Ugly Babies
June 24, 2012 8:22 PM   Subscribe

Honest question about ugly babies - isn't it obvious when they are ugly?

I'm not a baby person, but I do believe I can distinguish when a baby is generally cute or fugly. Do some people have baby blinders that do not allow them to think "ugly baby"? Sometimes I see baby photos posted on Facebook where the baby is just hideous. One such baby looked like a drunk red-faced old Irish man. It had 20 "likes". I was dumbfounded. So I really want to know:

- do parents of very ugly babies not realize the baby is ugly?
- do you have an ugly baby and realize it? How have you dealt with having an ugly baby?
- do you feel forced to lie when confronted with an ugly baby and say that it's cute or go "aww" in public over it?
- does a large percentage of the population just think ALL babies are adorable in the same way that many people think all puppies are cute?

posted by KimikoPi to Society & Culture (82 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
To quote Miss Manners, "All babies and all brides are, by definition, beautiful."
posted by Lexica at 8:25 PM on June 24, 2012 [84 favorites]

One can find beauty in every face.
posted by jamaro at 8:27 PM on June 24, 2012 [5 favorites]

Well, almost all newborns are pretty hideous, but they're newborns, and the parents are programmed to find them adorable and many other people can't help but see cuteness because "OMG NEW BABY".

After a few months, most babies are actually really fucking cute, even if they're going to grow into unattractive older children (that is why their parents don't abandon them on mountainsides). The fact that they become unattractive later is irrelevant because by then you've gotten to know them as a person.

When I meet an ugly baby I say "OH, you have a BABY. What's it's name?" and then I say it looks so healthy or whatever, who cares, nobody gets arrested for lying about how cute a baby is anyway.
posted by padraigin at 8:28 PM on June 24, 2012 [7 favorites]

1: no.
2: no, I have no baby and my hypothetical baby IS SO CUTE.
3: oh my no. You can always find something nice to say. "Look how big he's gotten" is a good one. Or, what padraigin said.
4: YES. They're strange.
posted by RainyJay at 8:30 PM on June 24, 2012

Apparently there are hormones that kick in after you've had a baby yourself that re-program you to perceive ALL babies as adorable. I have this now, my son is 15 months old.

I've previously thought like you do now, and I'm amazed at how much hormones have effected my perception here.

Same goes if you have "baby fever," I suppose. But I didn't really have that prior to getting pregnant.

And yes. I lie.
posted by jbenben at 8:35 PM on June 24, 2012 [9 favorites]

1. I doubt it
2. I don't have any babies, but my sister and friends have been popping out babies like pop-pop-pop and some of them are uuugly. One of them has creepy raptor fingers....
3. Yes. And imo simply going "aw" or avoiding the topic can be considered lying by omission.
4. I don't know how any one person could speak for a larger percentage of the population, especially when it comes to something like this (where we're often told we're supposed to consider all babies we don't there's something wrong with us, right? ....much better to try to pass, right?)
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 8:36 PM on June 24, 2012

One such baby looked like a drunk red-faced old Irish man. It had 20 "likes"

When I "like" a friend's baby announcement, I really, really, really hope they understand that I am expressing pleasure at their good news, not that I find their newborn baby attractive.

But yes, all babies are adorable, in the literal sense that most people find it natural to adore them and coo over them, whether or not their features are perfectly symmetrical.

My own babies are, of course, the most beautiful on Earth, so I can't speak authoritatively about the rest of your question.
posted by escabeche at 8:36 PM on June 24, 2012 [13 favorites]

Someone close to me had a baby. A baby I am by default supposed to love forever and think is adorable and spoil and shower with goo-goo talk and sparkles.

This baby was... ugly.

I still love the kid and am purposefully keeping my relationship with it vague in this thread because it would suck to grow up and find out on the internet that you were an ugly baby. The baby in question grew up into a perfectly good looking kid. It was just ugly during babyhood.

I said nothing and showered it/its parents with the required compliments. No harm, no foul.

I am not genetically related to this baby, if that matters. No hormones coursing through my veins tricking me into thinking it was adorable.
posted by Sara C. at 8:36 PM on June 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

The response you want is, "Oh my! So precious!". Because that is the truth.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 8:41 PM on June 24, 2012 [10 favorites]

At the University of St Andrews in Scotland, cognitive psychologist David Perrett studies what makes faces attractive. He has developed a computerized morphing system that can endlessly adjust faces to suit his needs.

Students in his experiments are left to decide which face they fancy the most. Perrett has taken images of students’ own faces and morphed them into the opposite sex. Of all the faces on offer, this seems to be the face that subject will always prefer. They can’t recognize it as their own, they just know they like it.

Perrett suggests that we find our own faces attractive because they remind us of the faces we looked at constantly in our early childhood years – Mom and Dad.
I'm extrapolating from this but people have been looking in the mirror and at their partner for so long that seeing a hybrid makes our progeny particularly beautiful.
posted by holloway at 8:42 PM on June 24, 2012 [7 favorites]

I find human babies hideous, across the board. There are a very few exceptions; the Gerber baby, for example.
None of them have the attractiveness of a Pug or Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. When shown baby pictures, I fall back on "Oh, what a cute bib!"
posted by BostonTerrier at 8:45 PM on June 24, 2012 [5 favorites]

- do parents of very ugly babies not realize the baby is ugly?

They are hopped up on whatever chemicals their brains have evolved to produce to ensure they think their child is the best goddamn thing ever created so when the baby is screaming at three in the morning for the fifth night in the row they don't put the kid outside for the coyotes.

- do you have an ugly baby and realize it? How have you dealt with having an ugly baby?

I have no ugly baby, but I know people who have ugly, weird-looking kids, and it is pretty clear they either don't realize their kid is busted or are unwilling to admit it to themselves. For the purposes of being a good parent you gotta keep the blinders on, consciously or not.

- do you feel forced to lie when confronted with an ugly baby and say that it's cute or go "aww" in public over it?

The social contract necessary for the survival of a society contains a lot of unspoken precepts that need no explanation of their function. "Lie like a dog when confronted with an ugly child" is one of the most important of these rules, right up there with "Don't kill everybody" and "Don't set stuff on fire that should not be on fire."

- does a large percentage of the population just think ALL babies are adorable in the same way that many people think all puppies are cute?

This population exists but I don't know the percentage. I think a lot of these people have babies themselves.
posted by schroedinger at 8:48 PM on June 24, 2012 [21 favorites]

I'm not sure what makes a baby ugly, to be honest.

Red-faced, scrunched, and slightly damp babies aren't the most attractive things in the world, but I don't think that makes them ugly.

