  This is a fun game that babies love to play in their first few months.  The baby thinks of a bizarre action or sound, and then begins to cry inconsolably.  The parent has to guess what the key is to stopping the crying.  Some baby favorites are running the vacuum or hairdryer, going for long rides in the car or hearing a specific 70’s disco song on loop. When the babies get together at daycare or play dates, they have a hoot recounting who could make mom and dad do the weirdest thing the longest.

The sound of silence.  Newborns realize that there is a very small window of time during which they will be praised and celebrated for burping or passing gass.  In order to make the most out of this positive reinforcement, babies all agree, when in any public setting, to refrain from making loud body-function noises until the quietest possible moment.  They get extra points for the most solemn moments during Church services.

Diapers: It’s all in the timing. The babies also pass along to one another great pleasure of pooping in a clean diaper.  They obtain bonus points for pooping in a diaper that has just been changed—especially during a midnight feeding.  Of course, for boys, the big diaper trick is to prove to their new parents that friends were not kidding about the need to cover exposed parts during diaper changes.

Breathing as an art. In order to help new parents stay alert even while baby is sleeping, newborns vow to switch up their breathing patterns.  They will follow times of loud, labored-sounding breathing with sleep so still that they appear completely motionless.  This produces the effect of parents bolting awake—in the first instance to see if baby is choking and in the second to see if the child is still alive.

As babies plump up and trade their startle reflex for more exciting tricks like rolling over and smiling, these tricks become old hat and they begin to fade from memory.  But back in hospital nurseries around the country, the tradition of the Newborn Code is passed on to each new little bundle of joy.  The phenomenon is cause enough to consider a home birth.

Copyright 2010 Libby DuPont