Your baby has finally arrived and you're wondering what to expect in terms of mental and physical development as well as eating and sleeping habits. Wonder no longer, for we've compiled a list of common developments and tendencies that you can expect to witness the first month of your newborn's life. Keep in mind, however, that your baby will be developing at its own pace and will have its unique needs which might not always coincide with the average expectations highlighted here. If at any time you feel that your child's rate of development is a cause for concern, discuss your worries with your pediatrician.
All babies thrive on their parents' love and attention; playing with your newborn is paramount to ensuring that he or she gets the mental stimulation they need to develop cognition and analytical skills as they grow older. Playing can involve singing or talking to your child, making eye contact, smiling, placing them in different sitting and sleeping positions, and exposing them to different objects for them to interact with, even if its interaction at this stage is very limited. Make sure not to overstimulate your newborn, as overstimulation can result in crying, crankiness, finickiness during mealtimes, and trouble sleeping.
Since your newborn spent 9 months in a cramped womb, it will most likely be curled up, bow legged and blotchy for the first few months or so. Until your child is more used to life outside the womb, you might want to swaddle it in a light blanket to keep it warm and comfortable. One interesting fact about your baby is that its eye color may change in the first 6 weeks.
In general, newborns in their first month can:
• See and focus on faces and objects that are 8 to 12 inches away.
• Recognize certain smells, such as the smell of their mother's breast milk.
• Hear noises, enabling them to react to sounds. In its second week your baby will be able to recognize your voice.
• Move their heads, turning them from one side to the other or lifting them briefly.
• Mimic certain facial expressions by the first week, such as smiling in reaction to an adult's smile.
• Taste sweet and bitter flavors as they have more taste buds than adults do, but they still can't taste salty food.
Newborns need frequent feedings and will feed once every 1 or 2 hours, which means milk must be readily available at all times whether you're breastfeeding or bottle feeding your baby. For those early days of breastfeeding, make sure to establish a quiet and calm atmosphere to enable you to concentrate on settling into a comfortable feeding position that is good for both you and your baby. Once your baby becomes used to breastfeeding or bottle feeding, it should settle into a feeding pattern by the end of the month. Its appetite should also be growing around the second and third weeks.
You can tell that your child is getting enough to eat if it is gaining weight as expected, urinating 6-10 times a day, and soiling its diapers regularly. If you're worried that your baby isn't getting enough milk, talk to your pediatrician.
As a rule of thumb, newborns tend to sleep from 14 to 18 hours a day during the first month, where naps differ in length and are distributed sporadically throughout the day. As the first month progresses, your newborn's sleeping habits should begin to settle into a general pattern that involves longer naps. Make sure to place your baby on its back when you lay it down to sleep, not on its belly; laying your baby down to sleep on its stomach increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Learn to recognize when your child is sleepy before it begins to get cranky; generally, newborns will sleep every 2-3 hours. You might also want to consider starting a bedtime routine to help it settle into sleep more easily.