The Growing Child: Newborn
How much will my baby grow?
In the first month of life, babies usually catch up and surpass their birthweight,
then steadily continue to gain weight. A weight loss up to about 10% of birthweight
is normal in the first t2 to 3 days after birth. However, the baby should have gained
this back and be at his or her birthweight by about 2 weeks. While all babies may
grow at a different rate, the following indicates the average for boys and girls up
to 1 month of age:
Weight: after the first 2 weeks, should gain about 1 ounce each day
Average length at birth:
20 inches for boys
19 3/4 inches for girls
Average length at 1 month:
21 1/2 inches for boys
21 inches for girls
Head size: increases to slightly less than 1 inch more than birth measurement by the
end of the first month
What can my baby do at this age?
Although a newborn spends about 16 hours a day sleeping, the time a baby is awake
can be busy. Much of a newborn's movements and activity are reflexes or involuntary--the
baby does not purposefully make these movements. As the nervous system begins to mature,
these reflexes give way to purposeful behaviors.
Reflexes in newborns include the following:
Root reflex. This reflex happens when the corner of the baby's mouth is stroked or
touched. The baby will turn his or her head and opens his or her mouth to follow and
"root" in the direction of the stroking. The root reflex helps the baby find the breast
Suck reflex. When the roof of the baby's mouth is touched with the breast or bottle
nipple, the baby will begin to suck. This reflex does not begin until about the 32nd
week of pregnancy and is not fully developed until about 36 weeks. Premature babies
may have a weak or immature sucking ability, because they are born before the development
of this reflex. Babies also have a hand-to-mouth reflex that accompanies rooting and
sucking and may suck on their fingers or hands.
Moro reflex. The Moro reflex is often called a startle reflex because it usually happens
when a baby is startled by a loud sound or movement. In response to the sound, the
baby throws back his or her head, throws out his or her arms and legs, cries, then
pulls his or her arms and legs back in. Sometimes, a baby's own cries can startle
him or her, initiating this reflex. The Moro reflex lasts until the baby is about
5 to 6 months old.
Tonic neck reflex. When a baby's head is turned to one side, the arm on that side
stretches out and the opposite arm bends up at the elbow. This is often called the
"fencing" position. The tonic neck reflex lasts until the baby is about 6 to 7 months
Grasp reflex. With the grasp reflex, stroking the palm of a baby's hand causes the
baby to close his or her fingers in a grasp. The grasp reflex lasts only a couple
of months and is stronger in premature babies.
Babinski reflex. With the Babinski reflex, when the sole of the foot is firmly stroked,
the big toe bends back toward the top of the foot and the other toes fan out. This
is a normal reflex until the child is about 2 years old.
Step reflex. This reflex is also called the walking or dance reflex because a baby
appears to take steps or dance when held upright with his or her feet touching a solid
Newborn babies not only have unique reflexes, but also have a number of physical characteristics
and behaviors that include the following:
Head sags when lifted up, needs to be supported
Turns head from side to side when lying on his or her stomach
Eyes are sometimes uncoordinated, may look cross-eyed
Initially fixes eyes on a face or light then begins to follow a moving object
Beginning to lift head when lying on stomach
Jerky, erratic movements
Moves hands to mouth
What can my baby say?
At this early age, crying is a baby's only form of communication. At first, all of
a baby's cries sound similar, but parents soon recognize different types of cries
for hunger, discomfort, frustration, fatigue, and even loneliness. Sometimes, a baby's
cries can easily be answered with a feeding, or a diaper change. Other times, the
cause of the crying can be a mystery and crying stops as quickly as it begins. Regardless
of the cause, responding to your baby's cries with a comforting touch and words are
essential in helping your baby learn to trust you and rely on you for love and security.
You may also use warmth and rocking movements to comfort your baby.
What does my baby understand?
You may find that your baby responds in many ways, including the following:
Startles at loud noises
Looks at faces and pictures with contrasting black and white images
Gives attention to voices, may turn to a sound
Hints of a smile, especially during sleep
How to help increase your baby's development and emotional security
Young babies need the security of a parent's arms. They understand the reassurance
and comfort of your voice, tone, and emotions. Consider the following as ways to foster
the emotional security of your newborn:
Hold your baby face to face.
Talk in a soothing tone and let your baby hear your affectionate and friendly voice.
Sing to your baby.
Walk with your baby in a sling, carrier, or a stroller.
Swaddle your baby in a soft blanket to help him or her feel secure and prevent startling
by the baby's own movements.
Rock your baby in a rhythmic, gentle motion.
Respond quickly to your baby's cries.