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The First Six Months: Big Changes - Month One

This article covers the following topics: The first Month: Big Needs, Opening Moves, What Newborns Can See, What Newborns Like to See, Tips for Holding Baby's Visual Attention, Fixating, How to Tell If Your Baby's Eyes Are Crossed, Gazing, What Newborns Can Hear, A Mind of Their Own, Mental Pictures, Picking Up Each Other's Scent, A Mutual Mind-set develops, Baby's Behavioral States, Enjoying Your Newborn's Smile, Newborn Reflexes,  There will be five more parts to this complete article so keep an eye out for them.

More changes occur in the first six months than during any other growth period. Baby doubles his birth weight: posture progresses from barely a one-inch head lift to a full sit-up; hand skills progress from tight-fisted, aimless swiping to precise reaches. Baby's though process matures, too; primarily reflexive responses give way to the beginning of though-out actions and the initially uninterpretable cries develop into understandable cues. Parents also grow at an amazing rate at this stage, progressing from "I have no idea what he want" to "I finally understand his signals." Let's now take a journey through one of the most exciting stages of a child's life: the first six months.

More changes occur in the first six months than during any other growth period. Baby doubles his birth weight: posture progresses from barely a one-inch head lift to a full sit-up; hand skills progress from tight-fisted, aimless swiping to precise reaches. Baby's though process matures, too; primarily reflexive responses give way to the beginning of though-out actions and the initially uninterpretable cries develop into understandable cues. Parents also grow at an amazing rate at this stage, progressing from "I have no idea what he want" to "I finally understand his signals." Let's now take a journey through one of the most exciting stages of a child's life: the first six months.

The First Month: Big Needs


"What should we be doing with our new baby?" is a question that concerns new parents. Hold him a lot and love him a lot is the answer. The first month is a stage of adjustment for parents and organization for baby. Hold the toys for later. Babies do not show great strides in motor development during this stage, or do they need a lot of things--except the arms of loving parents.

Opening Moves

Watch your tiny bundle curled up in the bassinet. So peaceful, so quiet. It's hard to imagine this is the same baby who turned roly-poly's in your uterus. When he awakens, gaze at him face to face. His arms and legs dart out as if stretching after a deep sleep. Those were the punches and kicks you felt during the final months inside. Now you can watch what you felt.

When playing with your newborn, notice the spring like feel to the muscles. If you pull his arms or legs away from his body or try to open his hands, they quickly spring back to their original flexed position, Enjoy this tight, spring like appearance and feel while they last, as baby's whole body will loosen up over the next few months. When unflexing baby's leg or arm, you will often hear and feel crackling sounds around the knee and elbow joints. These are normal joint noises coming from the rubberlike ligaments and loose bones. These sounds, to, will disappear.

The behavioral state your newborn is in often determines how he moves. While most of the time baby's wiggles seem random and jerky, recent studies have shown that when newborns are relaxed and in the quiet alert state their movements take on a more organized pattern of periodic bursts and pauses. The more time baby spends in the quiet alert state, the more these jerky muscle movements organize into more rhythmic patterns. This is one reason we emphasize parenting styles that promote the state of quiet alertness.

If your baby startles easily, his chin quivers a lot, and his arms and legs seem trembly, wear your baby in a sling or wrap your newborn in a blanket, which contains and helps to organize these jerky muscle movements. These normal newborn shakes usually subside by the end of the first month.

What Newborns Can See

Dim the lights; a newborn is coming. As though emerging from a dark to a light room, a newly born baby squints. Add to this light-sensitive squinting the puffy eyelids from the birth squeeze, and the world may not look so clear for the first few hours. As a further light shield, newborn pupils are often somewhat smaller than normal for the first week or two. Within minutes to an hour after birth most newborns show a wide-open, interested-in-the-world look.

During the early days except for fleeting eye-opening moments, newborns keep their eyes closed. This can be frustrating to parents trying to connect visually. Try this eye-opener: Hold your baby in front of you with one hand supporting his head and the other under his bottom, between eight and ten inches (twenty and twenty-five centimeters) from your eyes. Turning from the waist, swing him gently to an arc of about 120 degrees and come to a slightly abrupt stop. This rotating motion prompts baby to open his eyes reflexively. Another method is to support your baby's head and raise him gently from a lying to a sitting position.

