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An Infants first year of life is an amazing period of growth, they undergo myriad developmental changes than any other period in their lives. These changes can be grouped into various sections that is, physical development, cognitive, emotional and social development, language, as well as sensory and motor skills development. It is important to realise that each infant develops at their own pace; some slower or faster than others. Children that are born with health complications may lag behind in some areas, in most cases they eventually catchup with the right support and medical interventions. Here is a general developmental guidance for parents.
The infant has already developed basic survival skills such as sucking, swallowing and breathing. The eyes do not coordinate, can barely see and may appear to cross, while the ears can perceive different sounds but will be startled by loud noises such as a phone ringing. The Infant will sleep 17-19 hours a day but in a series of a short sleeping periods and will o bond through listening to different sounds.
By the end of the second week, the infant will focus on images between 8 and16 inches away from the eyes, and can move along a slow-moving object within that range. The hands will be clenched into a fist, and the infant can make random and jerky movements. Some infants may spit-up after feeding, this should not worry you. The first few stools will be black in colour and will change over the coming few days to reflect the baby’s diet. A breastfeeding baby will have a yellowish and loose stool, while a child feeding on formula will have a brownish and firmer stool. The frequency of the bowel movement will vary from once to several times a day.
Parent roles – Besides changing the diapers and feeding the baby, you need to take care of the infant’s umbilical cord. Doctors recommend patting it using alcohol swabs to keep it clean, dry and germ free. The umbilical cord will dry up, shrink and fall off, and probably leave a spot of bloody puss which will heal on its own. What should concern you: Yellowing of the skin – This means that the child has Jaundice. It is common with breastfeeding babies than children on formula. If you notice this yellowing, consult the doctor.
The in movements of the infant have become more purposeful thus the random jerky movements have significantly reduced. The infant is now smiling, and sometimes in response to your actions and facial expressions. S/he has already mastered lifting the head at 45 degrees and holding it up for an extended period. S/he has mastered the different sounds in the surroundings and is able to turn the head in response to the different sounds. What should concern you: Cradle cap – A rash on the top of the infants head also known as milk crust disease. This is quite normal in many babies. Clear it up by massaging Vaseline on the cradle cap. Reduce the number of shampooing and keep the head cool and dry as the alternatives increases the consistency of the disease.
The baby will start making cooing sounds, the infant is able to lift the chest off the ground using the hand, and is now enjoying tummy time. The infant has now developed a liking for the toys and it is not uncommon that the infant will spend more close to 15 minutes alone with them. It helps a great deal when you play with the infant as it helps in learning about the environment. It will also help you know what makes you child happy. However, the child has also learnt the need for personal space and may become fussy when you try to stimulate him. At this time, it is better to give the baby some personal time.
The baby is now more attuned to sounds especially the high pitched pitches and tones. S/he is also a keen observer and loves to watch you speak; s/he will stare intently as you move your lips up and down and may even respond with “goo”-ing or cooing. S/he is also laughing out loud in response to your actions, such as tickling and rocking. S/he may also squeal in happiness when s/he sees either of the parents. This is the best time to introduce the baby to a schedule that works for the both of you. Parenting on schedule helps you to work , getting the baby to eat and sleep, making it easy for you to resume working.
By now, the infant has known his/her primary caregivers and can pick their faces in a group. He also recognises some familiar faces and his eyes shines and widens as s/he glees and wiggles when a familiar face approaches. The infant can now grasp and hold objects, and shake them to produce a sound to which he laughs. He can also hold the head steady in an upright position. What should concern you: Sudden Infant Death Disorder (SIDS) – it occurs between the ages of 2 to 12 weeks. Though there is no known cause of SIDS, it is good to ensure that the baby is in a good sleeping position to give him better chances of avoiding SIDS.
The infant can now keep the head steady in line with the body when put in a sitting position, can also move the head to the direction where a sound is coming from, or to the direction of moving objects. S/he is sleeping less and more eager to learn more about family and the world. S/he may also be less interested in your choice of game as s/he already has ideas of her own. They definitely have your genes however they are they own little person
The infant has finally realised that the fingers and thumbs are separate objects. S/he can bring the hands together put them in the mouth to taste. He is also experimenting with the little fingers through touching and holding things.
The baby may start sleeping longer as s/he has started understanding the night/day issue. S/he is able to eat and store food for much longer to get the infant throughout the night with minimal timers to wake-up to feed. The baby cannot control all his movement fully and will sometimes miss when trying to grab an object.
It is the beginning of the fourth month. S/he is now in control of her body and muscle movements. The hands are stronger and can lift the infant from the ground in a tummy position, and hold and grasp toys and take them to the mouth.
The infant is more active and wiggly; s/he won’t keep still even when you are changing the diapers, and the more frustrated you get, the more entertaining it is to the infant. S/he can roll from back to front and from front to back, thus it is important that s/he is not left alone in high surfaces.
The baby is already four months old and getting stronger, taller and gaining more weight. S/he has gained more control of body and hand movements. S/he can roll over, sit upright and sometimes crawl but s/he cannot sustain these exercises. S/he has more developed sense of ownership and cries when you take a toy away from him/her.
The baby can sit upright for some few minutes though s/he may still require propping up using a pillow. The rolling has increased and the infant is trying to work out the legs and hand in readiness for crawling. The grip has gotten stronger and s/he can pull objects to his/her direction, pick lighter toys and move them from one hand to the other. S/he may also be able to hold a feeding bottle by him/herself. By now, the infant has established a regular rhythm of sleep and in most cases sleep throughout the night. However, s/he may still need two naps; in the morning and in the afternoon.
