Friday, September 25, 2009

Two to Four weeks: A Whole New World

By Jennifer Banuelos

Even after several years of studying and working with infants (and having one of my own), I am still amazed at how quickly babies grow and develop. Within just a few weeks, they rapidly develop more skills to help them interact more effectively with the people around them. Although some of these skills won't be obvious to strangers, you will see your baby maturing right before your eyes!

By 4 weeks, babies' senses are sharpening. They are captivated by faces (especially of other babies) and love high contrast (like black & white) patterns. You can find board books with baby faces and/or contrasting patterns that babies enjoy. Newborns are calmed by the sight of the human face. Consider adding "face time" to your routine, maybe before and after feeding to help your baby's senses develop!

By one month, babies start to explore more objects by mouth, beginning to recognize different objects by their mouth-feel.

Cognitive Development
As mentioned in the last post, newborns are often unable to control their states or moods. By 4 weeks, babies may begin to have more predictable patterns of behavior. For example, some 1-month-old babies will start to spend more time looking around after feedings, become visibly drowsy after some social time and fall asleep without crying or becoming irritable. As your baby continues to become more aware of the world around her, you may notice that she gets fussy at the the same time every day, often in the evening. This may be due to over stimulation from a long day of play and may coincide with the time of day that parents get home from work, siblings arrive home from school, and dinner is being made. All the new sights, sounds, and smells are just too much for baby!

By 4 weeks, babies have learned to interact in special ways with different caregivers. For example, with her mother, a baby's body movements and facial expressions may be smooth and rhythmic, mimicking the mother's low-key, gentle demeanor. With her father, a baby's facial expressions may be more animated. Her arms and legs may become tense as if she has already learned that fathers are for playing!

Physical Development
By 3-4 weeks, your baby may lift her head briefly and possibly move it from side to side when she's lying on her stomach. This is a great time to start "Tummy Time." Placing your baby on her tummy (in a safe stimulating place) for a little while each day is important for her development. At first, your baby will be able to handle only a few minutes of tummy time, but over time, her muscles will strengthen and she will enjoy more time on her tummy. Remember - tummy time is only appropriate when your baby is awake. Babies should always sleep on their backs. Babies this age also begin learning that their arms and legs are attached to their bodies. Try gently moving her hands in front of her face so she can see and feel them at the same time.

The first weeks of your baby's life are hard work and you may forget (or be too tired) to notice the wonderous changes in your baby's abilities to communicate and move. Even bigger changes are ahead! We'll share more about infant development in upcoming posts.

Next time: We're going to give you a fun little quiz to see how much you know about babies!

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