Or rather, ugly and unappealing aren't the same. Like pugs. You wouldn't call a pug beautiful, and might even call it ugly, but it's still cute.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:48 PM on June 24, 2012 [5 favorites]

I would be weirded out if people decided whether or not to "like" a baby picture based on how physically attractive they find the baby. You are being too literal. People value their friends and loved ones, so they value their babies. Just like people love their grandparents even though they're not young and hot anymore. People are about more than how they look.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:52 PM on June 24, 2012 [85 favorites]

I have been unpleasantly surprised by proud parents wielding a photo of their objectively ugly baby twice in the past. The first time I was incredibly startled and meebled something really confused and put out and which may have unfortunately included a grimace of despair; the second time I gathered my wits about me enough to say something like "my, what lovely eyes!".
posted by elizardbits at 8:54 PM on June 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

Seconding jbenben.

There is amazing hormones that kick in at birth. You may have thought all previous babies to be formless, boring lumps of no personality but not YOUR baby. Why this new baby is so amazing and full of interestingness. And so CUTE and wonderful and its shit literally DOES NOT STINK. (They've done studies on this.)

I think I read another survey that one of women's top concerns while pregnant was that they would have an "ugly baby." Which sounds shallow but is really about a fear of bonding, a fear that you will view your own kid like some stranger in your life. An ugly stranger!

Now, my kid is sooooo adorable. And was cute the very first day. I really mean this. However, now that I am over my new mom hormones I can look back at her baby pictures and see how she looks plain goofy in some of them. New baby goofy. Not ugly but the rosy gleam from my eyes has faded a bit. Right now, she is the most beautiful 18-month-old who ever existed! Heh.

My husband put up a photo of our new daughter with Winston Churchill -- at the time, I was kind of mad. Now I laugh. The resemblance was uncanny.

However, I am now way more into other people's babies than I was ever before. And their funny looks are often half the charm. I will always "like" your brand new baby no matter how troll-ish it may appear today.

Pro-tip: every new Mom and probably every Dad loooooves to have someone coo over their baby. Giving that kind of joy is free!
posted by amanda at 8:55 PM on June 24, 2012 [11 favorites]

My babies are really, really cute and I will cut you if you say otherwise.

Until a couple years (or weeks, sometimes its weeks) go by and I can look at their weird fat swollen eyed blotchy newborn photos and gasp with horror at the weird ugly thing I pushed out of my vag.

They are still really damn cute right now and I *will* cut you.

My husband has a friend whose kids are not cute. When they are born they look like a really ugly version of one of the seven dwarves (of Snow White fame), giant bulbous nose and all. One time, when their first was new (and uuuggglllyyy), they regaled us with a story about how cute she was and how their pediatrician had gone on and on about this kid's cuteness and "she must know because she sees a lot of babies!" Well, that pediatrician was a liar and sort of mean, IMO. Or maybe she thinks all babies are cute, I don't know.

When I don't know what to say about a baby, I comment on their hair (or lack thereof). I wish this was a conscious thing, but it's just what spurts out of my mouth as I try to keep the horrified look off my face. So, because of this, I am sensitive to comments about my own baby's hair. It sticks up. And is quite cute.

My mother used to say "ugly baby, beautiful child", and I think it's true. I can think of several that fit this saying.
posted by LyndsayMW at 8:55 PM on June 24, 2012 [8 favorites]

There are no ugly babies. Period, absolute statement. There is transcendental beauty in new life, and mere appearance has nothing to do with it.
posted by brownrd at 8:57 PM on June 24, 2012 [24 favorites]

My father subscribed to the fairly common view that all newborns look like Winston Churchill, and about 20 years ago I was doing the obligatory "cooing" over an infant and suddenly realized he was right. I try not to share that with new parents however, even if I know they agreed with me on that prior to becoming parents. Not having had children myself, I have no idea what physiological/neurological processes go into that change in perception.
posted by worldswalker at 8:59 PM on June 24, 2012 [7 favorites]

I'm male, no children, don't want to have children, don't interact with anyone who has a newborn, and still find newborns cool and magical and hard to look away from. I don't know what you mean by "cute" or "fugly." Newborns look like newborns. They look different from older children, but that doesn't make them ugly. Consider recalibrating your measurement scale. Babies are cute, axiomatically. Start from there.
posted by Nomyte at 9:03 PM on June 24, 2012 [14 favorites]

Now, my kid is sooooo adorable. And was cute the very first day. I really mean this. However, now that I am over my new mom hormones I can look back at her baby pictures and see how she looks plain goofy in some of them. New baby goofy. Not ugly but the rosy gleam from my eyes has faded a bit. Right now, she is the most beautiful 18-month-old who ever existed! Heh.

This is actually an interesting phenomenon that has happened to me, too. A couple of years ago I was looking at baby pictures of my oldest, now 11, and said to my partner, "Somebody went through all the pictures of our beautiful baby and Photoshopped in this weird-looking baby." It was cognitively very strange--I'd be looking at the very picture I can remember gazing at and thinking "what a beautiful baby," and the baby in it was kind of goofy looking and not too attractive.

Red, wrinkly, with bad blotchy skin and pimples, and all that, is totally normal at the newborn stage. I love newborns, but I think a decent chunk of my own, "Awww, how precious" reaction isn't from finding the baby beautiful so much as from finding babies to be really wonderful little things that grow into interesting people in fascinating ways. When I meet a newborn for the first time, I can't help wondering what kind of 3-year-old it will grow into, what kind of 7-year-old, what kind of 10-year-old. What will it be interested in? What will it love? What annoying habits will it develop? It's a tiny nascent person and I find that appealing.

Also, I like Facebook pictures and coo over babies because I know how cock-eyed and whacked-out their parents are likely to be, with the hormonal stuff and the sleep deprivation and the astonishment at this new life and all that. I'm that person who gets really excited about all new babies.

Babies are beautiful because of all that even if they're ordinary or strange-looking or even kind of unappealing.
posted by not that girl at 9:04 PM on June 24, 2012 [8 favorites]

I find it weird that you're using "attractive" to talk about babies as if babies were fashion models or art glass vases or something. I am also somewhat uneasy that you may be looking on some level for endorsement of telling people that their babies are ugly or that their children are funny-looking, or that you're looking for endorsement of having conversations with your friends about how "so and so's kid is really ugly".

I was a trollish and hideous child. I heard enough about that from the rest of the world - and I assume that my parents' less charitable friends remarked on it amongst themselves, which would have been tacky and cruel but some of them were tacky and cruel. Thank god my parents and the people who cared about me were not especially concerned with child-attractiveness metrics.
posted by Frowner at 9:09 PM on June 24, 2012 [18 favorites]

I'm not a parent so I can't answer your first two questions, but I have a recurring nightmare where I give birth to a really ugly baby. It's so ugly that my friends and family can only say, "... OH... a baby!" when I present it to them. In my nightmares, I am fully aware that my baby is ugly. I'm sure real life won't resemble my dreams in the least. Like others said above, your maternal hormones make it so that your child is the most beautiful thing to grace this world, whether or not the kid is objectively cute.