Newborns see; they just don't see far. They see most clearly at a distance of eight to ten inches, which amazingly is the usual eye-to-eye distance during breastfeeding. Catch your baby in a bright-eyed state of quiet alertness. Hold him in front of your face, making eye-to-eye connection around eight to ten inches away. As you move baby closer and farther from this intimate space -- the distance that best holds baby's attention -- notice that baby breaks the visual connection and loses interest because your visual image become more hazy.

What Newborns Like to See
Here's a clue: It has round curves, contrasting light and dark patterns, and sharp outlines. Not, it is not a breast, but you're close. Another clue. It moves, blinks, and smiles. Newborns love to look at faces, especially a familiar one. Give him yours. there's something uniquely appealing about the order of features in the face. Researchers showed four different diagrams to forty newborns at a mean age of nine minutes. The babies turned their heads and eyes displayed interest in the diagram that showed the facial parts in the right configuration. They showed less interest in diagrams in which the facial parts were scrambled. If you play the face-preference game, dad may win. Because of their preference for light-dark contrast, babies often pay more attention to the male face, especially if it has a beard or mustache. While a parent's face will always be baby's best eye-catcher, next in order of preference are black-and-white drawings or photos of a face, and black-and-white contrasting patterns such as checkerboards, stripes, and bull's eye.

Newborns are very discerning about what they choose to look at. If you don't wear glasses and suddenly put on a pair, or if your baby gets used to seeing you with glasses on and you take them off, he may look puzzled and turn away, as if thinking, "What's wrong with this picture?" This visual perception indicates that even a newborn can store familiar patterns in his visual memory bank. The newborn is programmed to pay attention to the human face even from birth.

Tips For Holding Baby's Visual Attention
* Sit or hold baby upright.
* Wait for baby to be in the quiet alert state.
* Keep object or face around ten inches (twenty-five centimeters) from baby's face.
* Use animated facial gestures (wide open mouth and eyes) while speaking in a slow, rhythmic, exaggerated tone.

Fixating
"Sometimes he's cross-eyed, sometimes he's not" parents often observe. Periodic crossed eyes are normal. Constant crossed eyes need medical attention. Eye may not be constantly straight until six months of age. Because newborns do not use both eye together, images do not fall at the same point on the retina in each eye. This results in poor depth perception. As baby learns to hold her head and eyes still, images become clearer, depth perception improves, and baby holds a long fix on your eyes. This binocular vision starts to develop around six weeks and is well established by four months.

How to Tell If Your Baby's Eyes Are Crossed
Because some babies have wide nasal bridges, you may not see much of the whites of the eyes. Consequently the eyes may appear crossed, but really aren't. Here's how to tell. Shine a penlight into your baby's eyes (or take a flash photo), Notice the location of the light reflex, the white dot on baby's eyes. It should be in the same place in each eye. If the dot is in the center of the pupil in one eye but off center in the other, one or both eyes have lazy muscles. Report your findings to your doctor. During well-baby exams, this is how your doctor checks baby's eyes.

Gazing
During the first few weeks your baby's eyes scan your face but seldom are still and fixed directly onto your eyes for more than a fleeting second or two, despite your pleading, "Look at me." Even though your baby starts focusing better around two weeks, expect her eyes to continue to move most of the time. Holding a fix on either a still or moving object does not click in until around four months.

Sometimes if a newborn is in a relaxed interested, and quiet alert state, a face or an object may hold her attention for several minutes. Try this gazing game: Hold your baby within her own clear-vision distance (which you can determine by slowly telescoping your baby toward and away from your face until you reach a distance that best holds her attention -- this is usually somewhere between eight and thirteen inches/twenty and thirty-three centimeters).

Babies are more likely to become bored with visual games when lying on their back and become more attentive when placed in the upright position.

