Your newborn’s development
In this article
- Limbs are still curled
- Ruled by his hunger
- Crying is the main form of communication
- He only has eyes for you
- Learning begins immediately
- Playing with your newborn
- Is my baby developing normally?
Limbs are still curled
Your newborn baby will probably look ‘scrunched up’, with his arms and legs not fully extended. This is normal, and his limbs will uncurl as he gets used to being outside your uterus. If he appears bowlegged, don’t worry. It’s part of the stretching-out process and will most likely take care of itself by the time he’s five or six months old.
By the end of the month, your baby may lift his head briefly when he’s lying on his stomach and may also be able to turn it from side to side. Jerky movements give way to more fluid ones as his nervous system and muscle control mature. Still, your baby’s primitive reflexes, such as sucking and chewing on his hands, remain dominant.
Newborns are adjusting to a new world very different from the warm, safe confines of the womb, which is why so many infants take to — being wrapped securely in a blanket.
Ruled by his hunger
Food is the most important thing in your newborn’s life, with sleep running a close second. Most newborn babies will feed every two to three hours around the clock.
Sleeping patterns are equally intermittent. Most newborns sleep for a total of 16 to 17 hours in a 24-hour period, but that’s usually broken up into eight or so naps. By the end of the month your baby may have developed something of a feeding and sleeping pattern, but you may not notice any real pattern for months.
Crying is the main form of communication
Your baby doesn’t have much of a personality now — or at least what you might recognize as personality. But he’s busy expressing himself the only way he knows how: crying. He spends his time moving in and out of several different states of sleepiness, quiet alertness, and active alertness.
Having undergone the trauma of birth, he’s now trying to deal with an onrush of stimulation. This month your baby becomes quiet and calm when you speak to him gently and hold him upright.
He may even make an ‘ah’ sound when he hears your voice and sees your face. Most babies love to be held, caressed, kissed, stroked, massaged, and carried. Touch is an important means of communicating with your baby.
He only has eyes for you
Your baby’s vision is still pretty fuzzy. Your face is the most interesting thing to him right now, followed by high-contrast items which is why black and white toys and mobiles have been introduced.
In fact, a newborn’s range of vision is only 12 inches/30 centimetres or so. In other words, your baby can clearly see the face of the person holding him but not much beyond that. Studies show that babies prefer human faces to all other patterns or colours.
So keep your face close to your baby’s so he can study your features, and talk to him.
Learning begins immediately
You may notice short periods of time when your newborn is quiet and alert. This is prime time for learning. Use these periods to play and talk with with your baby. But if you try to interact with him and he doesn’t seem receptive, he may have become sleepy or moved into a state of active alertness.
Playing with your newborn
Mobiles with high-contrast patterns, and picture books with strong line drawings will captivate your baby. But be alert to your baby’s reactions to stimulation and interaction. While it’s great to help him start learning about his world, some babies can tolerate only brief periods of interaction, or stimulation of just one sense at a time.
Your baby will show you he’s overstimulated by yawning, averting his gaze, arching his back, turning his face, fussing, or crying. He’ll also tell you what he enjoys, and believe it or not, you’ll understand his signs in no time.
Is my baby developing normally?
Remember, each baby is unique and meets physical milestones at his own pace. These are simply guidelines to what your baby has the potential to accomplish — if not right now, then shortly.
Babies find their own reflections fascinating. You can amuse him by propping up an unbreakable baby mirror at crib side for him to focus on.
He won’t recognize himself just yet but will watch the movement in the mirror at least some of the time. A play gym with plenty of compelling things to watch, swipe at, and listen to allows your baby to practice his arm, hand, and finger coordination skills — and lying down becomes less boring.
In the first few months, he won’t move his arms purposefully to really try and reach particular objects — this sort of movement comes later, in month four or five.And if your baby was born prematurely, you’ll probably find that he’ll need time before he can do the same things as other children his chronological age.
That’s why most babies born prematurely are given two ages by their pediatricians — their chronological age (calculated from their birthday) and their adjusted age (calculated from their due date). You should measure your child against his adjusted age, not his chronological one. Don’t worry. Most doctors assess a preterm child’s development from the time he should have been born and evaluate his skills accordingly. If you have any questions at all about your baby’s development, check with your doctor.