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Birth to 6 Months of Age

The first six months of a baby's life are critical in his or her development. In no time at all, this helpless newborn will roll over, sit up and smile when you walk into the room. Although your baby is tiny and helpless, her brain is very active. What happens the first months of a child's life will impact her ability to speak, hear and think. Your responsibility as your child's first teacher is to help your baby learn to speak, hear, think and grow. You accomplish this by making sure your baby is safe, secure, protected and very well cared for.

Remember, you can NOT spoil a baby. There is no such thing as too much love, attention and affection. Babies need love, affection, stimulation, security and appropriate medical care in addition to food and shelter. Her sense of well-being comes, in part, from how you respond to her efforts to communicate with you.

Every baby is unique, and each develops at a different speed. Your doctor can answer questions you may have about your baby's growth and development. Take the time at well baby check-ups to ask questions, and most importantly, take time during the first six months to enjoy this wonderful little human being and her amazing development.

Infant Development

Characteristic Newborn/Birth Milestones:

  • Keeps hands fisted, moves arms and legs
  • Can track a slow moving object with her eyes
  • Sensitive to changes in brightness
  • Prefers patterned forms to solid colored ones
  • Captivated by a single feature of an object
  • Responds to the sound of the human voice, the sight of a human face, and the smell of his mother
  • Displays sucking, swallowing, sneezing, coughing and blinking reflexes – all automatic responses to stimuli. Other reflexes include:
    • hand to mouth
    • grasping
    • rooting (turning cheek to touch)
    • Babinski (toes spread when sole of foot is touched)
    • Moro (tendency babies have to swing their arms wide and bring them together again, usually when startled or when baby feels he is losing support)

Characteristic 1-Month Milestones:

  • Head is wobbly, support is necessary
  • Lifts head while lying on stomach
  • Moves head from side to side in prone (face downward) position
  • Focuses on a rattle in her line of vision
  • Follows a person or an object with his eyes. Sees object placed 8 – 12 inches from his face
  • Distinguishes sounds (orients to human voice) and tastes (sweet and sour)
  • Learning about her environment through her senses: touch, sight, sound, taste and smell
  • Activity is reduced when talked to
  • Quiets when picked up
  • Communicates with smiles, gaze, and crying
    • Smile – wants to be near you or wants to play
    • Gaze – likes to hear you talk; averted gaze indicates it is time for baby to rest
    • Cry – hungry, tired or wants to be held

Characteristic 2-Month Milestones:

  • Lifts head and chest while lying on stomach
  • Head is erect and bobbing
  • Follows rattle with eyes
  • Eyes follow a moving person
  • Looks at mother’s or father’s face when they talk
  • Smiles at mother or father when they smile
  • Prefers some colors more than others
  • Beginning to coo

Characteristic 3-Month Milestones:

  • Prone (on stomach) holds head up at 45 degrees
  • Rolls from back to tummy and tummy to back
  • Grasps objects
  • Swats at dangling objects
  • Holds rattle placed in hand
  • Eyes follow moving objects
  • Searches for sound with eyes
  • Coos and chuckles
  • Beginning to babble

Characteristic 4-Month Milestones:

  • Sits with support
  • Lifts head and chest while lying on stomach
  • Plays with fingers, hands and toes
  • Reaches for things he sees and explores objects with mouth
  • Turns head toward lights and bright colors
  • Watches mother as she walks across the room
  • Smiles when spoken to or when face is touched
  • Reacts to sound of voice, rattle, bell, etc
  • Discriminates between friendly and angry speech
  • Jumps or is startled when there is a loud or sudden noise
  • Can distinguish between colors -- blue, green, yellow and red
  • Makes sounds like "oooo" and "aaaa"
  • Laughs out loud
  • Recognizes bottle or breast

Characteristics 5-Month Milestones:

  • Lets go of objects – rotates wrist
  • No head lag when pulled to sit
  • Has lots of energy; rolls and wiggles
  • Has discovered his feet, sucks his toes
  • May try to push up on hands and knees
  • Knows his mom and dad from strangers and may cry when one or the other leaves
  • Shows signs of being afraid of strangers
  • Likes toys that make noise such as ringing bells and squeaking toys
  • Is interested in toys that she can look at, touch, chew, suck and bang together
  • Squeals and is interested in the sounds you make

