A subtrope of Dawson Casting, one specifically about newborns, or at least TV so-called newborns. Whenever a supposedly just-born child appears on TV, the baby you will see will actually be several months old. Put this down to a mixture of simple ethics, employment laws, and casting laws that make it unacceptable to cast a real newborn in such a role. This is because sound stages are hot, bright, stuffy, and dusty places—not a great environment for a newborn infant prone to infection and unable to control body temperature.
This can have an unfortunate side effect, due to the fact that Reality Is Unrealistic, making a person's first encounter with a real newborn possibly squicky. Real newborns aren't clean-looking gurgling bundles of cuteness. Real newborns are covered in mucus, blood, amniotic fluid, and other bodily substances, up to and including fecal matter. There is a chance they could be covered in a peach fuzz-like substance called lanugo (a remnant of when our ancestors were a lot hairier than we are now; most fetuses lose it before birth, but obviously, a few don't). They may also be covered in a waxy substance called vernix caseosum, which is basically just congealed skin oils, dead cells, and lanugo. Their skin will usually have a red hue to it as well and look somewhat "wrinkly", especially if they are considerably premature. On top of all this, most newborns have noticeably misshapen heads from the birth process, since their skulls aren't yet closed and their bones are very flexible.note To say nothing of the placenta that should be popping out with the babe. Even newborns that have been cleaned up and are a couple days old are generally Ugly Cute at best. It's been said that all newborn babies look like Winston Churchill.
This can even carry over to newborn animal babies, which fiction likes to depict as the cutest, smallest things ever to arrive, when in actuality, most altricial newborn animals arrive slimy, hairless, and often eyeless because their eyes may be covered by a layer of skin that takes some time to wither away. Take a look at a newborn rabbit◊ and you'll think your bunny just gave birth to a dumpling. Marsupials (such as kangaroos, opossums, possums, quolls, and koalas) are even more altricial, looking uncannily like gummy bears and being about the same size.
In fiction, birth is a much cleaner, nicer (but still painful for the mother) process, and in American films and TV shows, usually happens in a tent. The four-month-old tot pops out of his/her mommy as clean as whistle, gets bundled up, and is handed to Mommy (or possibly Daddy), looking around serenely. Don't expect this in real life, where a healthy newborn should actually be screaming and wailing loudly (as this indicates that they are breathing normally).note
This is an Omnipresent Trope, so only aversions, subversions, inversions, parodies, and the like should be added.
- Blood+ has two examples, which are both justified, since the babies in question are chiropteran babies:
- The newborn Saya and Diva were described by the first Joel as having the appearance of two-month-old human babies.
- Diva's daughters are an even better example. When they emerge from their cocoons, they already have full heads of hair, as opposed to small tufts on their foreheads as Saya and Diva had, and after a moment or two of crying, they quickly shift to smiling and giggling.
- While not shown for obvious reason, a scene in Doraemon has Nobita goes back to the day he was born, when he sees himself as a baby, complaining that it's "fuzzy like a monkey" (which might have been lanugo explained above), of course his parents at the time didn't take this too well.
- The Dragon Ball spinoff comic Dragonball Minus plays with this trope in an interesting way. Son Goku was revealed to have been kept in an incubation tank for three years. Due to the length of time and extra space, he looked like a toddler◊ as soon as he was "born."
- Played for Laughs in Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic—Hinahoho and Rurumu, both of whom are about seven feet tall, have a child who cannot only coo and toddle seemingly from birth, but is almost as big as his ten-year-old "brother" and reluctant babysitter, Ja'far.
- Averted in Miracleman, where the newborn Winter Moran is shown fairly accurately; her skin is flushed, her limbs are withered, her face is wrinkled, her head is misshapen from being squeezed through a birth canal, and she's covered in gunge and placenta. Proving that Reality Is Unrealistic, Moore got reader mail asking if the baby was okay or accusing the baby of being Off-Model, and had to explain that they had used a reference book containing pictures of real newborn babies.
- A subversion in Chapter 13 of the Superjail! fanfic Extended Stay when the Warden and the Mistress's twins are born. Sure, they had umbilical cords, but there was no mention of them being covered in blood or other fluids for that matter.
