Once I got pregnant, my then husband and I became obsessed with whom our baby would resemble. So when Jason debuted at 7 pounds 3 ounces, with a shock of black hair, we were positive he'd inherited my family's average build and his dad's thick mane. Even so, he looked like he belonged to another couple -- an Inuit one, perhaps. While you can't help but make predictions, you can never be sure what your little one will look like. Even once Baby is in your arms and you've decided that he has your chin and Nana's eyes, you don't know how those features may change. Take my son, now 5. His face could be a clone of mine as a kid, and he's at the top of the growth chart his dad is 6'6". And that black hair? Totally blond. Scheiner, Ph. No wonder it's so hard to know what kids will look like! Still, scientists do have some understanding about why we develop the features we do. Each individual inherits multiple gene pairs that play a role in determining hair color a pair means one gene from Mom and one from Dad. Say your baby inherits 10 pairs of genes in all; that means 20 different genes could affect her tresses, says Michael Begleiter, a genetic counselor at Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics, in Kansas City, Missouri. Scientists haven't yet determined how many genes ultimately determine hair's hue. In a case like mine, in which two brunettes produce a towhead, both parents carry recessive blond genes among the dominant browns -- but only the light genes were passed on. The genes that set hair color as well as eye color and complexion also regulate our melanocytes, or color-producing cells. Where your baby's strands will fall on the spectrum from black to brown to red to blonde may be governed by how many melanocytes she has, what pigment they make one type, eumelanin, produces black to brown; the other, pheomelanin, makes yellow to red , and how much of each shade they churn out. The more color-producing cells your kid has and the more eumelanin those cells make, the darker her hair will be. If she has relatively few melanocytes that mostly manufacture eumelanin, she'll be light brown or blonde; the more pheomelanin her cells produce, the redder her hair will be. Of course, as you've probably noted from looking at your own baby pics, hair color isn't necessarily stable over time. Your baby's mop may undergo changes, particularly as she hits puberty, when hormones can activate genes that cause it to darken or curl. Fun Fact: Why do some family members look alike and others don't at all? Kids share 50 percent of their DNA with parents and siblings, so there's room for variation. Like many babies, our son was born with bluish-grayish-not-sure-what-color-that-is eyes. Unless a baby's eyes are very dark at birth, they'll typically change. Starr explains. Keep in mind that it will take at least six months before an infant's eye color stabilizes. At least two genes influence the shade that develops, and each can come in two forms, or alleles: one that has brown and blue versions, the other with green and blue versions. Your baby's eye color will depend on the combo of alleles he inherits from you and your partner. If you have dark eyes and your partner's are light, Baby is likely to end up with dark eyes as well. The brown allele is dominant, so if he gets one, he'll develop chocolate eyes no matter what else is in his code. Still, even two brown-eyed parents can produce a light-eyed kid if they both carry recessive blue genes. If there are blue eyes on both sides of the family tree, your peanut may get them too. AB Poll: Whom does your baby look like? As I learned with Jason, a newborn's measurements don't necessarily predict her future height and weight.
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