All newborns look like soggy, wrinkled up monkeys in my opinion. Most of them get really adorable soon enough, but some just don't ever get that cute I'm sorry to say. But I would never, ever tell anyone that I think their kid is ugly, so yes, in the event that I am introduced to an ugly baby, I lie my face off.

I suppose a lot of people think all babies are universally cute, but I am not one of them. My husband tells me (and he just told me again right now) that I am squandering our cute-baby-karma by saying things like this. He says I am jinxing us and now we will have ugly babies.
posted by keep it under cover at 9:12 PM on June 24, 2012

My baby was born 3 months premature, and spent a lot of time in a NICU with oxygen pipes and cables and he was so small and wirey. I was really gunning for him (of course!) and to me, he was cute. After a short period of time I literally wouldn't notice the tubes and monitors and things.

Now I look at those photos and think "wow..." and the cables and monitors and probes really jump out at me because thats all gone now, but at the time I totally thought he was adorable and cute. Rationally I'm sure its hormones and that the drama of the situation made it even more heightened and whatever but you know what... I don't care if other people think he was, is or will be ugly. He is who he is and I can't help but want to celebrate that.
posted by Admira at 9:20 PM on June 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Must. Not. Post. Photo. Of my beautiful baby. Because that would be INSANE.

Some people see an baby and maybe they think it's not cute. But for many people, they see a baby and they may be thinking more about the totality of the experience of the baby and the parents and that's where their expression comes from. And some people love all babies full-stop. So, try to put out of your mind that people who squee over what to you is an ugly baby are so clearly faking it.

Before I had my own kid, I would swear that holding a baby drained my life force. I think I found the enormity of the potential inherent to an infant to be psychologically terrifying. I'd always walk away exhausted. But, I don't have that problem anymore. It's a joy to hold someone's baby...and then hand them back.
posted by amanda at 9:23 PM on June 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I can see how some people find all babies beautiful. I can see how some people find all babies ugly. I find all babies both heart heartrendingly beautiful and hilariously ugly.

You don't have to lie about the ugliness of a baby if you can do so from a place of deep love, deep enough that you're so attached even to the ugliest feature of the baby that you would never change it.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 9:24 PM on June 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

-- Their baby is beautiful to them. And yes, they realize it and it hurts. This is a conversation I've had with many mommy friends.

-- Friends of mine have had babies that are not conventionally attractive. One friend whose baby (now a young child) has a visible medical condition that led to the child's image being posted on Fark and mocked will point out at every opportunity how her child is blessed in many, many other ways. And her child is indeed so wonderful in so many ways that I am very curious to see the adult that child will be after all the hardships faced.

-- No. There is always something kind to say about everyone - be it the child having the shiniest hair ever, the most sparkling eyes, an cute chortle... Once I heard the mom put it perfectly about her baby: "He has a man face. He looks now like he's going to look when he's older, and he is going to be great-looking later on. He just doesn't look like a baby now." True, he wasn't a round, pudgy cuddly baby - he was a little skinny and had wise eyes and he didn't smile much. And what she said is still true - that kid is a great-looking eight year old. He'll be gorgeous in his twenties. If you can't say something nice, well, everyone knows the saying.

-- I can't speak for a large population, but I would say that enough people see the beauty in how kids are, that attractive features aren't the largest part of it. Kids are fun to rest your eyes on. They do neat things. They're like watching a flame. And they'll stare back at you, because they haven't learned it's rude and can't help themselves yet, and it's a great thing to indulge in, their simple, curious eye contact or watching their peacefully sleeping features. And one of the things that's beautiful about them is that they don't know or care how they look until later on, after the big new world they're exploring and the people in it tell them that things like that matter. So, think what you will - it doesn't affect them one bit, until it does. And be kind to their parents, because every little bit of kindness counts. It's something to joke about when you're childless; something to have a good sense of humour about when you're a parent; and something to feel for other people when you see what the experience of having a kid who'll face difficulties for lack of attractiveness does to them.
posted by peagood at 9:31 PM on June 24, 2012 [19 favorites]

Short answer: Nope.

Slightly longer answer: Nope. What you might think of as ugly, another person might find adorable. Same thing happens with adult faces, with pets, with shoes, with cars, with architecture.

Anecdata: my friend B. has a little girl, a toddler who just turned 2, and miss thing is a total pistol. I have never met ANYONE as full of personality as that kid, honest to god, and I think she is one of the most beautiful creatures I've ever met. Most people who meet her think she's made of awesome. Our mutual friend D. posted a photo on Facebook of her own little girl having a tea party with B's little girl, and D.'s mom made a bunch of comments (not publicly, thank god) about what an ugly little girl B's child is. (D's mom is kind of a bitch.) D was like, "God, Mom, whatever," and ignored her... and then D's mom came out from the the Midwest to visit. And we were all worried that she was going to be unkind to B's daughter... and then they met in person. And D's mom was INSTANTLY charmed by this amazing kid, and now she raves about what a gorgeous little girl she is.

My point: Beauty is subjective as hell, y'all. Even with babies.
posted by palomar at 9:32 PM on June 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

(Oh. And another friend's dad, when confronted with a less than model-perfect baby, always says, "Well! That is certainly a baby you have there!". I have no idea why, but that just charms the shit out of me.)
posted by palomar at 9:35 PM on June 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

I had similar thoughts when I saw a colleagues baby, mainly because he looked like an adult despite being a newborn. I was so baffled as to how many people were in awe over this baby and was surprised that nobody made comments about what I had observed.

But, if you think about it-it's pretty fucking amazing for a baby to be born in the first place. People tend to focus on the baby's health and the new "bundle of joy" in their life or friend/family member's life rather than the baby's appearance.

I mean, it would be strange if someone showed you their baby and you said "wow, that's one ugly looking newborn!" or "whoa! what happened to him/her!" Nobody wants to hear that. Just like nobody wants to be called fat on their wedding day or whatever.

Babies can be cute. But, not all babies are cute. You don't have to remark on the baby's appearance if you don't agree with doing so. Although, I think it would be polite even if you thought otherwise.

