Newborn development

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The first few weeks of your baby’s life are so absorbing, you may find yourself spending hour after hour just looking at them, studying every movement, memorising every look and applauding every gesture. So, what is going on with them? Is there a lot happening during newborn development or is your little one not thinking about much at all and simply going with the flow, as they concentrate on breathing, eating and napping? You may find this section especially enlightening if you thought your baby wasn’t up to much when they first arrive.

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Your baby is a called a newborn for the first month of life. During this time, it may seem that there’s not a lot of development going on. This is not unusual, and you wouldn’t be the first new parent to be disappointed with baby’s apparent lack of interest in anything but sleeping and drinking milk. Don’t worry – even though your precious bundle may not be laughing at your jokes or even gazing at you adoringly just yet, once you understand newborn development, you’ll realise there’s important stuff going on between baby’s cute ears and inside that beautiful little body.

In this section, you’ll find out the stages of newborn development and learn what you can do to help your little one make sense of their environment, while building their relationship with you.

Newborn senses help newborn development

One of the major areas of newborn development is the senses. Babies are born with all 5 of their senses (although unfortunately a small percentage of babies do have impaired vision or hearing).

Some newborn senses were working even before they were born. You may have noticed that a loud noise such a banging door or a car horn would startle your baby in the womb, indicating that unborn babies’ ears are usually functioning, although their hearing does continue to develop for several months after birth.

A baby’s sense of smell is also working well at birth, as is the sense of taste. In fact, babies seem to have more taste buds than adults do. Your baby will recognise and prefer sweet tastes to sour, bitter or salty. Vision is developing quickly but is believed to be the weakest of a newborn’s senses. Your baby’s sense of touch, however, is especially good, particularly around the mouth.

Read our article on newborn senses to find out what your new small angel can see, hear and feel. You’ll gain fascinating insights into your baby’s sensory awareness and development.

Start engaging with your newborn

Even though your little one is spending most of their time either snoozing or feeding, they will instinctively seek interaction with you. Newborns quickly learn to communicate, with babies of this age being more interested in their parents and other caregivers than they are in toys or other objects.

During the course of you taking care of your baby, there are lots of opportunities for you to engage your newborn and thereby help promote newborn development.

Look, listen and learn with your baby

The time of newborn development is a very special for both parent and baby. As well as laying the foundations for your baby’s future development, including communication skills, you’re also starting to get to know this precious new addition to your life. No two babies are alike, just as no two adults are identical, so watch, listen and learn along with your newborn.

Even though they can’t talk yet, your baby’s actions and reactions will give interesting clues as to how they feel when you’re engaging with them.

Facial expressions are a particularly good window into a newborn baby’s heart and mind. For example, their little face will light up when you come in for a cuddle or talk soothingly. They may move their lips when hungry, look away from you when tired, or cry irritably when over-stimulated, and it’s all a bit much for a little one to deal with.

Even at a few days old, your baby may try to mimic you when you poke out your tongue or purse your lips. Give it a go! At the very least, you may be rewarded with the first flicker of a smile.

Falling in love with your newborn

The most important thing a mother and father can do for newborn development is to make their little one feel that they are in safe and loving hands. Letting your baby know through your voice, touch, and attentiveness to their needs, that they can trust you to always care for them, helps build a bond that should last a lifetime.

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In the section on newborn bonding, Huggies gives you some tips for connecting with your baby. To some new parents these tips may seem obvious but, sometimes with a newborn, it’s easy to believe that they don’t need to be loved up lots, as they’re not yet responsive to cuddles and kisses. Don’t be fooled or disappointed by their apparent newborn aloofness: they are very aware of you, your voice and your smell. As time goes by, the relationship starts to flow both ways and you’ll be rewarded with looks, smiles, gazing and little pats and touches. Learning how to express their love for you is all part and parcel of newborn development.

Conversely, don’t be too alarmed if you don’t bond intensely and instantly with your newborn. Sure, some parents bond immediately, but for many others it takes time and persistence. Parent-baby bonding is a complicated process and there is no magic formula. But true bonding builds with everyday care-giving, as is proven by parents’ close attachments to adopted children and to babies that were separated from them for medical reasons.

If, however, after a few weeks, you still don’t feel attached, or you actually feel detached or resentful, ask your doctor, midwife or your baby’s paediatrician for help. The longer you wait, the harder it may be to work out what’s going on, and this can affect the newborn development of your little one.

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