A young family welcoming a newborn has a wonderful, (maybe trying) experience in-store. New parents want to know in the delivery room, “Is my baby OK? “Is he normal?” Thankfully, the vast majority of the time the answer is, “Yes,” though even as a newborn, what is defined as normal can be a fairly wide range.
The first weeks
A newborn is overwhelmed with new sensations and feelings. After the first 24-hour “recovery period” the baby’s drive is to eat, becoming even voracious by Day 3, which can be challenging for breastfeeding mothers before their milk comes in. As feeding settles down around the fourth or fifth day, Baby still has a long way to go while trying to make sense of new noises, lights, and touches. “What is this hunger feeling?” “What is this gas feeling about?” or “What is this wet sensation?”
Babies enjoy being swaddled mimicking the intrauterine environment. The first five weeks, for parents and baby, is hard work, but eventually, we get to the first milestone: that social smile actually seeing you! This is usually seen at 5-6 weeks, but there is a range of time for this happening since every baby is a unique individual.
Six weeks-three months
Babies see pretty well, responding to you by developing head control, becoming pronounced around now. Now, and at a magic weight of 12 pounds, babies are physiologically and developmentally ready to sleep through the night. This can be a boon to exhausted parents who have been up every 2-3 hours for months, but the every-two-hour feedings can become a habit for baby and parent, delaying this stage as both work to get past it.
Baby begins to show more response to her surroundings, batting at objects with hands, sometimes gripping and holding on. Teething starts, sometimes bringing fussiness. At about 14 pounds and after four months, Baby may be ready to start baby foods. A good sign she is developmentally ready is when she can take baby food from a spoon. Some babies take right to it while others are not ready until as late as seven months.
Baby grasps his feet, even sucking on toes! Some responsive sounds now occur as he interacts more. It is a crucial time while learning from the environment, and face time with Mom and Dad continues to be vital. The baby can now sit up with help, and drooling is now pronounced with more teething.
We can expect rolling, scooting around, beginning to stand, and holding on to furniture. Baby sounds now begin to become recognizable consonants and vowels as she continues to learn by observing those around her.
The big event around now is the first step, often unsteady and tentative, but babies are pretty smart about taking it one step at a time. The first word may become intelligible at this stage, but even at 15 months, only about 3-4 words are forthcoming.
A lot has changed in only 12 months. It is important to recognize that some milestones may come early, some late, and some may be skipped altogether. It is not unusual to see a child not crawl “on time,” just to see him stand up and walk a month later. Children can be really fun and interesting in the different ways they grow and develop.
So what problems do we see in the office most commonly regarding child development?
Interestingly, it is often parents and family who are worried and anxious after reading something or after comparing their child to another child. Parents fear their child is falling behind or is not normal. This can be a real emotional trap for families!
One example I like to relate to my parents is a boy years ago who wasn’t walking at 12, then 15, then 18 months. Extensive evaluations revealed no medical issues. The family (and their pediatrician!) was very worried that something was wrong. Finally, at 20 months, he began to take steps. 8 years later that same child was an all-star little league pitcher!
If (during regular checkups or as a result of concerns noted by parents and family) a delay is noted, pediatricians can access services from speech, occupational, or physical therapists. HealthLink at Beaufort Memorial Hospital has been a leader in furnishing childhood services supported by several other sources in the area. Rapidly progressing technology has enabled physicians to diagnose rare genetic causes for developmental delays that were hidden from us just a few years ago.
Advice to our young parents: enjoy the journey. It is fun to see our children grow and change. At each check-up, your pediatrician will watch and measure not only physical growth, but also motor, neurological, and social development.
Dr. Joseph “Chip” Floyd is the principle provider at Beaufort Pediatrics. He became “semi-retired” in August after a 30+ year career in pediatrics. He is a proud father of three and a doting grandfather to three busy, wonderful grandchildren. His better half is Pam Floyd who is a naturalist and outreach teacher for the Beaufort Conservation District.