Newborn Developmental Milestones: Birth to 6 months
Lists are great and I use them myself to do quick checks on my clients and kids. However I also like to read in-depth how systems work, to compare and contrast different sensory systems, and get an overall big picture. So here are two great links to milestones for newborns. I have also included some of the observations I have uncovered over the years, which I find particularly interesting.
I have always been amazed at how many reflexes control a newborn. They have some motor control, but differentiating which is intentional and which is reflexive is tricky. There is the grasp reflex, where the baby grips whatever is placed in her palm (although I like to pretend this is intentional for cuteness sake), the startle reflex where the baby flings her arms up in response to feeling like she’s falling, the rooting reflex where a baby roots and then sucks in response to anything that touches the mouth, and the hand to mouth reflex where a baby bring her hands to her mouth to suck, something that is very comforting for the little ones. There are actually about 60-70 reflexes total, but the ones I listed are the highlights. Once you get past the main ones, who’s counting really? Especially since I am so easily distracted by their utter cuteness!
Which bring up a big important point for all parents and their new babies. Bonding. And is it important? Well, yes. Being close to mom is the best way for newborn babies to reduce their natural stress which occurs from being in the world around them for the first time. Mom’s touch, smell, the sound of her voice, and her face all help baby cope, laying down hormone controlling genes for future abilities in stress management and self soothing.
It has been found that babies can recognize mom’s general facial features within the first few hours of life! This understanding made me be sure to keep my babies in my hospital room when they were born. Additionally, the distance a newborn assumes when breastfeeding from mom’s face is actually the idea distance for newborn vision, about 12 inches.
Hearing mom’s voice also affects a babies general state, increasing heart rate and sucking strength. This is true even while the baby is sleeping, with scientists seeing language centers activate when the mom talks to baby while sleeping.
Also, mom’s scent is a soother. Babies who can smell mom’s milk cry less and have lower levels of stress hormones. Additionally, babies who are allowed skin to skin contact right after birth have been found to recognize the smell of mom’s breast milk better than infants who do not.
The very idea of touch itself significant. Since newborns can’t yet regulate their own temperature, laying a newborn on mom’s chest will do it for them. Mom’s body temp actually changes to regulate the babies! Also the skin to skin contact helps baby’s heartbeat and breathing become rhythmic. I have seen this with my own babies, as they fall asleep on my chest, with little breaths lulling them into dreamland.
Oxytocin, the feel-good hormone released during romantic love experiences, is also the hormone responsible for bonding. Touch is the sense responsible, so mom’s that cuddle and talk to their babies and breastfeed get lots. Dad that show the new baby new things and pretend rough house do too. As an added note to dads, it has also been shown that when dads are the primary care giver to babies early on, they grow to have great affinity toward males. If mom is the primary care giver early on, they grow to have greater affinity toward females. So, shared care giving responsibility to whatever extent is possible, seems like a great option to raising social kids! Now that’s some real motivation for everyone to get involved in care giving.
Of course the bottom line is that giving your newborn lots of love and care will undoubtedly let your new bundle of joy know they are in a safe and cared for environment, getting their development off to a great start. So be your own Swami Mommi (or Daddy) and be your confident self!