Characteristic 6-Month Milestones:

  • Sits with assistance or may sit alone
  • Reaches for and grasps toys with one hand
  • Can eat solid food from a spoon
  • Former cooing now sounds like clear voicing of several syllables
  • Talks to toys
  • May try to imitate adult behaviors (if an adult coos the baby may coo back)
  • Turns his head toward sounds or to an adult when they are talking to him
  • Enjoys being sociable -- laughs
  • Feels happy, sad or uncomfortable
  • Reaches out to be picked up

Well Being and Development

Physical Development:

  • Place baby on his/her back on a firm tight fitting mattress in a crib that meets current safety standards. In 1992 the American Academy of Pediatrics released a recommendation, and reaffirmed it in 1994, that all healthy infants be placed on their backs for sleeping.
  • Remove pillows, quilts, comforters, stuffed toys and other soft products from baby’s crib.
  • Physical development is rapid, so never leave baby alone in an unsafe position.
  • Use gentle touches. Playful shaking or throwing can be harmful.
  • Give infant safe, clean toys to rattle, hold and use.
  • When your infant is awake and you are with him, place him on his tummy for short periods of time. Time spent on the tummy will enhance shoulder and girdle development.
  • Always place your infant in a car seat when riding in an automobile.
  • Check with your doctor or community health nurse about immunizations and growth.

Intellectual Development

  • Place patterned designs and faces drawn in black and white on the side of the crib or in front of baby as she is lying on tummy to stimulate visual development.
  • Move your baby to different rooms in your home to expose him to different sights and sounds.
  • Establish routines by dimming the light at naptime, reading a story or singing a lullaby before bedtime.
  • Try to understand your baby’s communication to you through her different cries -- when she is hungry, needs diapering or wants to be held.
  • Place mobiles in the crib over baby, so he can watch them when awake.
  • Talk to your baby during diapering, bathing, feeding and when attending to her needs.
  • Maintain eye contact as you talk to your baby.
  • Imitate your baby’s cooing and babbling sounds so he will continue to make them.
  • Sing songs and recite nursery rhymes to your baby. Babies are calmed by a steady soft rhythm.
  • Introduce your baby to books and the language of books. Cloth or sturdy board books with black and white or colorful pictures are appropriate.
  • Play Mozart and other classical music softly in baby’s room while awake or when putting her to sleep. It will have a calming effect and may also stimulate brain development.

Social/Emotional Development

  • Hold your baby as you are feeding her. Feeding time provides a bonding opportunity. Rock, smile at, and talk to her so she feels love and security.
  • Tend to baby’s needs immediately – feed when hungry, diaper when wet, comfort when crying, hold and gently touch him to comfort, and keep him warm and dry.
  • Baby will develop a sense of trust in adults who lovingly meet her needs and who care for her.
  • Let your baby wrap his fingers around your finger. Holding on can calm a baby.
  • Show your happiness and pleasure in your baby when interacting with her. Smile at and use happy voice tones when interacting with her.
  • Respond to your baby when he is awake and alert to stimulate emerging social behaviors.
  • Rough handling of a baby by an adult or adults who are anxious or irritated while caring for an infant will produce unpleasant experiences for the baby. A sense of trust will not develop.
  • When your baby reaches the age of about five or six months, she may cry when you leave her. It is best not to sneak out. Tell her good-bye and that you will be back. Trust will be developed.
  • At about five or six months your baby may show stranger anxiety. Help him to slowly get accustomed to strangers or others he may not know well. If you remain near by, he may be less anxious.

Appropriate Materials

Birth to 6 Months:

  • Rattles to hold
  • Black and white patterned designs and pictures of faces
  • Teething rings and other objects that are safe to mouth
  • Cloth books
  • Hanging mobiles with brightly colored or interesting objects
  • Plastic containers and lids, and measuring cups
  • Cloth toys, stuffed animals, soft dolls, balls and large cloth blocks
  • Activity boxes with sounds and musical toys
  • Classical or other appropriate music
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