Newborn Baby Development and Milestones

Newborn Infant in Mother's Arms at Hospital.

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It really is amazing how much your baby will grow and develop in just the first month of life. In the beginning, it may seem that all they do is pee, poo, eat, cry, and sleep, but gradually, week by week, you will see growth and change in your baby. Review this list of newborn developmental milestones to see how your baby is doing.

Newborn Physical Development

In the beginning, you will notice that your baby uses jerky, uncoordinated movements that are sporadic and out of their control. If it seems like your newborn is pushing away your breast as you try to feed them, do not assume they mean anything by it. Movements in those early, early weeks are not intentional.

However, as they reach their 1 month birthday, you will begin to notice a little more control over their body. Movements will still be jerky, but you might see them begin to bring their hands to their mouth with a little more intention and control.

1-Month Movement Milestones

You can be watching for the following milestones during this first month.

  • Arm movements appear jerky and shaking
  • Raises hands near eyes and mouth
  • Turns head from side to side during tummy time
  • Head flops back when unsupported
  • Clenches hands into fists often
  • Has strong reflex and startle movements

Vision and Hearing Development

It can be upsetting to notice your newborn's eyes crossing. But this is a completely normal aspect of newborn vision development. Your baby is still learning to control their eye movements. As they age, they will grow out of this somewhat comical behavior, and you will be able to get some nice newborn photos.

Here are some milestones you should see for the development of sight and hearing.

  • Focuses on an object about eight to 12 inches away from their face
  • Gaze wanders frequently, or eyes cross
  • Preference for black and white or highly contrasting objects
  • Prefers to look at faces rather than objects
  • Hearing is fully mature
  • May recognize some sounds or turn to familiar sounds or voices

Sensory Development

Using smell and touch can be remarkably effective in calming a fussy baby. Certain smells and touches that are familiar to your newborn have a way of soothing them (and you). Some milestones for the development of a newborn's smell and touch are:

  • A distinct preference for sweet smells versus acidic or bitter smells
  • Recognizing the scent of their parent's breastmilk
  • Preferring soft fabrics to coarse materials
  • Being calmed by gentle, meaningful touches rather than jerky, unexpected handling

When to Check With a Doctor

If your baby misses a milestone, bring it up with their doctor. Your pediatrician is your partner—never be afraid to call your doctor if you have a concern.

If after day 3 or 4 you notice any of these signs of a developmental delay, seek medical attention. Problems with feeding, for example, could lead to dehydration.

  • Sucks poorly or has difficulty feeding
  • Fails to blink at a bright light
  • Cannot focus on a nearby object that moves side to side
  • Does not often move arms or legs or appears stiff
  • Appears to be floppy and lacks muscle tone
  • Lower jaw trembles frequently, even when not crying, cold, or excited
  • Fails to respond to loud sounds

Your baby's pediatrician can evaluate your baby and, if necessary, refer you to a specialist. Early intervention can help make sure your baby is developing well or receiving treatment for any health issues.

1 Source
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  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Developmental milestones: 1 month.

By Jennifer White
Jennifer White has authored parenting books and has worked in childcare and education fields for over 15 years.