Congratulations, your baby has finally arrived! All the months of anticipation and preparation are wrapped up in a precious little bundle. He is all yours to love and nurture and watch grow. Watching him grow will be fascinating. There is so much that will happen, you will barely believe your eyes. Your newborn will certainly travel through many stages of growth and development, and you will of course, want to do all you can to foster each and every one. His brain is an intriguing combination of many parts and over the course of the first year of life, each part will evolve as he experiences extraordinary growth. Just what is going on in that precious little head of his, and what should you expect during each of these stages? Here’s a breakdown of the first six months.
Birth to 2 Months
Your baby’s brain has been developing since his first days in the womb. Nerve connections were built allowing him to move around, create brain tissue and prepare for future learning. By the time of delivery, your tiny tot can hear you. At about one month, he will be able to connect a sound with its source, and his favorite sound will be the human voice, most likely, yours! Talking, reading, and singing are all everyday activities that will aid his brain growth helping it form new connections.
Here’s looking at you, kid! It is now well known that your baby can see at birth. Although his eye muscles are not fully developed, he can focus on things that are about 8-12 inches away. That is just about the distance between you and he during feeding. The part of his brain that registers vision is working diligently and rapidly at this time.
From birth, the part of your infant’s brain that registers the sense of touch is well developed. While he can perceive touch throughout his body, the most sensitive parts of his body are around his mouth, palms, and the soles of his itty-bitty feet. Pay special attention to these areas when cuddling and caressing!
It’s no secret that a newborn’s most effective form of communication is crying. At this early stage of life, it is the only way he can get your attention. And he will! As his brain is quite active at this point, the slightest bit of unpleasantness is enough for him to cry out. Your response to his cries, comforting, feeding, or cleaning gives him a sense of safety and security. Those feelings of safety and security will remain and contribute to the happiness he experiences at a later stage in life.
Development between 2 and 4 Months
The most heartwarming development you will see at about two months is your cherub’s genuine smile. Until this point, what looked like a smile, especially while sleeping, was a reaction of his early nervous system. This time it’s for real! Your baby is also entering into a new world of discovery. He is learning that his hands are part of his body and is discovering the difference between touching something and being touched. Can’t you just picture an infant touching his Mommy’s face with fingers splayed across her cheeks?
Your baby will begin to converse with you in more ways now than just crying. Baby babble will be the language of the day. He will become quite the conversationalist and his sounds will progress from vowels, like ohs and ahs, to combinations of consonants like Ps, Bs, Ms and Ds. And guess who will be his favorite talk buddy? You!
Movement in general is beginning to ramp up during these months as the part of the brain responsible for it is very active. Regular play and tummy time are important now as your growing infant is stretching and kicking his way toward learning how to roll. Play tracking games, those that involve moving his eyes and head from side to side to follow an object like a toy or your face. Introduce toys one at a time to give him time to focus on each one. Rattles and soft toys with bright colors in different sizes and shapes or that offer gentle sounds will be fascinating to him. Just be careful about what is within baby’s reach, because just about everything will go straight to his mouth.
At about four months, you will want to work on establishing schedules and routines around feeding, sleeping and playtime for your baby. This can take a lot of effort and some trial and error. As you incorporate various activities like a warm bath or a certain type of music into your daily routine, your baby will begin to learn what is coming next.
Growing and Growing at 4 to 6 Months
Your little one is on a roll! You may see the first attempts at sitting up and he has better head control so may lift his head well when lying down. You may also see a tooth poking its way out.
Baby’s memory and attention span is on the rise now. With burgeoning language skills your pint-sized babbler will recognize words and try to repeat the sounds he hears. He may be a music lover and it will be fun to see how he reacts to different types of music. Don’t worry, he’ll let you know what he likes! Use music as a focused activity. Research has shown that babies who listen to music display better communication skills. At this stage of development, he can also signal to you some of his wants and needs like holding up both arms asking to be picked up. His own little personality is beginning to shine through!
At about six months, your pediatrician may recommend introducing solid foods to your baby. Of course, by solid, we mean pureed fruits and vegetables, or single-grain cereal mixed with formula or breast milk. Do continue feeding formula or breast milk to ensure you are meeting your baby’s nutritional needs during this early stage of food development. Introduce one food item at a time and wait a few days before offering a new food so that you can identify a possible allergic reaction. At no point during your child’s first year should he be fed cow’s milk, honey, salt, or artificial sweeteners as his little tummy (digestive system) simply cannot process these food items.
If your little darling is concentrating on one object or following a ball, for instance, as it rolls through a room, you’re not seeing things. His vision is clearer now. Position your baby in front of a mirror and watch with delight how he studies his reflection.
Keep talking, keep reading, keep singing! The tone of your voice conveys ideas and emotions to your baby and allows him to continue to discover the world around him.
How fun and exciting it is to watch your baby grow! He will reach so many milestones in such a short period of time. You won’t want to miss a single one! Most importantly, provide your special little sweetie with a loving, nurturing, and stimulating environment. All are essential to his ever expanding and wonder-filled development.