Growth and Development of a Newborn

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Although a newborn baby sleeps a lot in the first month of life, many changes are occurring in five major developmental areas. Physical development. A newborn baby may lose weight shortly after birth, which isn’t a cause for concern as it is usually regained within 10 to 12 days.

Most newborns gain about 4oz (113.4g) to 8oz (226.8g) per week and grow about 1in. (2.5cm) to 1.5in. (3.8cm) in the first month. Cognitive development. A newborn infant’s brain is developing quickly. Healthy brain growth is occurring every time you interact in a positive way with your baby.

Emotional and social development. Initially, instinctive behaviors, such as crying when uncomfortable, are a baby’s way to communicate their needs. Eventually, a newborn will start to subtly communicate and interact with you, as their eyes track your movements; and their faces light up when you cuddle and speak to them.

Language development. Speech awareness begins before birth, in utero as the fetus hears a melody of language. Speech development begins with the cry at birth, which remains the basic form of communication for an infant.

However, a newborn baby is constantly listening to and absorbing the basic and distinct sounds of language. Sensory and motor development. A newborn baby soon learns to recognize a parent’s face, sound of voice, and smell. A baby has a good sense of touch (especially around the mouth) and sense of smell.

A number of days after a birth hearing the newborn’s hearing responds most noticeably to high-pitched and loud sounds. Babies recognize and prefer sweet tastes to those that are sour, bitter, or salty.

Vision is developing rapidly but is probably the weakest of the senses. Movements are mainly
controlled by reflexes, for example the rooting reflex, which is when a newborn’s head turns and his or her mouth “reaches” toward a touch.

It is vital to your baby’s growth and development that you communicate with him or her. Use a high-pitched voice, gentle touch, hugs, and kisses. An environment that is rich in stimulation, comfort, and loving attention enhances many areas of a baby’s development, including brain growth and intelligence.

Research shows that babies who are talked to throughout their first few years usually learn language skills more easily than those who are not. Newborns are more interested in their caregivers than they are in toys or other objects. You may feel overwhelmed during your baby’s first month, no previous life experiences prepare first-time parents for their new role.

It is completely natural to be confused and concerned by your newborn. You will become familiar with your newborn’s needs by paying attention to his or her behavior. For example, a fussy cry and turning away usually means “change what we are doing”; an alert, bright-eyed look means “I am interested in what’s going on.”

Trusting your instincts—to cuddle and rock a crying baby or to talk to your baby in a high-pitched “baby talk” voice—is usually the “right” thing to do. You will begin to develop a rhythm with your baby, where you will instinctively know each other’s needs and moods.

As a rule, you should take your baby for a checkup within a week after delivery. You will have additional checkups within the first month, although their frequency depends on individual preference and needs.

Do not be afraid to call a health professional any time you have concerns about your newborn’s health or care. It is normal and expected for parents of newborns to have questions and to make frequent visits and calls to their health professional.