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Why Doesn't My Baby Look Like Me? It All Comes Down To Genes

After a birth, one of the most popular games everyone plays is "Whose (fill in the blank with eyes, nose, and so on) does baby have?" While it's still anyone's guess as to what the adult version of your infant will look like, that doesn't stop people from predicting. You may even feel a twinge of pride when strangers say your child looks just like you. But what if they don't? In that case strangers' assumptions — like you're just the babysitter — can be hurtful. You're not alone in wondering, why doesn't my baby look like me? Although there are many possibilities for the exact combination of genes your child could inherit, it all comes down to DNA.

"Kids share 50 percent of their DNA with parents and siblings, so there's room for variation," reported Parents. For example, your baby inherits more than one gene pair for hair color and texture. And remember the concept of "recessive genes" from your high school biology class? That explains how two brunette parents can end up with a blonde or redheaded child. In my own family, my husband and I both have curly hair, but our two kids have different hair textures — one is curly and the other straight.

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Your baby's hair color may be apparent at birth, but you won't be sure of your little one's eye color until close to their first birthday. Babies are born with gray or blue eyes because their melanocyte cells, which distribute melanin (the protein responsible for eye, hair, and skin color) and need about a year's exposure to light before they finish their work, noted the American Academy of Pediatrics. So if you have brown eyes and your child emerges from the womb with baby blues, it's too soon to tell whether or not their eyes will look like yours.

As for the rest of baby's features, including height and head shape, the particular mix of dominant and recessive genes they inherited from you and your partner will determine how close the resemblance is. Some children seem like a perfect mix of both parents, while others favor Mom or Dad. Sometimes siblings look practically identical, but in other cases you'd never guess that the two or three are related. Again, it all comes down to the lottery-like distribution of DNA they inherited at conception.

Although there's nothing you can do about DNA, some parents have more anguish when their children don't resemble them than others. Often it has more to do with society's reaction than to the individual parents' feelings. For example, in a post titled "When Your Child Doesn't Look Like You" on Denver Metro Moms Blog, Lindsey F writes about her experience as the mother of a mixed-race child:

"Before I got married, I always imagined my future children would look like me: blonde, curly hair, blue eyes, and pale Irish skin. Of course, that vision changed when I married a Japanese-Brazilian who happens to be my opposite in every possible way... When Rory was born, she had a head full of straight, dark hair and looked exactly like my husband, but I didn’t mind. It didn’t bother me that her eyes were brown and almond shaped, because they were beautiful eyes. I didn’t mind that her skin was a bit darker, because it was perfect, beautiful skin... even though physically she may not be my mini-me, she’s still undeniably my daughter, and for me, that’s enough to overshadow the fact that some people may stare at us at the library or the grocery store and assume that she’s not biologically mine."

The lesson here is that strangers need to do a better job of not asking questions that could potentially injure or offend. There are plenty of other things to make small talk about than physical resemblance. But until that perfect day arrives, it may comfort you to know that newborns are more likely to resemble the father than the mother, reported The New York Times. This can also change over time, so take comfort in knowing that your son or daughter might still end up looking more like you than they do now.

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