Newborn development is usually high on the list of parental concerns for two reasons.
The first reason parents worry about newborn development is that we are excited for that next step - perhaps we are looking for that first true smile, maybe we'd like them to have more "awake" time, the first laugh, or just sleeping through the night!
I totally understand that. While it's fine to be excited about what is ahead, don't forget to appreciate and savor the "here and now". Your baby is only a newborn for a VERY short time.
He will soon lose that newborn-sounding cry and the sweet newborn smell (replaced by others - some not quite so "pleasant").
He will grow until he no longer fits so nicely in your arms (or even on your lap).
The newborn baby hair that is so soft may be replaced with a bald spot on the back of his head where it has worn off on his bed.
The typical blue/gray
newborn baby eye color
might even change to look like his father (Traitor! Moms go through 9 months of discomfort, followed by an excruciating birth, and then he gets his father's eyes! ;)
Those uniquely newborn reflexes will disappear.
All of a sudden, you will realize that you no longer have a newborn baby!
The second reason that parents stress about newborn development is that we are afraid that something might be wrong. The intense love and fierce protectiveness that the birth of our baby brought to us now creates anxiety. We want the best for our children, and we feel that a great start will somehow indicate their future success.
If this is your worry, I want you to just take a deep breath, and relax...
Ahhhh. There! Don't you feel better already? Not yet?
While early development is very satisfying for parents ("Look at Johnny! He can speak 3 languages at only 6 months old! Isn't he special?"), it is not necessarily an indicator of future intelligence or success. (I should clarify that if your child speaks 3 languages at 6 months, that might be an indicator. We will just have to wait and see...)
Just as each newborn face is unique, so is each newborn baby personality and rate of development.
Yes, we throw a baby development chart and an
infant growth chart
out there so that you can compare your baby to the "average", but these are very general guidelines. There is no need to concern yourself if your child is "below average" in an area or two.
If your child is consistently falling behind in multiple areas, do talk to your pediatrician before you give in to worry. (High blood pressure/stress is not good for you OR your baby, who senses and reacts to your stress levels.)
What can you do to assist in newborn develpment?
There ARE some steps that you can take to aid newborn development. Babies, even newborns, are learning a tremendous amount every day. Much of what they learn in those first weeks comes from interaction with people. Eye contact, voice inflection, and facial expressions are all windows into developmental progress. Studies show that there are even benefits of reading to newborns.
* The Four (and-a-Half) Senses?
Be sure to stimulate your newborn's senses - sight, sound, smell, and touch. (Exploring the world through the sense of taste will need to come later.
Starting baby on solids foods
too soon may cause adverse reactions or allergies. If your baby is breastfed, he will get some variety in the taste of breastmilk depending on what "Mom" has been eating.)
Here are a few suggestions on ways to stimulate newborn development through his senses:
Put a small plastic mirror in your baby's crib where he can see it when he is awake. (Babies are fascinated by the human face...even their own.)
Play music that stimulates the mind (think Vivaldi, not heavy metal).
Put small (safe) items of varying textures in his hands. (This doesn't NEED to be toys. Be creative!) He won't be able to do much with it (other than bang it on his face) or hold on to it for long, but he will learn in the process. Find out more information on
infant educational toys
in this article.
Take a long, luxurious, scented bath. (I mean "Mom" here. A newborn baby is able to identify his mother by scent soon after birth. Throw him off track a little and change your scent! He will soon be onto your trick, but you will have had some well-needed pampering!)
* Infant Sign Language We know that babies are able to understand what we say long before they can communicate with words. Teaching your infant sign language is a wonderful way to give them a jump start on communicating with you. Studies show that a baby who is taught to sign will benefit emotionally, and will accelerate his speech development.
While you certainly may wait a few months before starting to teach your baby some signs, you will want to start looking into this soon. I have started teaching my babies signs when they are about 6 months old, and it always surprises me how fast they pick it up! My Baby Can Talk - Sign Language for Babies is a complete early language development program recommended by pediatricians, trusted by parents, and loved by babies. This program includes everything you need to jumpstart communication before your baby can speak.
Engaging in these activities is sure to improve newborn development, and they have the added benefit of deepening the bond between you and your baby.