We’ve all heard that old saw that the only things newborn babies do are eat, sleep, and poop. But that is only what we observe on the outside. Inside, there is a hurricane of activity! The baby’s development at this age is nothing short of miraculous! To get an idea of how the brain develops, watch this two minute video on Brain Architecture.
As his parents and caregivers, you have a huge role to play. Most of what you need to do is common sense: love, nurture, and enrich your baby’s life. What’s interesting is what goes on inside your baby’s brain while you are taking care of him. This video will amaze you – Serve and Return.
Infants’ basic job description is to grow –physically, cognitively, and emotionally. As caregivers, your job is to protect and nurture them, provide a loving and enriched home that stimulates their tiny but fast growing brains, and create that lifelong bond of love and security.
A rather unsettling developmental behavior of infants that occurs in the early months is called the Period of Purple Crying. This is a normal behavior for infants from about 2 weeks to 2 months. It stands for Peak of crying, Unexpected, Resists soothing, Pain-like face, Long-lasting, Evening. Babies will cry for seemingly no reason for up to five hours in extreme cases, most often in the late afternoon or evening, and you may not be able to console them. It is very frustrating and parents and caregivers need to know how to comfort themselves as much as the baby. Fortunately, Purple Crying is a growing phase, and it will come to an end as baby grows. To learn more, go to What is the Period of Purple Crying?
Is My Infant On Track?
No two babies will develop at the same pace, but there are some norms you can use as a guide. Physical, cognitive, language, and social-emotional developmental milestones will give you a range of behaviors your baby should master and what to look forward to in the next growth stage. If you are concerned about any area of development, there are a number of activities you can do with baby to encourage growth. If you are worried that your baby is falling behind, consult with your doctor to decide if your baby needs more specialized help.
A few excellent sources for Developmental Milestones:
Center for Disease Control – Learn the Signs/Act Early and Milestone Moments
Zero to Three – Your Child’s Development
Healthy Children.Org – Ages and Stages
- Baby will “talk” to you by responding to your voice with “oh,” “eh,” and “ah”; baby babble is the beginning of speech and conversation.
- Baby will roll in both directions and begin to sit up without support.
- Baby knows familiar faces and likes to play with others, especially Mom and Dad.
- Baby will show curiosity by trying to grab toys and objects just out of reach.
Ideas for Learning and Growth
Talking, Singing, Reading to Baby: Even though babies aren’t born talking, they are born listening! They are learning language from the tone and rhythm of your voice and are beginning to decipher words much earlier than you may think! Even more importantly, this is part of the serve and return pattern of brain growth. When your baby is anxious – yes, even babies get anxious – hearing your voice can calm them, and they learn to calm themselves through cooing and babbling. Take a few minutes and watch Crying, Cooing, Communication:Baby’s First Year.
Nurturing: For the first six months, breast milk is all your baby will need to build a strong brain and strong body. Breast feeding your child will provide nature’s perfect food to develop strong brain growth, healthy weight gain, and a strong immunization system to ward off illness. It also helps create that special loving bond with baby that is the base of social and emotional growth. If breast feeding is becoming difficult there is help; check out our resource page for local help and information. If your infant is using a bottle, use this feeding time to cuddle and develop those strong bonds that make him feel safe and nurtured. This helps that little brain develop.
Safety: Until the baby’s bones and muscles are strong enough to support him, it’s up to his caregiver to protect him, especially his head and neck. A baby’s head is heavy and dense compared to his body mass. Without support, his head can be jarred and cause serious damage. That is why we never shake or jostle a baby. For more information, watch this short video – Never Shake: Preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome.
Safe Sleep: Babies should always be put to sleep on their backs, and their sleep area needs to free of blankets, pillows, and toys. Since we started putting babies to bed on their backs and in a clear bed, cases of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) have declined dramatically. Often these deaths were actually choking accidents caused by the baby not being able to raise their heads or push off blankets or toys that were blocking their mouths.
Tummy Time: This is the baby exercise gym! Let your baby lie on their tummy for a few minutes several times a day so they can practice lifting their heads and doing little baby push-ups. As they grow older and stronger, they will want more tummy time to master more gymnastics like rolling over, and ultimately crawling, walking and jumping. Believe it or not, tummy time is also essential for developing the strength in hands and fingers needed for fine motor skills like writing.
What to Watch For
The CDC suggests you consult with your doctor if at six months of age your baby:
- Doesn’t respond to sounds around him.
- Doesn’t watch things as they move.
- Doesn’t smile at people.
- Can’t hold head steady.
- Doesn’t coo or make sounds.
- Doesn’t bring things to mouth.
- Doesn’t roll in both directions.
- Doesn’t push down with legs when feet are placed on a hard surface.
- Has trouble moving one or both eyes in all directions.
This may be a sign of delayed development, something that could be resolved with the right interventions. The important thing is to act early! The earlier you act, the easier it will be to get baby on track developmentally.
Your Baby’s Doctor: At this age, your baby’s pediatrician or family doctor should be your first call if you suspect something is wrong with your baby. If you are concerned about your baby, it is better to know than to guess!
Muskegon Area Services: A list of community groups, agencies, and schools that can help you and your baby.
Web Sources: Carefully researched websites that will give you a wealth of information on child development and parenting.