Your baby will become more interactive with the world after they are 8 weeks old
1. THE SOCIAL SMILE
Something amazing begins to happen towards the end of your infant's second month—a smile. Now a lot of parents see smiles before then and even have pictures to prove it. Newborns do let off the occasional grin or smirk. However, “those primitive, often random grins are indeed different from the social smile that we'll see weeks later”. What makes this smile so special is the adorable intent behind it. The first social smile is a bright time for parents. Everyone loves a smiling baby, and babies equally love that positive attention. Infants learn it’s not just through apocalyptic crying that they can instill a response from the world.
2. HEAD ON A SWIVEL
Babies always stare. Perhaps a little more intently these days, at both objects and faces. You might notice their ability to track slowly improve. While their range is certainly limited, they’ll bobble from side to side, not tracking with their eyes but instead their necks. The muscles in a baby's neck take time to fully develop, but they’re already getting stronger. By now they have at least some control over their head holder. They’ll wriggle and tussle around to keep their eyes on what’s interesting. The ever-increasing 90-degree arc above their head has lots in store for them.
3. BETTER LISTENER
Babies learn early on the intricacies of being a good listener. They’ll pick up on inflections and subtle emotions as they develop those feelings themselves. Australian research shows that “by now your baby is probably showing emotions like interest, disgust, distress and enjoyment”. This greater emotional depth ties into your baby's slow understanding of how others convey those same feelings. Based on your voice and facial expression, they’ll begin to pick up on moods. Put some emotion into those bedtime stories and lullabies, your baby will appreciate it.
4. INTERACTING WITH TOYS
While infants this young may not understand the complex intricacies of playtime, they certainly mess with any objects you might give them. You probably also know that babies like to get to know their toys with both hands and mouths. As simple as these interactions seem, infants adore them. They may even get upset when these activities stop because they’re so stimulating. Babies learn about the wacky rules of the world through shaking colorful rattles and squeezing a squishy ball. Plus, it’s another chance to see that beautiful new smile of theirs.
BONUS: Integrating reflexes and how to spot them
A useful timeline to keep in mind for parents is when newborn reflexes are meant to integrate and disappear. Your newborn comes prebuilt with a few standard reflexes, but these dissipate over time. Here are a few reflexes, (when they might go away), and how to tell. Reflex integration is a good milestone indicator of health. It’s important for parents to look out for any prolonged reflexes.
This reflex should be more voluntary after your baby is 2 months old
When the roof of the baby's mouth is touched they will begin to suck. Instead of disappearing altogether, infants slowly control their sucking response. If you see your infant suddenly stop sucking on their thumb or pacifier, this reflex may be integrating.
This reflex should disappear by the time your baby is 2-3 months years old
Often called the startle reflex, in response to loud noises or sudden movement newborns will cry and extend their arms and legs. You might see this reflex integrate as babies gain more experience with their body moving through space. It can be tested by simulating free falling for an inch or two.
Pagano, Christine, “When Do Babies First Smile?” HealthyChildren.org, https://www.healthychildren.org/English/tips-tools/ask-the-pediatrician/Pages/When-do-babies-first-smile.aspx#:~:text=Answer&text=%E2%80%8B%E2%80%8B%E2%80%8BA%20baby's,the%20hospital%20are%20behind%20them.
“2-3 Months: Newborn Development.” Raising Children Network, 15 Mar. 2022, https://raisingchildren.net.au/newborns/development/development-tracker/2-3-months#:~:text=At%202%2D3%20months%2C%20you,Play%20is%20how%20babies%20learn.
“Newborn Reflexes.” Stanford Medicine Children's Health - Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford, https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=newborn-reflexes-90-P02630.
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