What Newborns Can Hear

Newborns prefer mother's high-pitched voice to father's and prefer sounds with a womb-like beat. That's the music they're used to. They calm best to soothing sounds with a slowly rising and falling rhythm, like classical music. Loud rock music that has a disorderly rhythm disturbs their peace.

Newborns appear to recognize the sounds they heard repeatedly while in the womb, such as a favorite piano piece that mother played often during her pregnancy. Babies and children are also more attentive to stories that mother frequently read out loud during her pregnancy.

You don't have to tiptoe and whisper around a sleeping newborn. Babies have a remarkable ability to block out disturbing noises. This stimulus barrier operates even when baby is awake. Sometimes you may call your baby's name, and he doesn't even notice, and you wonder if he hears you. Babies are selective about what they give their attention to. If baby is interested in a dangling mobile and you call to him, his visual pursuits override other senses, and he tunes you out. Try again when he is not so focused on something else (Expect the same behavior when your newborn becomes a two-year-old.)

Newborns also protect themselves against sensory overload. During a loud, disturbing commotion some babies become upset; others fade into a deep sleep, as if saying, "Too much going on her. I'm tuning out."

Amazingly, newborns can associate the wound with the direction of its source which is called orienting. Call you baby from the right side, and she may turn to the right. Now try the left side. Not all newborns orient to all voices all the time, and don't be alarmed if it takes another month or two for your baby to turn toward your voice. Mother's voice is special. Newborns can pick out mother's voice from the sounds of strangers.

When hearing the same sounds newborns become habituated, infant-stimulator jargon for becoming bared. If you're not able to make sound connections with your baby, try varying the tone of your voice. Also, babies become confused if they cannot see who's talking to them. They like to look at who's talking. To hold your baby's attention to your voice, first get an eye-to-eye visual fix and then begin talking

Sound Advice: Exposure to loud noises -- a rock concert, for example -- may damage hearing. As a practical guide, music you can carry on a conversation over is safe. If you have to shout over the noise, it's too loud.

A Mind of Their Own

Much of what a newborn does is by reflex. When hungry or upset he automatically cries. He acts before he thinks.

Mental pictures
Most of a newborn's early learning is directed toward comfort and satisfaction. He wants to be fed, held, and comforted, and he has the same language for all these -- the cry. Put yourself in the mind of your newborn. "I cry, I get picked up. I keep crying, I get fed. I cry again when I'm lonesome, and I get held more." After repeating these cue-response scenes hundreds of times, a newborn develops a mental picture of what to expect following a cry. It is as if each time baby gives a cue, a flash card appears in his mind, and he previews what's going to happen. Infant development specialists call these mental pictures a shema. The more mental pictures, the better the mind develops. So the initial reflex, crying, matures into a thinking or cognitive process as the baby calls up a flash card reflecting the solution to his need and musters up the language to get it.

Mothers go through the reverse of this mental process. Initially, as you are learning to read your newborn's cues, you think before you act. "Is he hungry? But I just fed hi. Is he wet? Is he manipulating me? Probably!? As you overcome these worrisome mental gymnastics, you learn to respond more intuitively, almost by reflex. You act before you think. As you and baby practice this cue-response connection, you both settle into a state of harmony. You and your baby are learning to fit -- baby with a mind full of beautiful attachment pictures, and you with a new comfort level of reading your baby. A newborn who is used to this cue-response network learns to trust her care-giving environment. She learns how to get her needs met through the help of others. The nine-month-old, for example, raises her arms in anticipation that daddy will pick her up and recalls the mental pick-up-and-play flash card that she expects.

Picking Up Each Other's Scent
The sense of smell is acutely developed in newborns, and in their mothers. Not only can a newborn distinguish mother's voice from a stranger's, he can also pick out her individual scent. An interesting study of six-day-old newborns showed that when mother's breast pad (with or without her milk) was placed alongside her newborn's face, baby turned toward it, though he ignored breast pads from other mothers. This special scent recognition also holds true for mothers. Blindfolded mothers can identify their own babies by smell.

