Your Baby's Physical Development: Month 1
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'll develop physically in the first month of his new life.
What to expect: When you bring your baby home from the hospital, you'll be obsessed with her 10 little toes and 10 little fingers, so you might not expect the rest of her little body to be jerky and shaky. Don't worry: Those uncoordinated movements are normal at this age. Your baby also won't have much head control and may seem wobbly, which is why it's important to always support the back of her neck and head. She may surprise you with her strength, though, especially in maintaining flexed arms and legs, and in keeping her hands tightly fisted.
Expect to see an assortment of reflexes on display this month: Your baby will automatically suck and swallow when you stimulate the inside of his mouth and lips and when you graze his chin and cheek. He will root for food by turning toward the nipple if you touch his cheek. If your baby is startled by a loud noise, or if you suddenly remove support behind his head or back -- such as when you are lying him down on a changing table -- he may quickly extend his arms in an effort to protect himself from the sensation of falling. And touching his hand will likely cause him to grasp your finger, often extremely tightly.
Four to six wet diapers a day as a sign that your baby is eating enough. Babies are born with extra body fluid and typically lose up to 10 percent of their birthweight before they stabilize and start gaining. By their 2-week birthday, babies should be back up to their birthweight, and during the first month they'll gain weight quickly, putting on between a half-ounce and an ounce a day
Progression: Baby's movements will start to smooth out as the end of her first month approaches, and she'll likely become better at feeding as she gets more practice with the sucking motion. Her head control may improve, though you'll still need to offer support whenever you're holding her. You may see an increase in the energy she devotes to kicking and stretching, and her coordination may improve enough that she is able to get her hand to her mouth.
How to help: Swaddling your baby or wearing her in a sling can help contain her jerky movements and prevent her from startling herself. Hold your baby in an upright or semi-upright position, rather than flat on her back, to help her to better focus her attention when she's awake and alert. Have daily, supervised tummy time sessions -- which your baby may not always enjoy -- to help strengthen her back, shoulder, arm, and neck muscles. "Baby should be able to move her head from side to side during tummy time," explains Jennifer Shu, M.D., a pediatrician, Parents advisor, and co-author of Heading Home with Your Newborn. Try lying down in front of your baby during tummy time so that she can look at your face, or place a brightly colored object in front of her so she'll have something interesting to look at while on her belly. Baby's first sessions of tummy time should be brief and gradually lengthened.
Don't freak out if: You may hear cracking noises around your baby's elbows and knees when you straighten out his arms and legs; these are normal sounds coming from the ligaments, and they will go away as your baby grows. Your baby may breathe slightly irregularly when resting quietly or when in a light sleep. This will even out as she matures.
When you should you worry: If Baby seems listless, excessively floppy, or stiff, check in with your pediatrician. Call the doctor if your baby makes no effort to lift his head when he is on his belly, isn't opening and closing his or her hands, or makes no improvements in head control. Never ignore poor sucking or slow weight gain.
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