You can just say "aww, how old is he/she?" and that way you can get the parent(s) to talk about their baby rather than what the baby looks like. You can also simply say "congratulations" because they are embarking on a new chapter of their life or focus on another aspect such as the baby's health.
posted by livinglearning at 9:35 PM on June 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I find that I think babies are cute who look alert, engaged, curious ... smart! I think babies are "ugly" who seem dull, unfocused, uninterested ... dumb. For the uglies ya just gotta fake it, man, and everyone does.

(my nephews were all pretty homely babies!)
posted by Occula at 9:37 PM on June 24, 2012

KimikoPi: "
- do parents of very ugly babies not realize the baby is ugly?

The may simply not have the same concept of what ugly is that you do. A baby may be appealing or unappealing to people on the basis of a lot more than its looks. Whether it is cranky and loud, for example.

- do you have an ugly baby and realize it? How have you dealt with having an ugly baby?

My kids went through awkward-looking stages. They were four weeks premature and quite small and frail looking when they were born. My daughter had milia. My son had a bit of cradle cap. Both of them had weirdly shapen heads early on. They grew out of it.

The answer to your question is, I didn't see the way they looked as something to "deal with." Each stage was part of a process in which they would be growing towards childhood. I didn't care whether people thought my babies were ugly or not. (In fact, it honestly never occurred to me to care.) Instead, I worried about tangibles: That my kids were going to be able to make it out of the hospital without a stay in the NICU. Then, that they would be healthy and gain weight. Every little illness was scary at first. Perhaps this is snobbish of me, but I sort of feel that worrying about whether one's baby is attractive is kinda silly and shallow. They're babies. Why put that unnecessary pressure on them or yourself?

- do you feel forced to lie when confronted with an ugly baby and say that it's cute or go "aww" in public over it?


- does a large percentage of the population just think ALL babies are adorable in the same way that many people think all puppies are cute?"

If so, I'm in that percentage. I like babies. :)
posted by zarq at 9:38 PM on June 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have a friend who was born quite premature. A family member or friend was meeting him for the first time, and exulted to his mother, "Oh, he's so beautiful!" To which his mother responded, "No, he's really not. He will be one day, but right now he looks pretty bad, and that's okay."

Many of my loved ones have had children in the last two years, so my Facebook stream is full of baby pictures. Some of them were beautiful right from the start, some of them are funny-looking, some are pretty ugly. But it's weird to sit around judging babies for anything, let alone their looks. I almost never remark on a baby's looks, even when they are mind-blowingly adorable. Instead, I smile at them and say "HEEELLOOOO!" and ask their parents about their kid's personality and antics.

Anyway, parents are not stupid or delusional for thinking their own babies are cute. That's a sad way to look at parental love.
posted by Coatlicue at 9:41 PM on June 24, 2012 [11 favorites]

Some babies are ugly, some are fat, some are fat and ugly. Whatever. What do you expect a parent to do, say we have a homely ugly baby here, but we love him with all our heart? What should their friends say? "He will probably be smart because you both are, but damn he sure is fucking ugly."

It is just polite to say that your friend's relative's co-worker's baby is adorable.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:42 PM on June 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

The only ones who can call babies ugly with impunity are their older siblings.

I was on a train with a father and a baby girl who had a facial deformity. Another woman in the car came up and cooed over her.
posted by brujita at 9:51 PM on June 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Mate, no one cares in the slightest if you or anyone thinks any given baby is objectively beautiful: it is simply traditional to remark, upon seeing a picture or meeting a new baby, "My goodness, what a beautiful baby!" If you have to have reason beyond giving a lot of joy to the new parent/s (who in the wake of the birth are probably out of their mind with hormones and exhaustion), a baby is symbolic of innocence, hope, optimism and the wonder of new life. That's pretty heady stuff.
posted by Kaleidoscope at 9:56 PM on June 24, 2012 [6 favorites]

Seconding the-young-rider's heavily-favorited answer, and adding that when you look at a baby as a non-parent you see the baby at that instant and make an instant judgement which is pretty superficial and in-the-moment. The parents and anybody else who has a long-term attachment to the baby are able to see the infant in the long term, with all of its potential for awesome achievements, experiences and miraculous life. You can see this in some of the answers from other people who have children or simply also have this perspective.
posted by msittig at 9:57 PM on June 24, 2012

I find it weird that you're using "attractive" to talk about babies as if babies were fashion models or art glass vases or something.

The OP never used the word "attractive."

OP: You're asking this question as if there were no such thing as taboos, as if everyone were supposed to always vocalize their honest opinion about everything. That isn't the real world. I would suggest looking up "taboo," and watching that one episode of Seinfeld.
posted by John Cohen at 9:58 PM on June 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Why does it matter what a baby looks like? It's shallow to reduce baby cuteness to "fugly" v. "cute" and not recognize that babies can also be cute through their curiosity or affection or whatever. Is it really lying to "aww" at a baby that isn't Gerber-babyriffic at first glance?
posted by verbyournouns at 9:59 PM on June 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

1. Objectively maybe - babies with deformities can set a parent back initially. Then the hormones and parental love eventually kicks in, and their subjective love overwhelms.

2. I can't tell. Of my two teenager daughters, I have one who strangers stop me to comment how gorgeous she is, and I cannot and have never seen her as prettier than her sister, just beautiful in a different way. I find them all gorgeous and am completely unable to judge.

3. You gush over little toes and fingers and ask how they're sleeping. They're babies, no-one expects an actual analysis, just awwing. It's not a lie.

4. Absolutely. But there are ugly puppies too.

However - years ago, I took my neighbour's kids out with mine, including her very young son. He was a striking child with big eyes and curly hair. We got stopped EVERYWHERE by strangers. He was given candy by shopkeepers, people came out from behind counters to kneel down and chat with him and talk about how beautiful he was - it was shocking to me how much attention he got, because I thought he was cute, but not amazingly so. He was just some platonic ideal of a baby with charisma it seemed. His parents and people who knew him, like us, had stopped seeing it so sharply. His older sister who was pretty, wasn't over-shadowed at home, only in public with strangers.

Apparently, there are some kids that just hit the perfect aesthetic spot for the general population. Ergo, there must be kids on the other extreme. Their parents and friends probably think they look lovely though.
posted by viggorlijah at 10:05 PM on June 24, 2012

I'm reminded of a really old Jeff Foxworthy story from before he became famous and was basically working as a tech guy before Photoshop. He somehow made up a composite picture of an ugly baby by putting various ugly facial features together, then he'd show it to people and claim it was his kid. People would say, "What a cute outfit."

Socially, though, you are forced to think all kids you've met IRL are adorably cute, period period period, because someone loves it. Even if you don't think all babies are cute by default, you'd better not admit to it.

