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A tour of your baby’s developing body.
All parents want their newborn baby to be healthy and perfect. So it’s not surprising that new parents have a lot of questions when it comes to their baby’s developing body. While it’s true to some degree that a baby is like a miniature version of mom and dad, newborns may experience the world quite differently than an adult does. A lot of the senses and body functions aren’t fully formed when a baby is born, and it takes time for these abilities to develop.
The newborn baby’s head
Looking at your baby’s head, you’ll probably want to make sure those little ears and eyes are working right. Johnnie P Frazier, MD, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas Health Science Centre at Houston, says that babies can actually hear fairly well when they’re born. A baby’s eyes, however, take a little time to adjust to their new surroundings. “Newborns can only focus eight to ten inches in front of them,” Dr Frazier says. “They like to focus on the human face, and prefer simple black and white images to more complex images. Primary colors become more stimulating about two months later.” You’ll also notice when looking at your newborn baby that the skull isn’t fully formed. New parents may also wonder when their baby will start getting teeth. While babies are born without visible teeth, the development of baby teeth begins in the womb. The basic structure of the teeth and the hard tissue around each tooth is formed by three or four months of fetal development. A baby’s first tooth (bottom front incisor) will likely make an appearance through the gums at around seven or eight months of age. The top front incisors should follow about a month or two later.
The newborn baby’s body
Many of the bones in a baby’s body are primarily made up of cartilage at birth. This makes them flexible yet very strong. But don’t be surprised if your baby looks curled up. “Infants look like little frogs when they’re born, keeping their arms, legs, and hips flexed,” says Hannah Chow-Johnson, MD, assistant professor in the department of pediatrics at Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago. “As they mature neurologically, they’ll start relaxing their arms and legs, which become more extended.” You may notice a spot in the middle of baby’s chest called the xiphoid process. “This looks like a small bump in the middle of the chest and is an extension of the sternum,” Chow-Johnson says. “This is normal, but it looks more prominent in infants.”
The newborn baby’s immune system
Most newborn babies are born with a functional immune system, however it’s not fully developed. “The immune system is partially protected by the transfer of maternal immunoglobulins into a newborn’s circulation until approximately six months of age,” Frazier says. But a baby’s immunity system has yet to build up antibodies from a lifetime of exposure to germs, so great care must be taken to prevent your newborn from becoming sick by contact with anyone who is ill.
Baby development signs to look for
A newborn baby’s body moves and reacts differently than that of older children, and newborns have some reflexes that older children don’t have. Dr Chow-Johnson shares some reflexes you may see in your newborn baby:
• Startle reflex. The arms and legs extend completely, usually in response to sudden movement or sound.
• Asymmetrical tonic neck. This is also called the fencer’s reflex. If you move a baby’s head to one side, the arm it’s facing will extend while the other arm flexes, so the baby will look like it’s fencing.
• Babinski reflex. This happens when you tickle an infant’s foot in an upward motion, causing the toes to fan out. “All of these reflexes normally disappear by age four to six months,” Chow-Johnson says.
Other early signs of baby development to look for include smiling, making speech sounds, and starting to lift up the head. These all happen at about one month. By two months, a baby will make more extended sounds and begin to get better at tracking you with its eyes. By four months, look for rolling, cooing, and laughing. As a new parent, you’ll watch your baby’s body move and change with delight. If you have any questions or concerns about baby development, be sure to talk with your baby’s doctor. (Everyday Health)
First Month Development
Although your newborn sleeps a lot, powerful changes are occurring in the five major areas of development:
• Physical development. Watching your baby grow in size is part of the fun of being a new parent. Don’t be alarmed if your newborn loses some weight shortly after birth. This weight usually is regained within ten to 12 days. Most newborns gain about 4 ozs (113.4 g) to 8 ozs (226.8 g) a week and grow about one in. (2.5 cm) to 1.5 in. (3.8 cm) in the first month.
• Cognitive development. Cognition is the ability to think, learn, and remember. Your newborn’s brain is developing rapidly. You promote healthy brain growth every time you interact in a positive way with your baby.
• Emotional and social development. Newborns quickly learn to communicate. They seek interaction with you and express how they feel with sounds and facial expressions. At first, instinctual behaviors, such as crying when uncomfortable, are your baby’s ways to signal his or her needs. Soon your newborn starts to subtly communicate and interact with you. For example, your baby’s eyes will track your movements.
• Language development. Your newborn is listening to and absorbing the basic and distinct sounds of language. This process forms the foundation for speech.
• Sensory and motor skills development. Newborns have all five senses. Your newborn quickly learns to recognise your face, the sound of your voice, and how you smell. Your newborn’s sense of touch is especially developed, particularly around the mouth. Your baby also has a strong sense of smell and hears fairly well. Hands are tightly fisted when alert.
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