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Your newborn baby's development

Advice on your newborn baby's physical development, with information on your baby's reflexes, sense of hearing, vision and touch.
From birth your baby begins to develop and adjust to the outside world and you will be amazed at how fast he or she grows. While it is important to encourage your baby's development, as you watch your little one learn and grow over the coming weeks, months and years it is important to remember that he or she is an individual. Your baby is learning more about the world all the time and will develop new skills and behaviours when she is ready.

Physical development

During the first month of life your baby may grow between 1 - 1.5 inches (2.5 -3.8cm) and gain between 4 and 8 ounces in weight, although some loose a little straight after birth. Over the coming months your baby's physical development will be regularly monitored by your health care professional.

You will notice that your newborns head is wobbly as the neck muscles are not yet strong enough to support the head unaided. For this reason you will need to ensure your baby's head and neck are supported at all times. These muscles will develop and strengthen so that at approximately one month of age your baby may begin to lift her head when lying tummy down.

Your baby's limbs may seem quite curled to begin with, this is simply because of the position your baby adopted towards the end of pregnancy when space in the womb became limited. Over the coming months your baby's limbs will begin to straighten out and while initially you may notice that your baby has little voluntary control over her movements, this is something that will develop over time.

A baby's physical development begins at the head and works downwards - this means that your baby will be able to control her head and neck movement before she is able to exert control over the movement of her arms and feet. Additionally, gross motor control is developed before fine motor skills; this means that your baby will be able to control the less precise movements of her arms and legs before she is able to control movement of her hands, fingers and toes.

Development of the senses

Vision - A newborn baby is only able to focus on objects between 8 -12 inches in front of them; this is approximately the distance of a mother's face during a feed. Young babies are unable to make sense of complex patterns so they prefer to look at high contrast images such as the contours of a human face (although they are unable to see detail, they can distinguish between the 'dark' of the eyes and the hair line and the 'light' of the skin).

Hearing - Compared to their eye sight, a new born baby's sense of hearing is far more advanced. They are able to respond to loud noises, recognise familiar sounds, show preference for higher pitched voices and begin to locate where sounds are coming from. By the time your baby is one month old her sense of hearing will almost be fully developed

Touch - Newborn babies are very sensitive to touch, they like the feel of soft fabrics, skin to skin contact with their parents and, of course, lots of cuddling

Taste - While it is rare for newborn babies to consume anything other than breast or formula milk, research has shown that they do have a fairly developed sense of taste, showing preference for sweet tastes compared to salty or bitter ones.

By giving your baby lots of attention and stimulating her senses through play, you will help to ensure that her development progresses healthily and prepare her for more complex learning in later life.

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