(Though I will admit I stopped reading a woman's blog because she had a baby and she loved her baby and she posted tons of pictures of her baby and... damn, that baby just looked WEIRD and unattractive even for a baby. But I don't know her IRL, so who cares. I hope that kid grew up to be less weird looking.)
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:46 PM on June 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

- do you feel forced to lie when confronted with an ugly baby and say that it's cute or go "aww" in public over it?

I do not really enjoy babies and I don't find them aesthetically appealing at all (and to be honest baby photos make me feel a little queasy, the ones with food smeared all over the baby's mouth.)

However, I "like" all the baby photos on Facebook because I can tell how ecstatic my friends are about their baby and that gives me a huge amount of joy. It's the same thing with wedding photos. Just because I am not attracted to the groom and would never marry him myself doesn't mean I can't be overjoyed for my friend and her happiness.
posted by cairdeas at 11:10 PM on June 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

i can't speak to the first two questions but yeah, i have seen some—i'm not sure i'd go so far as "ugly"—not cute babies. not. cute. i don't lie. if i don't find a baby cute, i'm not going to fawn over it. but then, i don't fawn that much over babies despite the fact that i love babies.
posted by violetk at 11:22 PM on June 24, 2012

I have had a baby. I have friends who have children. So:

do parents of very ugly babies not realize the baby is ugly?

Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. Sometimes one parent realizes, and the other parent doesn't.

- do you have an ugly baby and realize it? How have you dealt with having an ugly baby?

I don't know. I had an objectively cute baby who came out with hair and wasn't squashed. Or at least, that's what I think.

- do you feel forced to lie when confronted with an ugly baby and say that it's cute or go "aww" in public over it?

Yes. Yes, I do. I feel enormously pressured to lie when confronted with an ugly baby, because you absolutely cannot possibly tell someone that their baby is ugly. First, because they may turn into a raging monster and kill you, but even if they don't, it may seriously damage the friendship. People don't react well to it.

- does a large percentage of the population just think ALL babies are adorable in the same way that many people think all puppies are cute?

I don't know if a large percentage of the population does. I definitely don't. I think the ratio is about 20 percent cute babies to forty percent mediocre babies to forty percent ugly babies, personally. But I don't think it's the done thing to admit it.
posted by corb at 11:59 PM on June 24, 2012

Part of the appeal of babies is that they sometimes look like drunk red-faced old Irish men. I think most newborns bear a striking resemblance to Gollum but this does not make them less beautiful. It makes them even snugglier!

Also even though all babies are beautiful, most babies have creepy bits because they are raw and unfinished and don't look quite human. Many parents will talk about the creepy bits, but it's in rather bad taste to bring it up yourself. (My second had no fat deposits on his feet when he was born. Very creepy looking, if you focused on his feet! A week later they were normal.) Fontanelles are sort-of inherently creepy unless your baby has a ton of hair.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:44 AM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

- do parents of very ugly babies not realize the baby is ugly?

Babies tend to look a lot like their parents and their loved ones, but like freshly created and unmarred editions of them, so of course babies are going to look particularly beautiful to their own families.

- do you feel forced to lie when confronted with an ugly baby and say that it's cute or go "aww" in public over it?

You can tell someone that a new haircut or dress isn't all that flattering. You'd be a dick, but you could do it.

You can tell someone that the shiny new job their so proud of doesn't look all that good. Couched in the right language, it could be helpful if also somewhat dickish.

But you can't tell someone that their new kid, this little being who is half dad and half mom, and who is going to be at the center of their lives for the rest of their lives, is just not up to your exacting standards. Not unless you just feel obliged to be a great gaping asshole.

Anyway, when you coo over a baby, you are showing how happy you are for the baby and the parents regardless of the extent to which the baby offends your fine aesthetic sensibilities. You are happy for them, not necessarily declaring the child's suitability to you. I could steer you to a whole Sesame Street segment on empathy if you want to learn more.

But if you have to think rotten things about babies, you can always gleefully declare things like "She looks just like her mother!" (which will make everyone happy as long as you're sure the kid wasn't adopted) without adding "and her mother's a right munter!" until you're out of earshot.
posted by pracowity at 1:08 AM on June 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

Given that many people find things such as WALL•E or Allie Brosh's drawings cute, cuteness would seem to be a somewhat flexible property. And also associated with behavior... maybe part of finding babies cute is anticipating that they will behave in cute ways?
posted by XMLicious at 2:02 AM on June 25, 2012

- do parents of very ugly babies not realize the baby is ugly?
- do you have an ugly baby and realize it? How have you dealt with having an ugly baby?

When my youngest was born, all sorts of things went a bit wrong during the labour and for the first days or weeks of her life, she looked really quite wonky. Her face was very swollen and blotchy, her colour was odd, and she had some obvious facial asymmetry. Very different from my firstborn who came out looking like a baby doll. I remember holding my youngest and thinking (as much as my confused, hormone-addled, sleep deprived mental processes could be called thinking) with overwhelming love and fierce tenderness: "Fine, she's obviously not going to be a conventionally pretty girl, and fuck if I care, she's perfect just the way she is". (She grew out of it, btw, and after a while started looking like a standard baby.)

- do you feel forced to lie when confronted with an ugly baby and say that it's cute or go "aww" in public over it?

I don't have to lie. Especially ever since having my own kids, babies provoke a reaction of wonder and excitement in me, which I experience as looking at something mesmerizing and beautiful, and it has nothing to do with conventional standards of attractiveness (which I do realize exist in our society for babies, too). I adore goofy looking babies just as much, they look cute to me and make me feel just as moved and perhaps even more protective. The "aww" is heartfelt. It's really not about how much they conform to some platonic ideal of baby-beauty. It's... the babiness.

What I'm trying to convey is that your definition and parameters of beauty in this case seem to me a bit narrow. Look, I'm sure there are things that just move you too (some music? paintings? sculptures? movies? architecture? wildlife? and yes, people?), even though you fully realize they aren't considered conventionally beautiful, aesthetically pleasing or whatever. Yet they just tickle the pleasure centres in your brain in a way that makes you go "whoa".

If someone posted a photo of a wild octopus on Facebook, I'd click on "like" beacuse, having seen one swim in the wild, I find them intensely beautiful creatures. Not because I thought they belong on the cover of Vogue, but because they are magnificent in a completely different way. There, I just compared babies with octopi.
posted by sively at 2:41 AM on June 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

My firstborn looked like a shitzu when he came out and for weeks afterward. Turns out shitzus are both cute & ugly. I have no problem with that.
posted by b33j at 2:49 AM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Pretty much all moms think their babies are beautiful. I know I did, but I have seen babies I would consider ugly. On the other hand, even ugly babies are cute, in the way ugly puppies are, as noted by b33j. Baby appearance has little to do with how attractive the person is later. The hugest fattest baby I ever saw, my friend's daughter, is now a stunning tall slim gorgeous woman. I think seeing family resemblances in babies no matter how ugly helps too, awwwww......he looks just like grandpa!
posted by mermayd at 3:43 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd just like to point out how a small adjustment in the age of the person whose ugliness we're considering (say, change "baby" to "girlfriend") would make this a DEEPLY offensive question. Do people with really ugly girlfriends just not realize it? How have you dealt with having an ugly girlfriend?

