Why Don’t Newborns Have Tears or Sweat?

Upon entering the world, a newborn lets out a loud, distinct cry — a sign of health and vigor. It’s a cry that new parents will quickly become used to in the coming days and weeks. But if you look closely, you’ll see that a newborn’s cry is a bit different from an older infant’s: there are no tears. Tears, of course, are necessary to protect the eyes and keep them moist. When faced with extreme emotions such as sadness, anger or even happiness, we cry, said Sage Timberline, a pediatrician at the University of California, Davis, Children’s Hospital in Sacramento, California. That temporary stress triggers a fight-or-flight response, which produces tears to further protect the eye. These emotional tears can also help release stress-inducing hormones that may have been building up during tough times; this contributes to that sense of relief that follows a good cry, she told Live Science. While a baby is born with tear ducts, they’re not fully developed yet. They produce enough tears to coat the eye and keep it moist, but not enough to form drops that trickle down those chubby cheeks. After three or four weeks, a baby’s tear ducts usually mature enough to form teardrops associated with strong emotions, Timberline said.

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