Home > Patients & Visitors > Health Library > Growth and Development, Newborn
Babies are called newborns during their first month of life. Although your newborn sleeps a lot, powerful changes are occurring in the five major areas of development.
The most important way to help your baby grow and develop is to communicate with him or her. Use a high-pitched voice, gentle touch, hugs, and kisses. An environment that is rich in stimulation, comfort, and loving attention enhances many areas of a baby's development. Research shows that babies who are talked to throughout their first few years usually learn language skills more easily than those who are not. Newborns are more interested in their caregivers than they are in toys or other objects.
You may feel overwhelmed during your baby's first month and wonder "Am I doing this right?" No previous life experiences prepare first-time parents for this new role. It is completely normal to be confused and frustrated by your newborn.
You will become familiar with your newborn's needs by paying attention to his or her behavior. For example, a fussy cry and turning away usually means "Change what we are doing." And an alert, bright-eyed look means "I am interested in what's going on." Trusting your instincts—to cuddle and rock a crying baby or to talk to your baby in a high-pitched "baby talk" voice—is usually the "right" thing to do. You will begin to develop a rhythm with your baby, where you will be able to read each other's needs and moods.
Your baby's doctor will likely recommend a specific schedule of routine newborn visits. These visits are important to check for problems and to make sure that your child is growing and developing as expected.
Do not be afraid to call your baby's doctor any time you have concerns about your newborn's health or general care. It is normal and expected for parents of newborns to have questions and to make frequent visits and calls to the doctor.
Expect your baby to develop in five key areas:
You may wonder whether your baby's daily patterns are typical. During your baby's first few weeks, most of your time will be spent simply making sure your baby is fed every few hours, comforted, and held, and has his or her diaper changed. Pay attention to cues. You will begin to discover your baby's individual needs and preferences.
The following information can give you an idea about what to expect about your baby's:
Although you may feel prepared for your baby, the reality of the constant care a newborn needs can shock many parents. A newborn affects your life in ways that simply can't be anticipated. It is only through experience that you can fully understand the impact of these new responsibilities and how your expected roles change. It is normal to shift frequently between feeling confident and ecstatic one minute, and drained, scared, and unsure the next.
When you realize that your baby is physically completely dependent on you, you may worry whether you are giving your baby the best care. Common concerns in this first month include:
It is normal to question your feelings for your baby. A bond doesn't necessarily happen the moment you set eyes on your child. But you will develop stronger feelings and love for your baby every day. For some parents, it takes time to develop this bond, especially when the baby's physical demands take a great deal of time and energy. Talk to your doctor if you do not feel that you are bonding with your baby in the first week or two.
Also keep in mind:
Although you will go through some major adjustments to this new little person in your life, your baby's first month is also a period of amazing growth and change. Treasure these first weeks as you gradually introduce your baby to the world.
For healthy growth and development, newborns need physical and emotional care. You enhance development and give your newborn a sense of security and being loved by:
Although your baby's needs are basic, it is important to respond promptly to his or her cues and to recognize safety issues.
For more information, see the topic Health and Safety, Birth to 2 Years.
Call your doctor if you think you or your partner has postpartum depression. It can make a mom feel very sad, hopeless, and worthless. And she may have trouble caring for and bonding with the baby. For more information, see the topic Postpartum Depression.
Call your doctor right away if you notice anything that concerns you. You are the expert on your baby. Although usually everything is fine, don't be afraid to contact your doctor for any reason.
Physical problems to watch for in your newborn include:
Be sure to call your doctor if your newborn:
Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about the following:
Your baby's first checkup begins in the hospital right after birth when a nurse assesses the baby's Apgar scores. This test checks certain physical traits to help determine whether your newborn needs any interventions or special monitoring right away. Temperature and vital signs are always closely watched during the baby's first 6 hours. Your baby may also have the following soon after birth:
In the first weeks after birth, your baby begins a series of health exams, sometimes called well-child visits. Doctors have individual approaches to the timing of these appointments. During one or more of these visits, your baby will have:
Routine checkups are a good time for parents to ask about what to expect in the weeks to come. You may find it helpful to go to your baby's checkups with a prepared list of questions .
Other Works Consulted
Buescher JJ, Bland H (2011). Care of the newborn. In RE Rakel, DP Rakel, eds., Textbook of Family Medicine, 8th ed., pp. 402–420. Philadelphia: Saunders.
Hagan JF, et al., eds. (2008). Health supervision: Newborn visit. In Bright Futures: Guidelines for Health Supervision of Infants, Children, and Adolescents, 3rd ed., pp. 271–288. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics.
Olsson J (2011). The newborn. In RM Kleigman et al., eds., Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 19th ed., online chap. 7. Philadelphia: Saunders. Available online: http://www.expertconsult.com.
Rosenburg A, et al. (2014). The newborn infant. In WW Hay Jr et al., eds., Current Diagnosis and Treatment: Pediatrics, 22nd ed., pp. 9–74. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Current as of:
September 20, 2021
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Susan C. Kim MD - PediatricsKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineJohn Pope MD - Pediatrics
Current as of: September 20, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Susan C. Kim MD - Pediatrics & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & John Pope MD - Pediatrics
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2021 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.