Whether you’re a first-time parent or you’re welcoming number two or three, it’s always nice to have great advice and important developmental information at hand. We broke down the stages of your babe’s first year.
The First 8 Weeks
That little, wrinkly being will transform quickly over the first four weeks. Your baby will go from a tiny newborn creature to a mini human. You’ll be amazed at the changes each day.
Your child is born with reflexes and this may be the most action you see for a few weeks. These reflexes include:
A natural instinct to suck is a built-in feature of your baby. Preemies may need help developing this reflex, but in general, your baby will probably have no trouble sucking on anything that is placed in his mouth.
A baby’s natural hunt for food will be evident right away. If Mom places her nipple, a bottle nipple or a finger on Baby’s cheek or corner of the mouth, the baby will turn his head toward the object, looking for food.
If your child hears a loud noise or sees a quick movement, he may throw his head back and extend his arms and legs quickly, then draw them back in. A baby’s own cry can actually trigger this reaction.
For the first couple months, your baby’s hand will curl into a grasp when his palm is touched. That first grasp of Mom or Dad’s finger is a tear-jerker. Have the camera ready.
Babies form very strong emotional bonds from the get-go and nurturing this bonding during the first few weeks is key.
When you respond quickly to comfort your crying child, he learns to depend on you. Your comforting makes him feel more ready to explore his surroundings. If you ignore your baby’s cries, get angry with him or if you want your baby or child to comfort you, he will learn not to depend on you. Don’t worry about “spoiling” your baby. Babies aren’t spoiled if someone responds to their cries. Comforting babies is the best way to love them.
Try these other bonding tips:
- Speak or sing quietly to your baby.
- Look right into your baby’s eyes and trade facial expressions.
- Hold your baby close.
- Set aside time for skin-to-skin contact
Parenting a newborn, especially for first-time parents, can be scary. Here are a couple health issues you might encounter in the first two months.
- Diaper rash: Don’t stress because this is very common. Due to warmth and moisture, your baby’s delicate skin may become irritated. To help, change diapers frequently, use a thick layer of barrier paste/diaper cream and give your child some diaper-free time to dry out. If the rash persists, see your doc.
- Heat rash: Tiny red dots are the calling card of heat rash. Typically, it will be found on the upper back, shoulders and chest. It usually goes away on its own, but to prevent it, avoid over-bundling your baby, dress your baby in breathable cotton clothing and reduce your baby’s exposure to heat and humidity.
Two to Three Months
Your little one is probably developing some strong neck muscles by now. This means he will be holding his head up when you hold him, and even lifting it when lying on his belly.
Your baby’s hand movements will become less jerky and more deliberate. He will reach for desired objects.
Everything is about the senses, particularly touch. Have different toys with various textures on hand (crinkle books, rattles, mobiles, teethers).
Those adorable coos and sighs will give way to louder grunts and vocal expressions. He may even hum! This is your baby’s only form of communication right now, so don’t forget to talk back. Swap stories, read books and sing songs to encourage language development.
Around this time you most likely get what you’ve been waiting for: a smile! A real, genuine, smile (not just “gas”)! You should be able to generate smiles with funny faces and voices. If you’re lucky, you might also get a laugh.
Soon, you may have to deal with your baby’s first cold—and there are more to come. Babies can have up to 10 colds in their first year of life! Infants that have older siblings or spend time in daycare might seem as though they are always battling a cold. Common colds should pass in a few days. If you find your child develops laboured breathing, has a persistent fever (for 48 hours or more) or is unable to keep fluids down, you should contact your doctor.
Four to Five Months
At this age, your little one should be able to bear weight on the legs (while you are holding his hands, obviously) and roll over easily. Your baby may also be able to sit up, unassisted, for a moment or two. Be sure to stick close by though, to offer a helping hand.
Your child will also master grasping toys and objects and should be able to control his hands well enough to bring objects to his mouth.
Get ready for an emotional roller coaster! Your baby will be able to now greet you (and other people he loves) with a smile and even raise his arms to be picked up. But be prepared; these highs are matched by lows. Some babies will cry if a parent leaves the room or if they are put down after being held. Babies may also “play strange” around new people.
Some babies might begin teething now. For some it is earlier, and others much later, but in general, teeth will start making their way through. Signs of this include
- Loss of appetite
- Swollen gums
- Night waking
- Ear pulling
- Cheek rubbing
To help your teething baby, try these tricks:
- Wipe the baby’s face often as drooling could cause a rash.
a teething ring (don’t freeze it; it’ll be too hard). Ensure that it’s
not filled with liquid, that it can’t break and is large enough not to
- Offer a clean, cold wash cloth for baby to bite down on. (Use a clean one for each new use.)
- Offer frozen cubes of breast milk (it freezes to a slushy, not solid consistency)
It should be noted that contrary to what many people believe, teething does not cause fever. If your child does have a prolonged fever, call your doctor.
Six to Eight Months
Babble, babble, babble! First words are right around the corner, but right now, your child is probably making one-syllable sounds like, “Ma! Da! Ba!” Playing repetition games is a great way to encourage talking.
Here comes a big milestone: solid foods! You can tell that your baby is ready for solid foods when he holds up his head, begins chewing motions and uses his tongue to move food into his mouth, instead of pushing it out. Reference Canada’s Food Guide to find which foods are best to start with. Introduce new foods three days apart. This will help identify allergies.
By now, your child should have had a few vaccinations. Make sure that these are kept up-to-date!
Nine to Ten Months
Look out! Baby on the move! Chances are you will soon have a full-blown crawler on your hands. Help make this easier for your baby. You can dress your child so that he is more comfortable for exploring when he crawls. Crawling with bare knees can be rough on your baby’s skin, for example. And some garments can bunch up around the feet or catch under your baby’s knees (such as dresses). Cotton pants or overalls work better. This also means that you must baby-proof your whole home.
Unfortunately, at this age and stage, tantrums might be kicking in. Babies become frustrated with their limitations and hate being told “no”. Each child is different, and therefore each parent must make their own decisions with response to tantrums. Be patient and understand that this is all part of your child’s development. Good luck!
Eleven to Twelve Months
Introducing new activities will assist in your child’s brain development. Interacting with others, experiencing music and colours, engaging in social situations and playing with educational toys can add to the moments that can help create the person your child will become.
Babies are very sensitive to their physical surroundings and people around them. These interactions will affect how their brain pathways are formed.
You could be hearing first words now. First words fall into five categories: Names of people or things (such as “Mommy” or “juice”), action words (“go” or “eat”), places or directions (“up” or “down”), describing words (“hot”) and social words (“bye”). These words are important building blocks for later word combinations and for simple sentences that start at around two years. At this point, a child understands much more language than he can speak.
With more teeth coming through, it is important to maintain your child’s dental health. When at least four teeth in a row have broken through your baby’s gums in the lower or upper jaw, you can start using a toothbrush for his oral hygiene. Use a toothbrush with a thicker handle; they are easier for small hands to hold. Your child will feel less frustration as he grows and wants to learn to brush his own teeth.
You should brush your child’s teeth until he has enough strength and coordination to brush them himself. Even then, supervise him when he brushes his teeth.
Originally published in November 2018.