The knee-jerk answers to that question would focus on how a woman is a person that doesn't exist to be a decorative object in your or others' lives. They would point out that people maintain relationships with other people with because the sum total of their existence (mind, body, face, actions) brings them joy. So even if it's tempting to allow this kind of attractiveness scoring to creep into your inner monologue, doing so is a first step towards dehumanizing another person. I think we realize this less with babies because they're easier to objectify anyway, but that doesn't make it OK.

I feel comfortable calling an ugly baby cute because I don't ever intend the comment as an evaluation of the child's physical attractiveness in the first place. If it were, it'd be kind of icky, whether the baby is beautiful or not. As others have said above, coo-ing over new babies is an expression of simple delight in their existence. Babies are cute because they are. Which is, really, how everyone, ideally, should be cute, including people's girlfriends.
posted by Bardolph at 4:05 AM on June 25, 2012 [14 favorites]

Yes, I feel forced to lie and pretend I care about someones baby - even if its cute.
I try to avoid this by avoiding being near babies or people showing photos. My coworker had a huge baby with a unibrow and he loved it- he made comments about how goofy she was, so that made me feel less pressure.
posted by KogeLiz at 4:11 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think most babies are pretty goofy looking, and they rarely (especially early on) appear conventionally attractive by the standards you'd apply to the average human. They're also invariably adorable, so I don't have to lie about anything. Dude - have you seen how amazingly tiny their toes are? Super tiny toes!! It's amazing!
posted by SMPA at 4:22 AM on June 25, 2012

My mom used to have a saying about ugly children - "so ugly he's cute". Said in private, of course, not to the child in question or his parents. Sometimes homely is just adorable for some reason. Like pug dogs, as mentioned above, or shar-pei puppies.

I remember reading an anecdote somewhere about a pet shop that advertised something like "9 cute puppies, and one ugly one." And they sold the "ugly puppy" 10 times. Sometimes a funny-looking, vulnerable little creature who looks at you with their big trusting eyes can just melt your heart.

If you can't bring yourself to use the words cute or beautiful about someone's baby, try "precious" or "sweet."
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 4:51 AM on June 25, 2012

Sure, some aren't as nice to look at as others, but when you are fat, toothless and bald it is hard to be good looking. In spite of it all many are adorable.
posted by dgran at 5:07 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Chinese people will always say a baby is ugly or is ill-behaved because we believe that we don't want to anger the angels that protect the baby. Everyone is born with an angel to watch over them and sometimes the angel gets irritated when the baby is praised too much.

Sure, there are some ugly babies, but when you carry one for almost ten months and you finally go through painful birth and you find that the baby can breathe on its own, has ten finger and ten toes and is capable of crying, you will find that baby beautiful beyond beautiful. You will see all of the good things about that baby and none of the bad because that baby is yours.

I was an adorable baby and I grew to be such an unsightly teenager that I was voted the ugliest girl in the school. There were almost 5,000 students in my school. I was the ugliest in 5,000! So don't worry, every ugly child is aware of his or her ugliness and so are their parents.
posted by Yellow at 5:55 AM on June 25, 2012 [5 favorites]

Babies have big eyes - and that is a "cute" cue.

When we are born, are our eyes are full size, fully grown. So, the fully grown eyes are larger proportionally to the infantile head. Studies have been done to show that big eyes (proportional to the size of the head) is a common cue to trigger a cuteness response in others. (Like high cheek bone will cue a "beauty" response).

I think these types of cues (for beauty and cuteness and sex appeal) effect different people to different degrees. But there are certainly some people who are highly effected by the "big eyes" cue - so, yes, scientifically, there are some people (impacted by the big eyes cue) who just think all babies are cute.
posted by Flood at 6:14 AM on June 25, 2012

I feel like most people's comments here don't take into account that the question is not about the ability to love a baby or be awesome to a baby - this question is merely about a picture of a baby!

First off, we (and many other animals that raise their offspring) are designed to find babies cute. It is called baby schema or cuteness (as described by Konrad Lorenz) which "is a set of infantile physical features such as the large head, round face and big eyes that is perceived as cute and motivates caretaking behavior in other individuals, with the evolutionary function of enhancing offspring survival." [1]

It is safe to say that some babies are cuter than others. And there is a difference in the perception of cuteness, as research suggests a possible involvement of reproductive hormones in cuteness sensitivity (gender/age). Nature has an array of mechanisms that ensure the offspring will be taken care off.

Furthermore it is important how we interact with babies/infants. Research has shown that infant-directed speech increases neural activity [2] (yay learning) and face perception develops fairly early on (familiar/unfamiliar/sad/angry/happy/etc).

In light of this, upon meeting any baby let's think about the science and coo over the baby for the sake of its development.

Maybe the OP already does so, all we know is s/he referred to a picture in this question. There is a difference between looking at a picture vs. a live baby - as soon as you bond with the baby there are obviously other more important things than its appearance.

That being said, I personally think there are not many cute babies. Just as there are not many cute adults imho. However, I can grow to love an ugly rescue dog or overweight cat from the shelter and that applies to humans too. And I do not feel forced to lie about a baby's cuteness -I interact with babies/toddlers/kids in the way that I feel is most beneficial to them; which I think is also satisfying to the parents.
posted by travelwithcats at 6:37 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I know parents who were reluctant to post baby pictures to facebook because their baby was so odd-looking. So, yes, some parents get it.

Also, at least in my circle, it is basically OK to talk about how ugly a baby is *behind the backs of the parents*, at least to the same extent that it is OK to talk about people's appearance in general. Like, I might say "Dang, what is going on with F & C's baby? It looks like a Neanderthal!" the same way I might say, "Is it my imagination or does P have the World's Worst Combover?" It's not *nice*, but I do it anyway.

Of course I would not say this in a comment on a facebook post!
posted by mskyle at 6:37 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Babies look weird for the first few months. Some even look ugly. But most of the time, babies grow into normal people (whatever your definition of that is) and just look like people. Convention is that you would never say that a baby is ugly to the parents, and the parents would rarely think it (let alone vocalize it) because it's their baby. People liking a baby announcement on Facebook like it because someone had a baby, not because they approve of its beauty.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 6:53 AM on June 25, 2012

No baby is ugly, but some babies do not photograph well- and really, why would they, they're still getting used to how to work their eyeballs.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:00 AM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

- do you feel forced to lie when confronted with an ugly baby and say that it's cute or go "aww" in public over it?

