The first year of life is a wondrous progression of developmental skills. In order for the babies to reach their full potential, they need to have consistent, loving care.
Baby begins developing initially by imitating and mirroring you: your smile, your voice. She can feel your love and tenderness in the way you hold her. She then explores with her hands and mouth. Let her feel you face, your skin. Give her a toy that she can hold and put in her mouth. Put her on her tummy so that she can strengthen her neck and back muscles so that she can life up her head to look around. That is also how she first learns to push herself up enough to roll over.
Make sure your baby is in a calm and safe environment. Treat your baby as a small person: look at her, talk to her, sing to her, play with her. Even though she may not be talking, she is absorbing everything that is going on around her. Allow her time to actively explore and make discoveries, without over-saturating her with too many toys or sounds.
It is important to always think about safety even with small babies: infants can wiggle and push with their hands and feet even in the first month of life: make sure the car seat is installed correctly; do not leave your baby along on changing tables, beds, sofas, or chairs – put your baby in a safe place such as a crib or playpen when you cannot hold her. When she is able to reach out for things, usually by 3-5 months of age, do not put anything that can cause accidents within her reach, such as a hot cup of coffee, sharp objects, or plastic bags that can cause suffocation. After the baby starts crawling and walking, put safety caps on electric sockets; use gates on stairways; close doors to keep babies out of rooms. Do not put your baby in a walker—she may tip the walker over and fall and get hurt.
Learn to recognize your baby’s cues: when she fusses while you are playing with her, she maybe tired and needs to stop playing and rest. When she is fussy and wiggling, she may need to have a diaper change.
What you can expect during your baby’s first year:
Your baby undergoes tremendous changes during her first year. She will develop motor skills, become sociable, and learn adaptive skills. Most of the time babies follow a sequence of development:
- look at you
- hold up her head when placed on her tummy
- make cooing noises
- roll over
- reach out and grab toys
- sit up
- put a small toy from one hand to the other
- bang two blocks together
- wave bye-bye
- pull to stand
- say mama, dada
Some of these may occur simultaneously (e.g. crawl and babble); occur slightly out of sequence, and some babies may even skip some milestones, e.g. from sitting to pull to stand.
Tips to help your baby sleep through the night:
By four to six months, most babies can learn to sleep through the night.
- Don’t let your baby nap longer than three hours during the day.
- Be active and playful with your baby during the day.
- Be sure your baby eats enough during the day and before bedtime.
- Have a bedtime ritual, such as a bath, a book, a song and a kiss before the lights go out.
- If your baby wakes at night, help her go back to sleep by herself. If she cries, check on her, comfort her, but do not feed her. See if she’ll go back to sleep on her own.
- Let Dad check on her at night. If she sees Mom, she’ll want to nurse.
Using a pacifier
Many parents ask about using pacifiers in babies. It is a decision you need to make for yourself. The advantages to using a pacifier are: it can calm down the baby, may help the baby go to sleep, and some studies show that it may prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). However, there are drawbacks: it may interfere with breast-feeding, it may increase the risk for ear infections, and your baby may become dependent on the pacifier.
If you do decide to give your baby a pacifier, wait until the baby is used to breast-feeding, usually after one month of age; choose the one-piece, dishwasher-safe type; buy extras; keep it clean. If your baby is not interested in the pacifier, do not force it.
Your baby will first explore herself and then learn that she is separate from others:
Sometime around 3-4 months of age, your baby will start to explore their own bodies: look at their hands, make cooing noises, blow bubbles, touch their ears, cheeks, and other parts of the body.
Because your baby is so interested in everything around her, she may turn away from you and look at something else while you are talking to her. This is normal. She is not rejecting you. Continue talking to her or singing to her.
Over the next few months, your baby will recognize strangers and may become clinging and cry when you leave.
Visit these sites for more information on your baby’s development:
Information reviewed by expert sources: Dr. May Loo, Santa Clara County Public Health