A Mutual Mind-set Develops
As baby is developing mental pictures of mother's (and father's) responses, mother also imagines what baby is thinking and needing. Baby gets into the mother's mind, and mother gets into the baby's mind.

What about the baby whose cues are not responded to, usually because of the parents' unwarranted fear of spoiling or of being manipulated? The mind of a baby whose cues are not given a nurturant response is not so rich. She doesn't know what response to expect and doesn't develop a mental picture of what to anticipate. Her mind is full of blank flash cards. Mother also is left empty. Because baby has not learned to trust that cues will be read, she does not learn to cue better. Mother becomes less comfortable reading her baby's cues. Baby and mother share less of each other's thoughts, and a distance develops between them.

As a pediatrician explained to a new mother one day how she and her baby could get into each other's mind. She understood, but seemed worried, exclaiming. "This sounds exciting, but what if I goof and don't give our baby the right response? What if he's wet and I think he's hungry?" Reassuring her, "You can't goof when you pick up and nurture a baby. When your baby cries and you pick him up and he continues crying, you simply go through a trial-and-error checklist until you click into the need that needs filling. The important message you give your baby is the anticipation of being listened to and responded to."

Baby's Behavioral States

* Crying. Loud fretful complaints are accompanied by flailing, uncoordinated limb movements. Baby is only minimally attentive. This behavior is upsetting to baby and to his caregivers.

* Active alertness. A state similar to quiet alertness, but here baby's limbs and head are moving, and baby is less visually attentive. Baby seems distracted by his own motions.

* Quiet alertness. Eyes are bright, open, attentive; limbs are relatively quiet. Baby appears to be contemplating the environment. This state is most conducive to interaction and learning.

* Drowsy. Eyes are open and fluttering or starting to close; baby is slightly attentive, with stirring body movements and sleep grins. Baby is either waking up or falling asleep.

* Light sleep. Baby startles easily and shows facial and limb twitches., irregular breathing, spurts of movement. Limbs are flexed toward the body.

* Deep sleep. Baby shows minimal movement, expressionless face, regular breathing, and limp, dangling limbs.

Enjoying Your Newborn's Smile

With baby's first smile, you swoon and forget the sleepless nights and constant holding. You are thrilled, and you feel, "My baby really loves me." Enter the spoilers: "Oh, it's just gas." After years of watching newborns smile, we wish to deflate the gas bubble. Newborns do smile, and now because of gas (unless after passing it).

Smile watchers divide smiles into two types: inside smiles and outside smiles. Inside smiles, occurring in the first few weeks, are beautiful reflection of an inner feeling of rightness. Some are sleep grins; some are only a happy twitch in the corner of the mouth. Relief smiles occur after being rescued from a colicky period, after a satisfying feeding, or after being picked up and rocked During face-to-face games is another time to catch a smile. Baby's early smiles convey an "I feel good inside" message and leave you feeling good inside. Be prepared to wait until next month for the true outside (or social) smiles, which you can initiate and which will absolutely captivate all adoring smile watchers. Whatever their cause, enjoy these fleeting grins as glimpses of the whole happy-face smiles that are soon to come.

Newborn Reflexes

Newborns and adults show two types of action: cognitive, meaning you think before you act, and reflexive, meaning your reactions automatic. When you show your baby a rattle, his brain thinks, "I'll use my hand to get the rattle." And the brain sends the message to the muscles, instructing them to grab the rattle. If you tap your baby's knee with the rattle at just the right place, baby's knee jerks automatically, or by reflex. Much of a newborn's early behavior is reflexive, but as his nervous system matures he puts more thought into his actions. There are around seventy-five primitive reflexes in the newborn period. Most are curiosities, some are protective, and a few serve some additional purpose. Here are some interesting and useful reflexes.

Mouthing reflexes.
These reflexes help a baby find the source of food and ingest it. Of these, the sucking and swallowing reflexes are the most important for survival. Notice that your baby automatically sucks when you stimulate (in order of decreasing sensitivity), the soft palate, the interior of the mouth and lips, and the cheek and chin, A relative to the suck reflex is the rooting (or search) reflex. Using your nipple, tickle your baby's face and watch him turn his head toward your nipple as if searching for food. The rooting reflex subsides around four months as reaching skills begin and the infant's search for food becomes more voluntary.

