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Babies are called newborns during their first month of
life. Although your newborn sleeps a lot, powerful changes are occurring in the
five major areas of development.
The most important way to help your baby grow and develop is to
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. 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 and wonder "Am I doing this right?" No previous life experiences prepare
first-time parents for this new role. It is completely normal to be confused
and frustrated 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." And 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 be able to read each
other's needs and moods.
Your baby's doctor will likely recommend a specific schedule of routine
newborn visits. These visits are important to check for problems and to make sure that your child is growing and developing as expected.
Do not be
afraid to call your baby's doctor any time you have concerns about your
newborn's health or general care. It is normal and expected for parents of
newborns to have questions and to make frequent visits and calls to the
Learning about newborn growth and development:
Seeing a doctor:
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
Expect your baby to develop in five
You may wonder whether your baby's daily patterns are
typical. During your baby's first few weeks, most of your time will be spent
simply making sure your baby is fed every few hours, comforted, and held, and
has his or her diaper changed. Pay attention to cues. You will begin to
discover your baby's individual needs and preferences.
following information can give you an idea about what to expect about your
Although you may feel prepared for
your baby, the reality of the constant care a newborn needs can shock many
parents. A newborn affects your life in ways that simply can't be anticipated.
It is only through experience that you can fully understand the impact of
these new responsibilities and how your expected roles change. It is normal to
shift frequently between feeling confident and ecstatic one minute, and
drained, scared, and unsure the next.
When you realize that your
baby is physically completely dependent on you, you may worry whether you are
giving your baby the best care. Common concerns in this first month
It is normal to question your feelings for your baby.
A bond doesn't necessarily happen the moment you set eyes on your child. But
you will develop stronger feelings and love for your baby every day. For some
parents, it takes time to develop this bond, especially when the baby's
physical demands take a great deal of time and energy. Talk to your doctor if
you do not feel that you are bonding with your baby in the first week or
Also keep in mind:
Although you will go through some major adjustments to this
new little person in your life, your baby's first month is also a period of
amazing growth and change. Treasure these first weeks as you gradually
introduce your baby to the world.
growth and development, newborns need physical and emotional care. You enhance
development and give your newborn a sense of security and being loved by:
Although your baby's needs are basic, it is important to
respond promptly to his or her cues and to recognize safety issues.
For more information, see the topic
Health and Safety, Birth to 2 Years.
your doctor if you think you or your partner has
postpartum depression. It can make a mom feel very
sad, hopeless, and worthless. And she may have trouble caring for and bonding
with the baby. For more information, see the topic
Call your doctor right away if you notice anything that concerns you. You are the
expert on your baby. Although usually everything is fine, do not be afraid to
contact your doctor for any reason.
Physical problems to watch
for in your newborn include:
Be sure to call your doctor if your newborn:
Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about the
Your baby's first checkup
begins in the hospital right after birth when a nurse assesses the baby's
Apgar scores. This test checks certain physical traits
to help determine whether your newborn needs any interventions or special
monitoring right away. Temperature and vital signs are always closely watched
during the baby's first 6 hours. Your baby may also have the following soon
In the first weeks after birth,
your baby begins a series of health exams, sometimes called
well-child visits. Doctors have individual approaches
to the timing of these appointments. During one or more of these visits, your baby will have:
Routine checkups are a good time for parents to ask about
what to expect in the weeks to come. You may find it helpful to go to your
baby's checkups with a prepared
list of concernslist of concerns(What is a PDF document?).
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers a
variety of educational materials about parenting,
general growth and development, immunizations, safety, disease prevention, and more. AAP guidelines for various conditions and links to other
organizations are also available.
The Bright Futures Web site offers current information
about health promotion and health care needs of infants, children, teens,
families, and communities. Bright Futures is sponsored by the National Center
for Education in Maternal and Child Health at Georgetown University.
This website is sponsored by the Nemours Foundation. It
has a wide range of information about children's health—from allergies and
diseases to normal growth and development (birth to adolescence). This website
offers separate areas for kids, teens, and parents, each providing
age-appropriate information that the child or parent can understand. You can
sign up to get weekly emails about your area of interest.
The March of Dimes tries to improve the health of babies
by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and early death. March of Dimes
supports research, community services, education, and advocacy to save babies'
lives. The organization's website has information on premature birth, birth
defects, birth defects testing, pregnancy, and prenatal care.
Zero to Three is a national nonprofit organization whose
aim is to strengthen and support families and promote the healthy development
of babies and toddlers. The organization provides information about growth and
development and about health professional training. It also works to promote
public awareness about the importance of giving children a healthy start and
solid developmental foundation in the first three years of life.
Other Works Consulted
Buescher JJ, Bland H (2011). Care of the newborn. In RE Rakel, DP Rakel, eds., Textbook of Family Medicine, 8th ed., pp. 402–420. Philadelphia: Saunders.
Hagan JF, et al., eds. (2008). Health supervision:
Newborn visit. In Bright Futures: Guidelines for Health Supervision of Infants, Children, and Adolescents, 3rd ed., pp. 271–288.
Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics.
Olsson J (2011). The newborn. In RM Kleigman et al., eds., Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 19th ed., online chap. 7. Philadelphia: Saunders. Available online: http://www.expertconsult.com.
Thilo EH, Rosenburg AA (2012). The newborn infant. In WW Hay Jr et al., eds., Current Diagnosis and Treatment: Pediatrics, 21st ed., pp. 9–72. New York: McGraw-Hill.
August 9, 2013
Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics & John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
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