- Subverted in My Fluttering Heart. In canon, Flurry Heart looks different from other newborns. She has the eyes of an older pony. In this AU, it's justified in that Flurry wasn't actually a newborn. Shining found her after killing Chrysalis, realized she was his daughter, and brought her home to raise with his wife. Cadance decided to pass herself off as pregnant, wait several weeks, then pretend she had just given birth.
- In Tangled, when Rapunzel is supposed to be so young that her parents are still celebrating her birth, she has flowing (magic) hair and can hold up her own head and focus and otherwise act months older. The narration describes the period of time before Gothel abducts her as "a moment."
- In Hercules, the title character has presumably just been born at the beginning since, as in the above examples, his birth is being celebrated. Yet he both looks and acts more like a one-year-old. Then again, he is a god until Pain and Panic turn him mortal.
- Animal variant: In Ratatouille, all the baby rats that are seen evacuating the colony's old home are fully furred and open-eyed, with not a pinkie to be seen. However, this might be played with, as we don't know exactly how long ago the babies were born.
- Aversion: Children of Men used a CGI baby in the birth scene.
- Ditto for Revenge of the Sith, where both Luke and Leia are CG and so is the droid midwife. Yet they still looked like this.
- Attempted aversion/bizarre example: Judd Apatow wanted to shoot an actual birth for Knocked Up; Anne Hathaway is said to have turned down the project because of this. Apatow abandoned this plan when he realized that he would need a worker's permit for the unborn child.
- Taken to its most insane in Rudy Ray Moore's Petey Wheatstraw, the Devils' Son-in-Law, where the titular character emerges from the womb looking about twelve years old and wearing a diaper! He then attacks his doctor.
- The Nativity Story is odd in the fact that while the baby playing Jesus could maybe pass for newborn, the baby John the Baptist comes out of the womb looking as if it's already attending preschool. The contrast between them makes the problem much worse than if they had used two older babies.
- Total aversion in the film Window Water Baby Moving by Stan Brakhage, in which Brakhage actually films his own wife in the few days before giving birth, as well as the filming during the birthing process... from up close. The fact that the film that there is no music or dialogue only highlights the intense (and squicky nature) of birth. The camera only being a foot away from his wife's... "area" also lends to this feeling.
- Spike Lee's She Hate Me averted this in a rather traumatizing fashion. Not one, but two births were actually filmed and used in the movie. Pretty squicky stuff, especially since you expect the standard "mother screaming/cut to clean, swaddled child." Nope. You get two real kids popping out of real mothers right before your very eyes.
- In the TV movie Million Dollar Babies, about the Dionne quintuplets, the producers used animatronic dolls for the newborn quints. Using older babies to represent the newborn Dionne girls, who were two months premature, and small for that, would have been ridiculous, and defeatist as well, since it's a major portion of the first half-hour of the film that the girls are tiny, premature, and not expected to live. In addition to that, finding five babies who looked alike would be difficult. Obviously, using real, underweight newborns or preemies was out of the question. The film was made before CGI was an option.
- Junior has Arnold Schwarzenegger give birth, and like George Lopez, they CGI his adult face onto a CGI baby... It's Nightmare Fuel for everyone, including Arnold, which is fair, as it is a nightmare in the film.
- French film Romance has what appears to be an actual birth. Close-up of vagina and everything.
- Averted as much as possible in Man of Steel, where newborn Kal-El is all CGI for the birth scene.
- 1929 Soviet experimental documentary Man with a Movie Camera, basically a Day in the Life of the Soviet Union, includes among other things real footage of a woman really popping a baby out.
- Addams Family Values borders on parody, as Baby Pubert is even able to baby-talk and crawl as soon as he gets home from the hospital. And, of course, he has Gomez's mustache. This can probably all be justified by noting that Addamses aren't supposed to be normal.
- Initially averted in the the Rhys Darby/Sasha Alexander romcom Coming and Going: during the birth scene the baby is heard but never shown, even though its skin color is a plot point. The baby is shown a few hours later, however, and it's not as large as some of the newborns falling under this trope.
- Played straight in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, in which Fanny, John Little's wife, gives birth to a very large newborn via Caesarian section performed by Azeem—though it is true that if any of Robin's men were to sire a giant infant, it would be Little John.
- Averted in the Tom Clancy novel The Bear and the Dragon, where President Ryan allowed the press to briefly film his newborn fourth child shortly after his birth.
- In Ramona Forever, Ramona is quite confused upon seeing her newborn sister, with her red-tinted skin and wild hair. It takes her aback to hear that she looked like this when born, but accepts it and decides it's not so bad if she grew up to be "wonderful, blunderful me".
