The birth of a child is one of the most joyous experiences in life. But we know it can also be one of the most stressful and overwhelming. As new parents bring their bundles of joy home for the first time, there is often this feeling of “now what?”. How will I know if my baby is eating enough? How will I know if my baby is sleeping enough or too much? Cries too much or too little? Am I talking to my baby enough? HOW do I talk to my baby? Am I doing enough Tummy Time? The list can be endless.
The first year of your baby’s life will be full of MANY firsts. First smiles, first laughs, first words, first foods, and first steps. Having a general knowledge of infant development can help parents better understand their newborn to know what milestones they should be reaching when.
Most full-term infants attain developmental milestones in a somewhat predictable pattern. However, all babies are different, so the ages they achieve skills can vary greatly. Additionally, infants that are born pre-term generally achieve developmental milestones according to their adjusted ages. For example, an infant that is born 8 weeks early will generally be around 8 weeks behind in attaining certain skills as compared to those born full-term.
While you may not realize it, cognitive and language development skills are one of the very “firsts” your baby will experience in the first few weeks after birth.
When your baby is first born, he or she can see the most clearly at about 8-14 inches. Coincidentally (or not!), that is the same distance from their eyes to a caregiver’s face when they’re being cradled. They may begin to establish brief moments of eye contact, and may fleetingly look at your face. This may happen especially when nursing or taking a bottle. You may even see a reflexive smile in the first few weeks. Real smiles begin to emerge around 6-8 weeks of age.
When talking to infants, parents often adopt a soothing melodic speech that is somewhat exaggerated and repetitive. This is called motherese, or parentese, and is done by parents around the world—regardless of language. Babies at this age begin to respond and recognize their parents’ voices, and are soothed when they hear parentese.
Your baby will also cry— sometimes a lot! During the first few weeks, babies cry when they’re uncomfortable or hungry. They may quiet when picked up or when they hear a parent’s voice. You may also notice that your baby will make small sounds when they are content. These are called “comfort noises” and are the precursor to coos.
You may wonder if you should be using toys or gadgets to play with your baby. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with introducing simple rattles and baby toys, remember – YOU are your baby’s favorite toy. Gentle rocking, touching, and talking to your baby along with providing a sense of security is all your baby needs!
The Pediatric Therapy Team at Woman’s Hospital is here to reassure you and answer your questions regarding your infant’s development. If you have any questions or concerns, contact our team online or at 225-924-3274.