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Month 1: Awakening &  Awareness

by Penny Warner

BABY'S PHYSICAL DEVELOPMENT

How Baby’s Body is Growing

  • Growing Body – The average baby weighs between 6 and 9 pounds, but surprisingly seems to gain no weight during the first week. This is normal – baby has just lost his birth weight. He’ll gain it back by the second week. By the end of the first year, amazingly, he’ll have tripled his birth weight!
  • Sensory Awareness – Your baby begins using all five senses from the moment he’s born. He looks at your face, listens to your voice, smells your scent, feels your touch, and tastes your skin. That’s how he learns about you – and through you, he learns about his new world.
  • Feeding – Learning to nurse is your baby’s first task in life. Reflexes help – your baby has a rooting reflex to help him find the nipple, a sucking reflex to help him latch on, and a swallow reflex to help him get breast milk to his tummy. 

BABY’S COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT

How Baby’s Brain is Maturing

  • Thinking – Visual stimulation is one of the primary ways a baby begins to use his brain. Although a baby’s vision is only 20/200 at birth – which means he can see better close up but not at a distance – he’s able to track your finger at a distance of 8 inches, distinguish faces from other patterns, and even see bright, distinctive colors, such as red and green.
  • Language – Your baby “talks” long before he uses recognizable words. Watch his face and you’ll see him express some basic emotions. Watch his hands and you’ll notice he expresses some of his needs. Watch his whole body and he’ll tell you how he’s feeling and what he wants.
  • Problem Solving – Although you solve most of your baby’s problems in the early weeks, babies use their reflexes to solve some of their own problems. They “shiver” to keep warm, “recoil” from pain, and “startle” to remind parents to handle them carefully! They even solve the problem of how to get fed – by crying! 

How You Can Help

  • Thinking – Begin a game of Peek-A-Boo with your baby the first week. While nursing or holding him, smile and talk to him. Next, cover your face with a cloth for a moment. Talk to your baby again, then remove the cloth and smile. Watch your baby’s eyes widen as you magically reappear
  • Language – Just because your baby isn’t speaking yet doesn’t mean he isn’t learning language. The more you talk to him, the sooner he’ll develop language skills. As you talk to your baby, use a higher pitched voice, simple words and short sentences, lots of repetition, and facial expression. Watch your baby respond with body language and eye contact.
  • Problem Solving – To help your baby learn to problem solve even at this earlier stage, give him simple choices. For example, put a rattle in his reflexive grasp and a soft cloth in the other hand. See what he does with them on a very simple level. 

BABY’S PSYCHOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT

How Baby’s Personality is Unfolding

  • Self-Awareness – At first, your baby seems to think he’s still attached to you, even though the cord has been cut. Other times he thinks he’s one long extension from the breast. During the first week he’ll begin to find his hands and feet, feel the discomfort of separation from his parents, and “bond” with a special blanket or lovey of his own, which all leads toward self awareness.
  • Emotional Expression – Before your baby learns how to express his emotions through language, he’ll express his feelings, moods, and needs through vocalizations. His cries may differ from one another early on, as he tries to communicate his feelings, so listen carefully to his emotional signals.
  • Social Interaction – Bonding is baby’s first early emotional and physical attachment to his parents. It’s achieved through touching baby, giving him a name, holding him, and seeing to his needs. A baby needs to bond with his parents in order to feel loved, safe, and secure.

How You Can Help

  • Self-Awareness – To help your baby begin to distinguish himself from the world, give him some time in front of a mirror. At first he’ll just wonder at the movement and face opposite him. Soon he’ll realize, through cause and effect, that he’s the person in the mirror causing the movement. Nothing delights a baby more than his own reflection.
  • Emotional Expression – Most experts believe if you respond to your baby’s cries quickly, he’s more likely to cry less over time, and feel more psychologically secure, knowing that someone is taking good care of him. 
  • Social Interaction – Spend as much time with your baby as you like. You won’t spoil your baby by picking him up. In fact, the more you pick him up and hold him, the more rapid gains he’ll make physically, cognitively, and psychologically. Be sure to let other family and friends spend time with your baby too, so he’ll be comfortable interacting with others.