One of the most wonderful things about babies is that they are all unique and completely special in their own ways. It’s understandable that you may feel anxious if they are not developing at the same pace as other babies, but they will grow and develop in their own time; take these developmental milestones as a broad guide based on an average of all babies rather than strict rules that every baby should follow. So, don’t lose too much sleep over your little one is taking her own time for some things. Trust your instincts: if something feels out of place or if you are very concerned, contact your health care professional.

In this series of posts, we’ll be looking at some of the milestones your baby might reach as she grows. To start with, we’ve taken a look at the general milestones that babies can reach in their first 2 months, and how you might be able to help with their development.

Routine

Feeding

  • It’s understandable that not all mothers are able to breastfeed, but the World Health Organisation advises that babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months
  • It may take time to get used to breastfeeding, but hang in there
  • For the first few days after birth, the breasts produce colostrum: highly concentrated food of which your baby will only need about a spoonful of at each feed
  • They will feed often to begin with, but have fewer longer feeds after a few days – around 8-12 feeds in 24 hours in the first few weeks, reducing to 6 or 7 feeds as they approach 2 months
  • Newborns drink only milk – whether breast milk, formula or a mixture of both – and there is no strict routine you need to follow. They should be fed on demand, whenever they’re hungry

Sleep

  • Newborns need lots of sleep – they will sleep for most of the day and night, but as they have shorter sleep cycles than adults, they will stir every 40 minutes or so
  • They can sleep for 14-20 hours in the first few weeks, with an average of 8 hours a day and 8 hours a night
  • Towards 3 months, they might sleep a little bit more – an average of 7.5 hours in the day and 7.5 hours in the night
  • They will wake up around every 2-3 hours for feeding, changing or attention

Changing

  • With all those feeds comes plenty of nappy changes
  • They may need changing around 12 times a day for the first few days, and then several times a day for the next few weeks
  • At around 1 month they may start to produce more wee, so it’s important to check for wetness, and the amount of poos can vary – some babies only go once a week
  • It’s also important not to leave your baby sitting in a dirty nappy for too long as it can lead to nappy rash

Active time

  • Your newborn won’t spend a lot of time awake (roughly 8 hours in 24 hours)
  • They will spend some of this time feeding and being changed and bathed
  • While they’re still young, they won’t be able to do much, but they are learning and developing rapidly, so the rest of their activity time can be used for stimulation (such as through touch and sound) to help with their development – we will discuss this further in the rest of the post

 

Milestones

Hearing

  • The part of the brain that deals with hearing is very active
  • Hearing has developed in the womb and they will begin turning their head towards sources of sound
  • At around 2 months, they may be able to differentiate between voices. Mum is generally first in line, so they may be able to hear ‘mum’s voice’ in comparison to ‘other voice’. Babies are soothed by these familiar, recognisable voices, so talking to your baby can be very helpful if they seem distressed.

Sight

  • Sight develops rapidly and vision begins to focus in the first month so that they can see about 30cm away
  • Don’t worry if their eyes jolt around or if they look slightly cross eyed sometimes – it’s all part of learning how to focus. Eyes will start to move together most of the time at around 6 weeks
  • They may start to distinguish between colours at around 2 months, and be drawn towards bright, primary colours

Movement

  • They may discover their legs and arms at 1 month, and they start to co-ordinate towards 2 months, meaning lots of kicking. They may also start rolling around and grasping things at around 2 months.
  • Neck muscles are still weak but they may be able to lift their head up briefly or turn it side to side; it’s still important to support their head when holding them straight.
  • And they might just reward you for all of your hard work with some cute little smiles.

Noises

  • Don’t worry if your baby cries – it’s the only way they can communicate. It’s thought to be excessive if they cry for more than 3 hours a day for more than 3 days a week
  • They generally cry from the moment they’re born, and often more in the afternoons or evening
  • As they get closer to 2 months, they can become more vocal with some single vowel sounds or delightful gurgling
  • In the early days, it’s as important to keep track of nappy changes and feeds

Other cute little things

  • Salivary glands develop and they may start to dribble and soak lots of bibs
  • As their brain grows, and they start to make sense of the world around them, they might begin to get bored if activities don’t change, which can result in them crying or fussing
  • They are guided to your breast by their nose – they may be able to smell secretions from your breasts

 

Tips to help development

Tummy time

  • Spend 1-5 minutes a day playing with your baby on their tummy to strengthen their head, neck and upper body
  • Always watch them during tummy time, and make sure to put them on their back to sleep
  • Tummy time can be built up as they grow to around 10 minutes, 4 or 5 times a day
  • You could also try doing it with your baby on your chest
  • Don’t worry if your baby doesn’t like tummy time – their neck will still strengthen from holding them upright
  • If they don’t like it, don’t give up right away – go back and try again tomorrow
  • It has been found that tummy time can help with motor skills

Create sounds and movement

  • Use animated conversation, reading or singing and lots of eye contact to soothe them and help with their language skills
  • Encourage them by opening your mouth or poking your tongue out, letting them copy and responding to them
  • Try playing soft music or lullabies to see how your baby reacts
  • Shake a rattle and move it across their line of vision for them to follow with their eyes
  • As they get closer to 2 months, try 5-10 minute sessions with a baby gym
  • Don’t provide too much external stimuli as they may become overwhelmed

Touch

  • Newborns feel touch strongly on areas around the mouth, the palms of their hands and soles of their feet, so give special attention to those areas when cuddling
  • Play games like ‘this little piggy’ which begins with their toes and ends with tickling under their chin – this can help with teaching them to anticipate events
  • Try a baby massage at 1 – 2 months, which can be relaxing for them and could reduce stress levels. You can incorporate this in their bedtime routine and this could help them to sleep better, but don’t expect them to sleep for long periods yet

Other bonding tips

  • Lean in close to your baby so that they can see you properly
  • Smile at your baby. They are able to read facial expressions and positive ones can help them feel safe
  • Closer to 2 months, when talking, give them time to respond
  • In front of a mirror, pull faces and make noises and see how your baby reacts
  • Copy their little gestures
  • When they cry, let them know that you’re there to help them feel safe and secure

Things to look out for

By the end of 2 months, lots of changes have taken place in your baby’s body and they are developing and learning extremely quickly. It’s understandable that you may be concerned about certain things at the end of 2 months. Contact your healthcare professional if you have concerns over your baby:

  • Crying a lot – crying is normal, but an excessive amount may indicate signs of colic
  • Not being able to focus on faces or lights
  • Not making any sounds
  • Not feeding or sleeping well
  • Producing less wet nappies than expected
  • Not beginning to smile or move their arms or legs
  • Not responding to sounds (being startled by loud sounds, soothed by soft sounds, etc.) – this can be a sign of hearing impairment
  • Not being able to hold their head up when on their tummy
  • Sleeping too much (more than 16 hours a day)
  • Being unusually stiff or floppy

Remember to always keep in mind that babies develop at different rates. Your little bundle of joy is constantly trying to fit in with and make sense of this new and exciting world, and they need plenty of time and encouragement to get used to it all. Look out for more installments in this series where we’ll be looking at further milestones.

Let us know in the comments below ways in which you connect/connected with your newborn.

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