From Here to Eternity
Updated: Jul 31
7 Things to understand about your Baby's First 4 Weeks of Life
1. Bonding with the family
For a newborn, the world can be overwhelming. The first thing babies like to do is get to know the people they'll be depending on. Your newborn will learn to recognize your face, voice, and smell. It's known that “the familiarity helps them adjust to the strange new world outside the womb.” By expressing love through cuddling, talking, and caring for your baby, you're helping them feel safe in their new surroundings. There's a reason babies are so cute, and it's because affection is central to their development.
2. Newborn reflexes
All babies are born with reflexes that help them to survive once they are born. These reflexes are expected to be replaced by voluntary learned behavior months later. One example of this is the grasping reflex. When something touches the palm of a newborn, they hold onto it for dear life, regardless of whose poor finger it might be. Some reflexes have to do with helping newborns eat, in fact, they can’t feed voluntarily. The rooting reflex is one that turns a lot of cheeks. According to Stanford children’s health research, in response to a touch on the cheek, the baby “will turn his or her head and open his or her mouth to follow and root in the direction of the stroking.” This reflex can be utilized by new parents to help their little one find the source of food from breast or bottle. These reflexes are like superpowers, but it is important to monitor these early reflexes to make sure that they don't linger. Retained reflexes have lifelong negative impacts.
3. Vision and focus
Newborn babies get into a staring contest with whomever puts their face in front of them. It might take some time for your newborn to realize who they're staring at. Baby’s eye muscles are very weak as a newborn, and they can’t yet track with their eyes. Instead, they swivel their neck around. But even this is tough for newborns as their neck muscles aren’t strong yet. They can only see objects between 8-10 inches away. Those objects, like your face, will be blurry. Like an old-timey movie with a little twist, babies can only see black, white, and red. They haven’t developed color detection in their eyes yet.
4. Sleep, sleep, sleep
Newborn babies need a lot more sleep than your average person. Sleeping is at the top of the list of priorities for a newborn. In fact, it’s at the top of about three things on that list: sleep, cry, and feed. Until they’re around 4 months old, babies need about 14 to 17 hours of sleep a day. Ideally, they would sleep for three-quarters of the day straight. Except it’s more like a collection of short naps, as infants only sleep for a couple of hours at a time usually. This schedule means newborns are constantly in a state of post-nap grogginess, which is why they always look so sleepy.
Your newborn will cry all of the time. You might think they’re doing it for fun but they're trying to tell you what they need. The only issue is how do you know what they are trying to tell you?. One important takeaway is that “sometimes you might not know why your baby is crying, but it’s still important to comfort them. You can’t spoil your baby by picking them up, cuddling them, or talking to them in a soothing voice.” Eventually, babies begin to get creative with their vocal cords and develop different cries for different needs. Babies also start to use other guttural noises, squeaks, grunts, and coos. With a more advanced vocabulary of noises, it becomes easier for your infant to communicate with you.
6. Speaking to the baby
Your newborn tries to communicate with you through crying and soon incomprehensible noises. Even if babies can't understand a word, one job of parents is to speak back. Motherease, or “baby talk” as it's commonly known, is the silly way people tend to talk to babies, and it’s actually healthy for them. Despite not knowing how to talk, speaking to a baby helps lay the groundwork for language. Whether it's reading a story or rambling about your day, these one-sided conversations are essential for infant development.
7. Value of tummy time
It might sound relaxing to nap on your back all day long, but babies need a break sometimes. Tummy time is both a supervised vacation and a workout for newborn babies. It allows young babies to see the world in a whole new way. A few minutes a few times a day of tummy time also helps babies build up muscles they don’t normally use. A good idea for newborn tummy time is to lay your child on top of your own chest. Experts agree that this exercise creates a “chance for physical bonding, and it still counts as tummy time.” Just be sure not to fall asleep.
Asmundsson, Laura. “A Week-by-Week Guide to Developmental Milestones During a Baby's First Year.” Parents, Parents, 3 May 2022, https://www.parents.com/baby/development/growth/baby-development-week-by-week/
“Newborn Reflexes.” Stanford Children's Health - Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford, https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=newborn-reflexes-90-P02630
“0-1 Month: Newborn Development.” Raising Children Network, 15 Mar. 2022, https://raisingchildren.net.au/newborns/development/development-tracker/0-1-month
“Why Your Baby Needs Tummy Time.” Healthessentials, Cleveland Clinic, 16 Mar. 2022, https://health.clevelandclinic.org/3-benefits-of-tummy-time-for-newborns-how-to-do-it-safely/
“Baby Development Month by Month.” What to Expect, 28 Dec. 2020, https://www.whattoexpect.com/first-year/month-by-month/
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