Birth to the First 6 weeks
During this first development stage, babies’ bodies and brains are learning to live in the outside world, most of your baby’s behavior is reflexive, meaning that his/her reactions are automatic: Some of your newborn reflexes are described below:
Mouthing reflexes: These are your baby’s survival reflexes, important for baby’s survival, helping them find the source of food. A baby will automatically begin to suck when their mouth or lips are touched. The sucking and swallowing reflexes are most important.
The rooting reflex: is when the baby turns his head toward your hand if their cheek is touched. This helps baby find the nipple for feeding. This response is called the rooting reflex and begins to fade around 4 months of age.
Startle (Moro) reflex: The startle reflex happens when a baby overhears a loud noise, his arms and legs extend away from the body. This reflex is most noticeable during the first month and usually fades by 2 or 3 months.
Grasp reflex: Your baby will grasp a finger or an object when it is placed in the palm of her hand. So, your baby may suddenly grasp your scarf, hair, shirt if too close to reach. This reflex is strongest during the first 2 months and usually fades by 5-6 months.
Stepping reflex: Even though your baby cannot support his/her own weight, if his/her feet are placed on a flat surface, he will begin to step one foot in front of the other. The stepping reflex usually disappears by 2 months.
A baby’s color perception is limited at birth. Although there is varying evidence about which colours baby can see evidence shows that babies first see white, black and shades of grey.
Your babies’ eyes haven’t yet learned how to work together, this will come over the next few months. So, don’t worry when your baby’s eyes appear to turn inwards or crossed and you become anxious that your baby has squint!! Know that although your baby is able see, the world is still quite blurry. Your baby can see best at around 6-8 inches, which is roughly the distance between where you hold baby for feeding and your face!
When a parent (or anyone) cuddles baby for a feed and looks closely at the baby, the baby focuses on the parent’s /carer’s face and get to know their facial features. Evidence suggests that this limited vision, and ability to see around the feeding distance, helps babies feel safe and secure with their parent, and ignoring whatever is happening around them or wider world. To help support your baby’s vision development, cuddle up and spend time looking at each other. Your baby will focus in on your face – and even imitate/mimic simple actions like sticking out your tongue – great way to stimulate the development of their eyes and bonding!
Babies at this early stage can be sleepy during the day and having longer sleeps in the day than any other time. This will change in the next couple of weeks when you will start to see you’re becoming more awake and alert during the day and becoming interested in the surrounding environment. Your baby from 3- weeks now is aware of smell of familiar people and room within the home environment and will know familiar voice.
By the end of his/her first 6 weeks, most babies may display the following:
- Raises head when on stomach.
- Smile. Before now, it will be just to himself/herself. But in 6 weeks, they’ll be smiling in response to your smiles and trying to get you to smile back at them
- Black and white objects are preferred over other colors.
- Open and shut her hands and bring hands to her mouth.
- Focuses 8-12 inches away and looking at objects, scanning faces, prefers the human face (especially mum and dad) over other patterns and pictures. Your baby will start to try and look to where he thinks your voice is coming from.
- Shows some different behavioral responses such as eye contact/ blinking, turning towards when hearing familiar. Also, may act startled at a new voice or unusual noises.
How to Help Your Baby
- Baby prefers faces (especially the primary carers!). Have conversations with your baby and remember eye contact! -You may feel as though you’re talking to yourself o yes you are!! (welcome to parenthood!) but talk to your baby during his or her awake time. Make normal eye contact to keep your baby’s interest, and tell him or her what you’re doing, what the weather is like, about family plans for the weekend! whatever you’ll be doing next. This early discussion is laying the beginning groundwork for reciprocal interaction and speech development!!
- Choose a high contrast toy or rattle (black and white or highly contrasting, light/dark colours) and move it slowly across your infant’s line of sight. See him/her follow it! what joy!
- Baby appears ‘serious’ to be listening.
- As you talk to family members, sometimes you may get a very ‘serious expression’ in return from your baby. Your child’s brain is already trying to tell the difference between sounds and tones of voice – likely due to the sharp contrast between the eyes and the rest of the face.
- Include a mirror in baby’s toys.Babies love faces and are almost always intrigued by seeing their own face and movements. Ensure that your baby’s mirror is unbreakable and has no dangerous corners or edge.