It might not seem like it, but there’s a lot going on in your newborn’s brain and body. She is steadily adjusting to life outside the womb, laying down neural connections, and taking in information from her environment. Every child develops according to a slightly different trajectory (and preemies develop more slowly than other babies), so it’s important to double-check with your pediatrician if you’re concerned about your child’s development. If you’re itching to see what the first month has in store, though, you might be surprised to see that a lot changes in the first few weeks.
In the first days after your baby’s birth, he’ll probably lose about 10% of his body weight. By two weeks, he should gain this weight back, and will continue gaining weight at the rate of about an ounce per day. Some other changes you’ll notice in the first month include:
- The ability to turn his head while lying on his stomach.
- Prefers looking at you to looking at other objects; newborns have bad vision, though, so you may only notice your baby gazing at you when you’re nearby
- Begins moving hands and feet, and may even take an interest in them by trying to grab his feet.
- Is able to go home from the hospital. This requires your baby to pass several milestones, including the ability to regulate her own temperature and to suck on a breast or bottle.
In the first month, your baby’s movements are dominated primarily by reflexes. Some reflexive behaviors you might see include:
- “Walking” when his feet are on the floor and you support his body weight
- Sucking anything that comes into his mouth
- A strong startle reflex that causes her to flail her arms and legs.
- Focuses eyes on nearby objects, particularly black and white items
- Keeps his hands in balled fists.
Babies are born with very primitive senses, which means it takes a while for them to begin interacting with others. Over the course of a month, your baby will gradually become more social. Some changes you can expect to see include:
- Some babies begin smiling at the end of the first month.
- May coo, grunt, or make other sounds.
- Turning toward the familiar sound of your voice.
- Reaches for interesting objects or people, but is not yet able to grab them.
- May begin to prefer familiar people over others.
Because newborns can’t talk and can’t move very well, we’re not fully sure of their intellectual capabilities at this age. However, you may notice some signs of thoughts and preferences. Your baby may:
- Choose a favorite toy that he prefers over all others.
- Enjoy music and rhythmic sounds.
- Respond to being read to.
How You Can Help
Development doesn’t just unfold on its own. It’s a product of the interaction between your baby’s genes and her environment. If you want to help your baby develop more quickly, some steps you can take include:
- Always supporting her head.
- Giving her plenty of “tummy time.” This helps her practice moving her head.
- Talking to your baby as much as possible. Try narrating daily activities or reading to him every night.
- Being in physical contact with your baby as much as possible.
- Breastfeeding your baby if you are able to.
- Encouraging other family members to regularly hold and interact with your baby.
- Turning off the television and computer when your baby is around; television can harm brain development.
- Giving your baby black and white images or toys to play with.
- Giving your baby a variety of textures to explore.
- Responding quickly when your baby cries; this helps build strong relationships and trust.