Your Baby's Intellectual Development: Month 1

Find out how your brainy baby will development intellectually this month. We'll tell you when she'll become more alert and learn to focus on objects.

woman playing with baby Nicole Hill Gerulat

Those nine long months of pregnancy are over and you finally have your baby in your arms! It's incredible how much he'll grow in his first year of life. Find out how he will develop intellectually in the first month of his new life.

What to expect: You and your baby are adjusting to one another during this first month. Sleeping, eating, and changing diapers will fill the majority of your day. When awake, Baby may be only somewhat attentive and may be easily distracted by his own movements because they are up close and easy for him to see. As for vision, "Baby should be able to focus on something or someone that is about a foot away," says Jennifer Shu, M.D., a pediatrician, Parents advisor, and co-author of Heading Home with Your Newborn. But Baby likely won't look you right in the eyes for more than a few seconds at a time at first.

Your baby may be able to tell which direction sounds are coming from and she may excel at letting you know when there's too much auditory stimulation, either by protesting loudly or falling into a deep sleep. Be on the lookout for a sleep grin here or there, though real, social grins may not appear until the end of the month, when she begins to grin back at you during her alert periods.

Parenthood in the first month is far from glamorous, so if you're worried about smelling from baby vomit or spit up, don't be! Baby loves your smell unconditionally. In fact, you may notice him respond to the scent of your nipples and breast milk.

Progression: Expect your baby to spend more time awake and alert as the month goes on, though probably not for more than an hour or two at a time. You may start to notice that she seems to be paying more attention to you, listening while you talk to her, and watching your movements. She may even move in response to your words or actions (though she won't necessarily understand what they mean). By the end of the first month, Baby should be able to briefly focus on things as far as three feet away from her. At the same time, she'll learn to follow, or track, moving objects.

How to help: Offer high-contrast images or mobiles -- bold stripes, black and white images, simple faces -- for your baby to study. (He may be sensitive to bright colors and won't yet notice pretty pastels.) Try to make eye contact with your baby while you feed him, as it will be easy for him to focus on your eyes. Allow Baby to study his own face in an unbreakable mirror, either in his crib or in a play area that's especially made to attach inside cribs and playpens, so he can entertain himself when a parent isn't nearby. Exaggerate your facial expressions slightly to make it easier for him to follow along, and talk as much as possible -- explain what you're doing during diaper changes, and tell him about the sights you see when you're out and about -- to help establish an understanding of language.

You can also try talking to Baby from either side of him to see if he turns his head toward you. Respond to his cries promptly by feeding him, comforting him, and changing his diaper. This will help teach your newborn to trust you to care for his needs.

Don't freak out if: Your baby may be very sleepy during the first half of the month -- but remember, it is a big ordeal to be born, and some babies take longer to adjust to their new surroundings than others. Your baby's eyes may be moving almost constantly, which is normal. It may take another month or two for her to turn in the direction of your voice.

When you should you worry: Occasional crossed eyes are a normal sign that depth perception is still developing, but if your baby's eyes are constantly crossed, seek medical attention. If Baby doesn't regularly focus and follow an object as you move it from side to side in front of her face, let your doctor know. Talk to your pediatrician if baby is unresponsive to loud noises or bright lights.

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