Normal Physical Development

Your baby's head needs to be supported at all times. She may lift her head briefly, but a baby's neck muscles are not yet strong enough to support the head. Your baby will startle easily and often. She will respond warmly to comfort and negatively to pain. Her hands may be fisted or slightly opened. When a rattle is placed in her hand, she will most likely drop it quickly.

Your baby's eyesight is not fully developed at birth. Your baby may stare at objects, but will not yet reach for them. She sees objects best when they are within 8 to 15 inches of her face. Eye-to-eye contact may be brief at first, but it will increase during the early weeks after birth. In the first few weeks you will likely notice that your baby can focus on your face or an object; later she will be able to follow an object slowly from side to side. In the first few weeks of life, babies prefer looking at simple black-and-white shapes. They are drawn to the contrast between light and dark. A simple bull's-eye or diagonally striped pattern in black and white seems interesting to her. Newborns look at the outer edges of patterns, while several months later, babies will tend to look at the inside of a design. You may notice your baby especially likes looking at faces. Later, she will be attracted to colorful and shiny objects.

Although your baby's hearing is well developed, she will not look for the source of sound for many months. She may not like loud voices or loud music. When startled by a noise, your baby may stiffen her body and legs. She may thrust her arms outward and then pull them back close to her chest. Crying often accompanies these movements. Babies seem to like sounds that change, such as a voice or music. Soft music - sung or from a musical toy - may please babies. Talk to your baby often. When parents talk to their young baby, sometimes the baby "keeps time" with her arm and hand motions. Babies can tell the difference between sounds. They seem to react more to normal, rhythmic speech than to nonsense vowel sounds. This may be the beginning of language for them. Hearing people talk is very important for a baby's development.

Your baby has many automatic reactions or reflexes. A major reflex of your newborn is the one that helps him open his mouth and find the nipple for feeding. This is called the rooting reflex. Before breastfeeding, a mother can touch her baby's lips with her nipple so that he will open his mouth to nurse. The same occurs with the bottle-fed baby. When the nipple touches his lips, he will open his mouth and be ready to accept the nipple to suck. There are some other reflexes you may see in your newborn. He can pull back if he is pricked and can sneeze to clear out his nose. He can yawn to increase the air in his lungs. He can turn his head to one side if his breathing is blocked.

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