My dad's standard response was: "Now THAT'S a baby!" (said with a huge grin)

I tend to go with "Aww! What a sweetie! What a big smile/lot of hair/bright eyes."
posted by belladonna at 7:00 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks to forceps and my reluctance to leave the womb, I was an ugly baby. According to my mom, I looked like a Conehead and my face was all blotchy and I was very long and skinny. She said as soon as the euphoria of a healthy baby wore off, she cried. And cried. Because I was so ugly and it was wrong for little girls to be ugly. (This is a whole 'nother kettle of fish for therapy right here.) The nurse came in and told her to calm down and in three or so days, I'd look normal.

As my mother tells the story, she stopped crying and waited. She prayed a good bit just to have backup because she was convinced that God wouldn't let her little girl be ugly (Again with the therapy.) And sure enough three days later my face de-smushed from the forceps and the conehead went away and I was a pretty baby. And according to my mother I still am pretty.
posted by teleri025 at 7:05 AM on June 25, 2012

- do parents of very ugly babies not realize the baby is ugly?

Of course they don't. To parents, babies can be funny looking or have an odd thing about them, or may need to grow into their features a bit (I had a friend whose baby had a freakishly giant mouth. She was a little odd looking for awhile, but when her head and face size caught up to her mouth, she became a delightfully adorable little thing).

- do you have an ugly baby and realize it? How have you dealt with having an ugly baby?

I don't find babies ugly. I may find them funny looking at worst.

- do you feel forced to lie when confronted with an ugly baby and say that it's cute or go "aww" in public over it?

Nope, because I aww over babies in general.

- does a large percentage of the population just think ALL babies are adorable in the same way that many people think all puppies are cute?

Yes. And it's a good thing or we wouldn't last long as a species.
posted by zizzle at 7:07 AM on June 25, 2012

Maurice: For most men, a woman's body is the most beautiful thing they will ever see.
Jessie: What's the most beautiful thing a girl sees? Do you know?
Maurice: Her first child.

Venus, 2006.

The baby is beautiful to someone, no matter what it looks like.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:17 AM on June 25, 2012

Really, I have no idea what people are talking about when they talk about an "ugly" baby. Certain features that are inherent to human babies-- the pudgy, round face and big eyes -- are just what code as "cute."

The reason people claim babies are cute and say that about almost all babies is because, outside of a few possible outliers, babies have the "cute" features.
posted by deanc at 7:23 AM on June 25, 2012

Nothing that is loved is ever ugly.

In all seriousness, one cannot predict the future features of a child without some very specialized skills and or computer software. I just accept that that babies will look pruny, puny and creatures that are coming into being; hurtling towards a future.
posted by jadepearl at 7:35 AM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

When I first saw photos of an infant relative of mine, my exact thought was "Yeesh!" followed by "Criminy!" He's now 27 years old and very handsome and his new son looks just like he did as an infant. So, you know, there's hope.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:44 AM on June 25, 2012

Think of it as life instead. It's beautiful. And amazing. These two people joined these two microscopic bits together and grew LIFE! That woman grew that thing IN HER STOMACH? Then the two of them combined somehow know when it's ready and bam. Out comes this little human being.
I am bad at faking it. I am (was) not a baby person. Then we had a kid that seemed pretty cute to us. Now we look at old pictures and see, hey, that little creature IS kinda weird looking.
If you want to use another world, other than cute, like sweet (come on babies are sweet and innocent). Just think of the amazing journey those little cells made to make that kid and you might say "aawwww" and mean it.
posted by beccaj at 7:48 AM on June 25, 2012

I'm certain that people are unable to tell if their kid is bizarre looking. I'm convinced my now three year old kid is extremely cute yet when I look back at the pictures I sent to my family and friends when my kid was first born he looked awfully similar to a garden gnome.
posted by foodgeek at 7:49 AM on June 25, 2012

If you look at my profile, you'll understand that I see a lot of babies. In fact, my actual work day completely revolves around looking at every part of a lot of babies and documenting my impressions of them, of how every part of them compares to some mythical "population baby" who is the "normal" baby of all babies.

I don't think you would ask these questions if you spent a day with me and walked into an exam room with me where new parents sit, clutching their baby, excited to see me one the one hand, because they're in love and people who are in love thrive on others bearing witness to that love, but on the other hand scared of me, apprehensive of me, because (after all) I am there to judge their beloved. Out loud, writing it down, and everything.

If you saw the looks on these people's faces, or heard how they blow their breath out while wiping their hands across their face, when I tell them such ordinary things like "oh see here, this skin peeling a bit on her hands, this small lump here, these marks . . . very normal," I think you would tear up at the force of their relief--like even I do, after hundreds of babies, even now.

And if you had to be there when someone's new beloved couldn't compare, somehow, to that mythical "normal" baby, and watch me tell them so, or in fact, be the one to tell them so, you would understand why all of us tell every baby we meet how beautiful they are as often as we possibly can. What is the alternative? To acknowledge that none of us, from the very beginning, mean nothing more than how we compare to some mythical composite that doesn't even exist? I can acknowledge when their journey with their kid is going to be hard, heartbreaking, even--I can't acknowledge that it won't be beautiful.

So what do I look at, what do I see? Whatever it is I see, or feel, or find about that baby, I can't unsee how beautiful a parent's face is when they can't look away from their baby. Ugly is the babies who don't come into this world with that, or who lose it later. I look at every baby thinking--what if I am the only one who will find this baby beautiful? And then I do.
posted by rumposinc at 8:33 AM on June 25, 2012 [31 favorites]

When my daughter was born she looked like a cross-eyed garden gnome. Her nose had been pressed against my pelvic bone and was rather twisted looking, and her head was pointy after the delivery. I knew she was ugly, but she grew out of it.
posted by TooFewShoes at 8:35 AM on June 25, 2012

My father once told me this one thing that's stuck with me: He doesn't completely trust any man until he has had a baby.

Right. This is horrible. My husband and I had someone say this to us once, not knowing that we for very complicated reasons we've chosen not to have children. It was incredibly hurtful. Not to mention completely irrational.