- Vorkosigan Saga: Inverted in the novel Barrayar: Bothari tries to pass the newborn Ivan Vorpatril as being a few months old, but the person he's trying to fool quickly figures out that the boy's stated age would be correct if he changed 'weeks' to 'hours'.
- Either TV Land or Nick-at-Nite once ran a commercial that lampshaded the entire TV-birth process, including this trope. It went something like this:
Kid: Where do babies come from?
Mother: Well, when two TV characters love each other very much, generally in the third season, the woman wears a very special pillow on her tummy. For three to five episodes. The man panics, and the woman is rushed off to hair and makeup, so she can look fresh as a daisy. And voila four-month-old newborns!
- Hera on Battlestar Galactica is born tiny, bloody, and generally looking slightly premature.
- Averted in Call the Midwife, where nearly all of the babies that appear are actual newborns (with the exception of the birth scenes, which substitute a model). They can do this because both consultant midwife Terri Coates and the baby's mum are always just off-camera.
- Similarly parodied in the Chappelle's Show parody of Antwone Fisher, where close-up shots of newborn Dave show his adult head. (Wider shots show an obviously fake baby... with an enormous penis.)
- Both used and averted on Desperate Housewives in season four: Danielle's son was born with amniotic fluid and all and looked like the average newborn for quite a while afterward, but Susan's (month early) son was born perfectly clean and looked to be the average size of a four-month-old baby. Of course, Danielle's son was born on Hallowe'en and delivered by a doctor dressed as Frankenstein's Monster, which may have influenced the realistically grisly nature of the birth.
- Doctor Who: Quite neatly averted in "A Good Man Goes to War". Although it's the first time we see the baby, the previous episode ended just before the birth, and the opening scene appears at first to be just-post-birth, a throwaway line of dialogue near the beginning of the episode establishes that it's been a month since the baby was actually born, accounting for this trope.
- Parodied on George Lopez. Any time a flashback occurs where George is an infant, it's an infant's body with George's head computer generated on.
- Inversion: In a Heroes flashback in season one, an eighteen-month-old Claire (an age when children are often walking and might even have a word or two in their vocabularies) was played by an eight-month-old baby.
- Not shown on camera, but a Law & Order about infanticidal teen parents averted the sanitized-birth elements of this trope, citing as evidence the gory mess (blood, amniotic fluid, infant feces) which the birth made of a hotel room.
- Aaron on Lost was actually a newborn at birth, but thereafter was played by a series of significantly older babies. Of course, it's difficult to find blond, blue-eyed babies in Hawaii, especially to play a character who only ages two months in three seasons of episodes.
- One Saturday Night Live skit has the newborn baby played by Will Ferrell.
- Little baby Jake in the Sesame Street spin off, Sesame English (which teaches English to foreigners, starting with Taiwanese and Chinese), is portrayed by Roger Bart (who was 37 at the time of first airing) of all people.
- The first-season episode "Brief Candle" of Stargate SG-1 has a suspiciously large newborn. However, Rapid Aging is central to the plot.
- In the fifth season premiere of Stargate Atlantis, the baby used to portray Teyla's newborn is about two weeks old. The commentary notes that they were counting down when the actual expectant mother would have her baby since it had to be at least 14 days old before they could use it in the scene.
- Averted on Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Disaster" when Keiko O'Brien gives birth to Molly with a cutaway shot that looks realistic.
- According to the companion book, a half-Bajoran, half-Cardassian newborn was needed for an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, so they got the guys who built Chucky to do it. Sadly (and hilariously), the baby really looked like a Cardassian/Bajoran Chucky, so in the end, they used a normal doll wrapped in a blanket and had one cutaway scene, using a four-month-old with a small rubber prosthetic forehead applied with K-Y Jelly.
- Averted in Russian series Tainy Sledstviya season 1, where real pregnacy and childbirth of Anna Kovalchuk (as investigator Maria Shvetsova) was included, and her newborn daughter Zlata (as Maria's daughter Zlata) was shown.
- Averted in The X-Files episode "Existence". Baby William is played by Jerry Shiban, the newborn son of one of the producers of the show. He was only about two weeks old when the episode was filmed. Creepily enough, he does look like he could be Mulder and Scully's child.