The infant’s vision has significantly improved and colour perception sharpened.The infant makes the first attempt at real speech by joining constants and vowels together. S/he can comfortably pronounce simple words such as “ma-ma” “ba-ba”. However, the baby has not yet assigned meanings to these words. It is now critical that you child-proof your home. Up to this age, mother’s milk and baby’s formula are the main type of food.
The infant can sit upright, the vision is now clearer and s/he is able to focus more on objects, and s/he can now focus on moving objects that are relatively far. S/he is more interactive and makes more vocalization sounds. S/he is more interested with sounds and can be soothed with lullabies. This is the best time to introduce the infant to solid foods. However, breast milk is still hugely beneficial and should not be replaced with the solid foods. Remember s/he explores the world around him/her using her mouth, thus you should ensure that s/he is not near any choking hazard.
The infant has perfected sitting upright, first with and then without the support of her hands. S/he can now roll on both sides even while sleeping, and can rock back and forth, scoot or even crawl. The infant’s colour perception has greatly improved and s/he has a great liking for the bright colours. The distance of focus has increased and the ability to track moving objects improved. S/he mouths everything and can put her hands on thus be wary of the choking hazards. Muscle and body movements are now more refined and s/he can pick things up using just the thumb and the fore-finger and pull objects closer without much effort. S/he begins to babble and has ever-expanding palate of new foods.
The baby rakes everything towards self. The muscle coordination is far more improved and s/he is now learning to feed him/herself. S/he is crawling and now more mobile than before. Now that s/he is crawling and has the strength to rake everything towards self, childproof the environment. S/he is well aware of the surrounding environment and even more alert to strangers. S/he will be hesitant to be with strangers and become upset when the primary care giver is away. This will persist up to the age of two. The infant is more curious than before and has a shorter attention span and will spend less than 3 minute on one activity before moving rapidly to another. S/he can dance to music! Remember to video-record it
The infant has developed the pincer grasp- grasping with the forefinger and the thumb. Her limbs can relatively support her weight thus s/he may start pulling up to a stand and cruise using the furniture. The infant is now teething and will experience some discomfort during the day and sleepless nights; you can gently massage their gums with a soft toothbrush and apply coconut oil after, it has soothing qualities and reduces inflammation. As their teeth start to grow try and use chemical free toothpastes or make your own home made ones its super easy. The brain has considerably developed and s/he has fine motor skills and is more interested with pictures. S/he now knows the people around him/her rather than her parents. This is the best time to teach the child common sign language for common words such as eats/food and come.
The baby is crawling and cruising and can stand briefly without the support of furniture. S/he may start using her hands for gestures for needs; word and language abilities are also developing. S/he can now wave bye-bye and can even start imitating animal noises. S/he begins to understand permanency and will be able to look for hidden toys. When you leave the room, s/he will know that you still exist but s/he will most likely cry due to separation anxiety, which peaks between the 10th and 18th months.
The brain has significantly developed in motor areas needed for language and walking. S/he can stand for longer times and may even take some baby steps. S/he will fall over many times as s/he tries to walk but the desire for independence will motivate her to keep trying. Some early walkers may have already started walking on their own. S/he will begin using names such as ‘mama’ and ‘dada’. S/he will copy older siblings in doing personal cleaning times such as applying make-up, doing their hair and brushing their teeth. S/he will be periodically frustrated as s/he tries to take control of the surrounding environment, and s/he will reach for things s/he wants to have and get angry if s/he does not reach them.
The baby will be walking and drinking from a cup. S/he will start scribbling thus it is important to give him/her crayons. Her motor skills will have improved and s/he will be able to put or remove objects from containers Her language and words will have significantly improved and s/he will understand and respond to simple verbal command or request. S/he will be more assertive and may have numerous frustration bursts as s/her tries to register his/her independence. The baby will be I year old, enjoy his/her birthday! But remember that s/he tires easily and thus does not require so many toys.
The mother should consume foods rich in:
Calcium-Prevents the transient bone loss during lactation and helps in making infant’s bones and teeth more hardy. Sources of calcium include low-fat dairy products such as yoghurt, eggs Salmon, dark green vegetables and soy products
Iron –Increases blood after the heavy blood loss during vaginal delivery. Iron is also good for anaemic mothers. Sources include beef liver, oysters, lean beef are the best sources. Others include tofu watermelon, potatoes with skin, and spinach dried fruits such as apricots, prunes and raisins.
Foods such as whole-grain cereals, legumes unleavened whole-grain breads, tea, and coffee inhibit absorption of iron thus should be consumed separately from the iron supplements or iron-fortified foods.
Pre-natal vitamins-This ensures that babies are receiving enough of certain essential vitamins and minerals from breast milk. Thus, take lots of Fruits and green vegetables.
Omega-3 fatty acids- They help in cognitive development of the baby. Thus, take lots of fish. Moreover, Fish is low in saturated fat, thus the healthiest alternative to red meat. It provides the body with indispensable nutrients among them vitamins and minerals, including zinc, vitamins A, B, and D iron and proteins.
Take lots and lots of water and exercise more to avoid constipation which is common in post-delivery period. You can take alcohol or caffeine with moderation, but only breastfeed when the alcohol or the caffeine is completely out of the blood system.