Startle reflex (Moro reflex).
If baby is exposed to a sudden loud noise or you withdraw support of baby's head and back while holding him, he reacts to the sensation of falling by quickly extending his arms out from his body and cupping his hands as if trying to cling to and embrace someone. Especially if there is no one to grab on to for comfort, he reflex may be accompanied by anxious grimacing or crying. This protective reflex is a clinging response in which baby is giving the message, "I need a person between these embracing little arms." The startle reflex is most noticeable during the first month and gradually disappears by three or four months. Anthropologists speculate that the startle and grasp reflexes are primitive attachment behaviors that infants used to hold on to their mothers.

Grasp reflex.
Stoke the palm of your baby's hand with your fingertip or place your finger into the palm from the pinkie finger side and notice how your baby's fingers wrap tenaciously around yours. Sometimes baby's grasp is so strong that you can partially life him off the surface he's lying on before he lets go. (Try this only on a soft surface, like a bed, as baby has no control of when he will let go.) For another demonstration of the grasp reflex, place a rattle in your baby's hands; notice how difficult it is to pry the rattle way from little Hercules. The grasp reflex is strongest in the first two months; it begins disappearing by the third month and is usually gone by six.

Righting reflexes.
Survival behaviors called righting reflexes help baby learn to keep her trunk, head, arms, and legs in proper alignment for breathing and development. Place your baby face down and notice she lifts her head just enough to clear the surface and turn her head to one side. If a blanket or pillow falls over baby's head, she may mouth it initially and then twist her head vigorously from side to side and flail her arms to push away the blanket to breathe and see.

Gag reflex.
To protect baby from choking while learning to feed and swallow, the gag reflex automatically expels an object from baby's throat. If a finger or an object stimulates the back of the throat, the jaw lowers and the tongue thrusts forward and downward to push the object out. The gag reflex persists throughout life, but the tongue-thrusting part of the reflex disappears around six months. These reflexes explain why babies have difficulty handling early solids.

Tonic neck reflex (fencer's reflex).
While your baby is lying on his back, turn his head to one side and notice he arm and leg thrusting outward while the opposite arm and leg flex, resembling the en garde position of a fencer. This reflex both helps and hinders baby's muscle development. It encourages baby to look at the hand extended in front of him and keep his attention on a toy in that hand. But it inhibits baby from using his arms, hands, and head in midline play in front of his body. Around three to four months this reflex begins to subside, allowing your baby to hold toys in front of him and engage in hand-to-eye and hand-to-mouth play.

Stepping reflex.
Hold your baby over the table or floor so that the sole of one foot presses on the surface. The weight-bearing foot will lift up, and the other foot will lower, as if baby were taking a step. If you "stub her toe" on the edge of the table, she will lift her foot as if stepping up on the table. This reflex, which disappears around two months, is an amusing curiosity with an unclear purpose.

Withdrawal reflex.
Baby is protected against pain by the withdrawal reflex. If baby's heel is pricked to obtain blood, as during routine hospital tests, the leg and foot flex and withdraw to avoid the pain. At the same timeFree Reprint Articles, the other leg thrusts outward as if pushing the offender away.

Article Tags: Quiet Alert State, First Month, Deep Sleep, Quiet Alert, Alert State, Quiet Alertness, Baby's Head, Four Months, Baby's Eyes, Babies Have, Baby From, Mother's Voice, Flash Card, Mental Pictures, Each Other's

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR


There will be more articles on infants, breast or bottle feeding and other related topics to follow. So please keep an eye out for more of my articles.

Here at ring sling baby carriers we know your baby is precious and worth keeping close. Our ring sling baby carriers help you make the most of life while making the most of your baby's. Please visit our website ring sling baby carriers to see our broad selection of Hotslings adjustable pouch, Rockin Baby pouch, Rockin Baby ring sling, Seven Every Day Slings and Lil Cub Hub convertible sling baby carriers and find the right print and style for you and your baby.

 



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