- Inverted by this Pampers ad, in which the baby does appear to be a newborn (albeit cleaned up).
- The Onion satirized this with one of its headlines: "Woman on TV gives birth to four month old baby".
- On one of his comedy albums, Bill Cosby describes how unprepared he was for his newborn's appearance:
"...As they started to clean it off... I went over to my wife, kissed her gently on the lips, and said, 'Darling, I love you very much. You just gave birth to a lizard.'"
- Ironically, when he got his own sitcom in the Eighties, he played an obstetrician.
- Chad Daniels had this response to a couple who refused to choose a name for their baby, preferring to let their newborn's beauty "inspire" them when it emerges from the womb:
"Really? Well, have fun raising a kid named StinkyUglyWrinklyPurplyShitty!"
- Robin Williams, in his concert at the Metropolitan Opera House, refers to his newborn son as "a little old man, dipped in 40-weight" (presumably, 40-weight motor oil).
- Swedish comedian Jan Bylund about when his daughter was born:
- The Little Sisters of the L.O.L. Surprise! dolls look identical to their older counterparts, with some having a full head of hair.
- Played with in Beyond: Two Souls. In the "Homeless" chapter, Jodie helps a woman give birth, and part of the mission involves cutting the newborn's umbilical cord. The baby, however, is otherwise completely clean.
- In Blue Yonder, while his father is still pushing his mother about in a wheelchair after his birth, Jared can sit up unaided. May be a moot point since he can also fly.
- In Sabrina Online, Sabrina's daughter Danielle is a variant. She has an appropriate look for a newborn◊, but she has the size of this trope. Everyone calling her "tiny" notwithstanding.
- The Ren & Stimpy Show averts this whenever possible. Any shots of newborn babies show them with translucent red skin, showing off veins and eyeballs for maximum ickiness.
- Voltron: Legendary Defender: In flashbacks, Lotor, Allura, and Keith are all seen as newborns. All three are unusually large for newborn infants, are without red-toned skin, and have full heads of hair. Baby Allura can even hold up her head while wearing a too-large helmet. Possibly justified since the first two are aliens and the third is a human-alien hybrid.
- In one episode of As Told by Ginger, the characters go to a farm. Off-screen they see a newborn calf and are grossed out by the afterbirth.
- Quite common in paintings depicting Jesus' birth.
- This was taken to extremes in Medieval paintings, where all babies looked like miniature adults instead of like actual children.
- A So Bad, It's Good birther video purporting to be proof that Barack Obama was born in Kenya featured, among its many errors, a newborn that appeared to be six months old.
- In animals, this is referred to as being precocial, when an animal comes out of the egg or womb ready to fend for itself. Most reptiles do this, as well as a good chunk of birds. It's comparatively rare amongst mammals, but...
- Guinea pig pups are born fully furred, with open eyes, running around. They are essentially born as three-month-old newborns.
- Same thing goes for hares, as well as any other animals that stand and walk soon after birth (like horses and cows).
- Taken to extremes by Arctic seals, which give birth on unstable pack ice. Because there's no solid place on which to park a baby seal for longer than a few weeks, tops, female seals bear highly-developed young that only need to nurse for a short period, as little as four days for hooded seals.
- This would apply to kiwis, where, once they hatch, they can fend for themselves.
- Megapode chicks are so well-developed that they can fly within a day or so of hatching.
- A bizarre case overlapping with real life that also showed Reality Is Unrealistic in 2004 when Bobbie Jo Stinnett was murdered by Lisa L. Montgomery and had her baby crudely cut from her womb, with Montgomery claiming the baby was hers and taking her home. When investigators arrived at Montgomery's home and saw the infant, they noticed that the day-old baby's head was round and not conical, which was an indication that the child had not been delivered vaginally, as Montgomery claimed. This is because a newborn's skeleton is mainly formed by cartilage (the flexible structure in your nose or ears), rather than bone. And being pushed out of a vagina puts a fair bit of pressure on the infant's skull, resulting in a distinctive shape that usually takes a while to disappear. This, along with other evidence, allowed them to arrest Montgomery and return the baby to her real father.
- Anatomy texts depicting childbirth show the infant in correct proportion, but generally omit the blood, fragments of amniotic sac, and other messy elements because it would obscure details in the illustration.
- On extremely rare occasions, babies can be born with a full head of hair. One example is Chanco, a baby girl born in Japan.