Healthful Mondays: Infant stages of development

 - by Sarah Lipoff

An infant goes through many stages of development during her first 52 weeks.  I know I am always comparing my baby to other babies, wondering how she is developing, which you’re not supposed to do, right?!  Spending time worrying if  your child is on par with another can cause strife, heartache, and sleepless nights – let me tell you, I KNOW! It is good to have an idea what is normal for infant development so you have a couple great milestones to look forward to and to raise any red flags (if needed).  Remember, all babies are individuals and will develop at their own pace.

Within the first couple weeks of birth, your infant’s eyes are developing allowing her to see up to a foot in front of her face.  Many infants prefer to focus on human faces during this developmental stage, but are more than happy to stare for hours at the family cat or dog if you’re not available. Staring at this age is a good thing, as your baby is associating your face with all the love and care you are providing.

Get out the camera because by week 8 most babies are able to start expressing basic emotions including smiling.  Along with displaying social smiles, infants begin to use different vocal inflections to represent different feelings and emotions.  You will find yourself doing just about anything to get your baby to show her adorable little smile – seriously, anything!

Around week 15, babies are beginning to create the concept of memory. She is remembering from one day to the next the basic routine of her day – how to move her legs when diaper changing, and how to laugh or smile to get your attention.  This is a good time to start incorporating routines into your day.  Having regular nap times, feedings, and outings, allows you to have some down-time – which is beneficial to your sanity!

By week 23 an infant is able to associate sounds with behaviors, such as the noise of the door opening indicates someone is walking into the room.  Infants will also start responding to their names being called. You will find yourself saying your child’s name over and over and often in a high pitched baby-talk kind of way (which you promised yourself you’d never do).

You might find you wish you would’ve bought stock in baby safety products around week 27!  Most infants are crawling and starting to become more physical with their bodies.  Your babe is grasping, holding, and coordinating her movements.  This is a fantastic time, but a good reminder to start baby-proofing your home!  Leaving baby for even a moment unattended at this point can have disastrous results.  Make sure all electrical outlets are plugged, cabinet doors are secured, and breakable items are placed higher than baby’s grasping hands.

Just when you thought you were ready to try a date night, your babe will start understanding the concept of “peek-a-boo” and object movement.  Around week 32, your child is figuring out attachment, which leads to an understanding of detachment and (potential) fits of screaming and distress when parents or special toys  aren’t in babe’s sight.  So, leaving your adorable baby with a friend or in daycare can turn into a King Kong moment, with baby screaming and holding on for dear life. In time, your child will grow out of their attachment issues (hopefully), and she’ll understand mommy and daddy always come back.

By week 42 your child is mastering the art of the pincher grasp and the ability to manipulate objects with her hands.  Hand-eye coordination is becoming easier, enhancing her ability to use manipulatives, such as crayons, toys, and other objects.  Encourage your little one to use either hand, and a grip she is comfortable with – AND make sure to pick up that pen lying on the couch before she discovers it.

By week 50 your wee one is beginning the basics of language and starting to form basic words such as “mama” and “dada.” She will say it all the time over and over. It will be really cute at first, and then you will hear it at 3 am and find her budding language skills not as charming as you thought they were.

Remember, all infants develop differently and at their own speed. Some children begin walking at 8 months where others might not toddle about until 18 months. At any time you feel overwhelmed or concerned about your child’s development, contact your pediatrician – that’s what they’re for! No question or issue is too silly, absurd, or odd when it comes to your child!

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