Back to the question, you might be surprised how much it means to a new mother to be told her baby is beautiful. Someone told my mom that I was the most beautiful baby they'd ever seen. Well, unless I was the only baby they'd ever seen, I really doubt that was true, but that story has been making my mom happy for almost five decades now, and I'm grateful to that person for their kindness to her.
posted by HotToddy at 8:50 AM on June 25, 2012

When we had our son, we could see his flaws, and even joke about them, but he was still the most beautiful baby to us. Even as we wondered if he would grow into that massive forehead (he did!) we still thought he was so cute. Everyone has flaws, no one's perfect... except a newborn baby. "Perfect" has a new meaning when it comes to babies, especially your own.
posted by that's how you get ants at 9:53 AM on June 25, 2012

I also think it's off-putting to hear people describing babies as objectively "ugly." I don't want kids of my own and am not all goopy-awwwwwww over widdle babies of any species on principle, but it seems such a weirdly harsh and irrelevant thing to try to objectively judge. And how do you even make that assessment, ugly compared to what? A model-baby in an advertisement, a puppy, a baby bunny adult person?

Sure, babies are all kind of funny-looking, and some look a little more squashed or red or rashy, but that's all temporary. The appearance of a baby's face isn't a done deal, even from day to day. They're liittle shape-shifters, strongly resembling one parent for then suddenly looking exactly like other random relatives then morphing into a resemblance to the other parent and so forth.
posted by desuetude at 10:08 AM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have a friend who had a baby around the same time as mine, and the baby looked like an alien for its first 8 or 9 months. I think part of it was that he was so skinny that he had no cheeks. Once he started filling out and getting more traditionally "cute", I was talking to the mom and she said, "yeah, he's looking less like an alien now." So yeah, parents know, but they don't care.

(pics of my objectively cute baby available via the Flickr preview thing on my profile)
posted by statolith at 1:05 PM on June 25, 2012

do parents of very ugly babies not realize the baby is ugly?

Y'know the expression "a face only a mother could love?" There's a reason. Truly, mothers (and I assume most fathers) are mostly incapable of being objective about their own children - especially where looks are concerned. I imagine that there's a hormonal component to this that is one of the safeguards against eating one's young. In any case, I've known some damn ugly babies in my time and in every case the parent believed the child to be the most beautiful thing on earth.

As for my own child... I would have thought he was sent by angels on the backs of unicorns to be the most beautiful thing in the universe if he looked like the bastard love child of a pug and Chairman Mao. Thankfully, I'm told that he is empirically gorgeous. I fully admit that I do not have the ability to be objective about this. (The best pair of compliments that I get *all the time.* "Wow, your son is so beautiful. I mean, he's GORGEOUS." Followed immediately by "He looks EXACTLY! like you.")

And as for lying about ugly babies... good lord, yes. That baby is totally beautiful to its parents and my opinion about how that little face is rather... porcine... is irrelevant. What's important is to congratulate the parents and make them feel proud of their new family member. So, yeah, lies all the way. I try to coat my lies in truth. Every baby has at least one good feature "What lovely eyes" or at the very least, "Her face is so expressive!" There are ways of doing this that are vastly more convincing than Seinfeld's "breathtaking" baby, even if the baby is indeed, y'know, breathtaking.
posted by sonika at 2:45 PM on June 25, 2012

Anecdotal info. When our daughter was born, the nurses both said she was an adorable baby. I remarked that they must say that to everyone. They both started laughing and said no, not by a long shot. If they didn't think a baby as cute they said they wouldn't say anything. They went on to say there had been a couple of "ugly babies" born this week. Our OB, who I know very well backed them up, and he wouldn't have said anything if it weren't true. But I doubt the parents notice or care.
posted by Silvertree at 6:05 PM on June 25, 2012

I've wondered this before, too, but then I remembered that there are grownups who a very large portion of the population consider drop-dead swoon-inducingly gorgeous that I find visually repulsive, so I guess attractiveness really is subjective--and, as some have already pointed out, sometimes affected by crazy brain chemicals.

Not that I would ever, ever even think of suggesting to someone that their baby is anything but beautiful. I am generally a big fan on blunt, direct honesty, but when it comes to babies and (amateur) singing, everyone is beautiful. :)
posted by rhiannonstone at 6:16 PM on June 25, 2012

Well as much as I adore my kid, he was sort of squeezed looking at birth and though he got cuter he went through a few stages where he had this blocky Hulklike appearance that was more alarming than cute. He also refused to coo and looked at his father and I as though we were waiters who had presented him with the wrong order for the first month or so. Since he was ours we found this amusing and interesting rather than off putting. What others thought of him was irrelevant. He's a nice looking boy now, and gets chased by cute girls in kindergarten.
posted by emjaybee at 6:54 PM on June 25, 2012

Truth be told, I think the alienness of newborns can be startling to people who haven't been around them before, but once you've seen a few, you see how beautiful they are, misshapen heads and all.

"you might be surprised how much it means to a new mother to be told her baby is beautiful. Someone told my mom that I was the most beautiful baby they'd ever seen. Well, unless I was the only baby they'd ever seen, I really doubt that was true, but that story has been making my mom happy for almost five decades now, and I'm grateful to that person for their kindness to her."

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, before airlines sucked, my mom had to fly for a family emergency and she had to take my infant brother with her because he was SO little he couldn't be away from her. The gate agent took pity on my poor mother flying with an infant and upgraded her to first class.

She was seated next to that year's Miss America, of all people. My mother hates pageants and all things pageant, but as soon as she sat down, Miss America exclaimed, "Oh, what a beautiful baby!" and proceeded to gush for five minutes about how gorgeous the baby was and how great my mom (a very tired 4th time mother in her late 30s under a lot of strain from the family crisis) looked, and flirted with the baby the whole flight and just kept exclaiming what a lovely and charming and attractive baby he was. In the midst of a family crisis, full of infant hormones, someone admiring her baby meant an awful lot to her.

The upshots of this are that a) my mother has been in charity with the Miss America pageant for 25 years now even though she thinks all the OTHER pageants are total nonsense and b) my brother has a GREAT story!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:06 PM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I knew my daughter wasn't very pretty when she was born and for her first several months, but at about 6 months she really began to blossom and got prettier and prettier. My son was a beauty within just a few hours of birth and was a lovely toddler and little boy. He's kind of skinny and geeky and not very handsome now at 14, but I think when he fills out a little as he gets older, he'll probably be a good-looking man.

My best friend and I had our boys at the same time (within just a couple weeks) and spent tons of time together, just gazing at them together for their first couple of years. I remember just feeling SO sorry for her because her son was so, so homely and weird looking, and my son was so, so pretty. I assumed she thought he was gorgeous. Many years later she talked about how her first 2 children were really funny-looking babies and toddlers. I was so surprised!

I think we know if our babies are good-looking or not, but we're (generally) so in love with them--and fascinated by them--that it doesn't matter.
posted by primate moon at 9:13 PM on June 25, 2012

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