8 Signs of a Healthy Baby

Do you wonder if your little one is eating enough, sleeping enough, and on track for all those important milestones? Check out these easy-to-spot signs that show your baby is both happy and healthy.

Even if you fear you don't know the first thing about newborns, after a few weeks with your own little one, you'll get to know them better than anyone else. You'll start to hear the difference between their hungry and tired cries, and you'll know how they prefer to be rocked and burped.

Essentially, you grow more confident about your parenting skills with each passing day. If it weren't for the exhaustion and the hormones, you might even feel like you have everything under control.

But all it takes is a small, paranoid thought—Is my baby eating enough? Is all this crying unusual? Are they sleeping too much?—and you can easily fall into a spiral of anxious concern. You seek out friends and ask, "Do they look OK to you?" They say yes, but still, you can't help but worry.

So you Google a million things and read vaguely comforting phrases like "Healthy babies exhibit a wide range of behaviors, appearances, and temperaments."

The question is, how do you know that your baby is happy and developing normally? While you should always consult your child's pediatrician about any concerns you have, to help reassure you, we've assembled a list of indicators to watch for that prove your infant is doing just fine—and will help you can relax, let go of your worries, and just enjoy your bundle of joy.

happy baby girl and dad
Christin Lola/Shutterstock

1. They Are Soothed by Your Touch and Voice

What it proves: You have a bonded relationship.

Newborns cry. A lot. And no, just talking to your baby will probably not turn off the tears. Your voice was the soundtrack to their time in the womb, though, so it should be something that generally draws their attention.

"A baby is used to being in close quarters, and your voice was a big part of that experience," says Jennifer Shu, M.D., pediatrician and co-author of Heading Home With Your Newborn. "After they're born, hearing your voice, being wrapped and carried, and feeling your body heat all mimic that peaceful time."

When your child is calmed by your presence, that's their first step in bonding with you and a clear sign that they're developing emotionally.

Note, however, that babies with colic may be very difficult to calm, at times, which is no reflection on their emotional health or their attachment to you. Lots of fussiness is very normal for some babies during the newborn phase, so if that's the case for your little one, know you're not doing anything wrong. However, if your baby has extended periods of crying, consult with their doctor. Often, there are some helpful techniques to try that will ease their crying, but it's also important to rule out anything more serious.

2. They Have 8 to 10 Wet Diapers a Day, and They're Gaining Weight

What it proves: They're getting enough milk even if how much they drink changes. If you're nursing, how can you be sure your baby is drinking enough breast milk? The proof is in the wet diapers.

"My baby was born five weeks before her due date and weighed only 5 pounds," says Sara Porth, of South Deerfield, Massachusetts. "I was always worried about her weigh-ins. I didn't relax about her eating until she started making significant gains about 10 days after birth."

It's important to keep your well-baby visits so the pediatrician can assess your baby's growth. In between trips to the doctor, regular wet diapers are the best sign they're feeding well. Trust these indicators rather than obsessing over how much they consume at each meal. Babies don't eat the same amount every day, or even at every feeding. "There are growth spurts and slowdowns," Dr. Shu says. The important thing is that weight increases over time.

3. They Are Quiet and Attentive at Least a Few Times Each Day

What it proves: They're starting to learn.

Those first blurry weeks will be marked by feedings (about every 2 hours) and sleep (about 16 hours a day, but only a few hours in a row). In between all that, there's being held, pooping, and crying—and very little else. It's not until your baby begins gaining control of their eye muscles and focusing on a target (such as your face) that you'll get a sense of what a little sponge you have on your hands.

When infants are quiet and alert, they're taking note of everything around them and processing all kinds of new information. "Babies begin having more awake time when they're about 1 month old," Dr. Shu says. "That's when they can briefly settle down and soak in more visual cues."

4. They Turn Toward New Sounds and Listen

What it proves: Their hearing is developing and their brain is discerning sounds.

Babies are able to hear from birth, but it takes a few weeks for them to be able to filter out the white noise of daily existence outside the womb. The idea that some sounds are more interesting and important than others (the dull roar of the air conditioner is not as important as a big sister's sudden shrieks of laughter, for example) develops over time. The sound of music, especially, will eventually get a baby's attention, whether it's coming from your voice, a toy, or your stereo.

Once you see your baby react to sound by looking for the source, you'll know their ears are healthy and they're growing curious about what they're hearing.

5. They Look at Patterns, Colors, and Movement

What it proves: Their eyesight is sharpening and their brain is developing.

You wouldn't think that the ability to space out while staring at a ceiling fan would be a sign of progress, but it is. Babies are born with eyesight that's about 20/100, and they can see between 8 and 12 inches away—about the distance between your baby's face and yours when you're feeding them.

By 1 month, they can see up to 18 inches away. And by 2 months, most babies start tracking patterns, bright colors, and objects that spin, such as a mobile or fan. They don't have perfect color vision or good depth perception, which is why contrasting colors tend to get their attention. So, if you see them watching the world around them, that's a great sign.

6. They Make Eye Contact and Smile

What it proves: Your baby is becoming a social and happy creature.

The first moment of true eye contact with your newborn usually comes when they're a month old, the first smile by about 2 months, cooing at 3 months, and laughing by 4 months—and none of these milestones come a moment too soon.

"I've been craving any sort of interaction I can get with Zachary," says Sally Lee, of New York City, whose son is 2 months old. "I can't imagine that he'll one day be sitting up and actually talking to me."

All of these interactions show that your baby is connecting with you and becoming more aware of their surroundings. On some level, they understand that people interact with them more when they behave in a socially engaging manner. By the time a baby is about 5 months, they tend to smile when someone smiles at them as if it's a reflex.

All of these behaviors are important indicators of early social and language development. "Babies use body language, including eye contact and facial expressions, long before they can speak," Dr. Shu says. "It's a precursor to communicating with words." When your child coos and babbles, they're testing out their vocal cords. Soon, your little baby really will start chatting away.

7. They Cry a Little Less and Sleep More Regularly

What it proves: Their nervous system is maturing.

Aah. Do you feel that barely perceptible shift in your baby's routines? As in, there is a glimmer of a routine? You've made it out of the newborn juggernaut!

That's a result of your baby's nervous system learning the ropes. Look for the emergence of several naps a day and stretches of four or more hours between feedings at night. Some babies get there fast; others won't until they're 4 months or so. If your baby's older than that and still eating and sleeping at unpredictable times, try making their days more tightly scheduled. Then, it's your turn to find a brand-new parent and reassure them: Your baby is doing great and will be sleeping more soon, too!

8. They Can Support Their Own Bodyweight

What it proves: Those mini muscles are getting stronger.

Lots of babies hold their heads up briefly—so briefly!—by 1 month. By the time they're 3 months old, they're typically doing so more regularly and with greater skill. If your baby can hold their head up or shift around in your arms, you know they're flexing their growing muscles.

To help them along, make sure they're spending quality time outside the carrier or car seat. Tummy time on the floor (most babies' version of an exercise class) can especially help speed up the development of different muscles, including ones that allow them to roll or sit unassisted.

"We see that babies who haven't had a chance to exercise with tummy time tend to roll, sit, and crawl later than the norm," Dr. Shu says. So, give your little one some daily play time to move and strengthen those muscles!

The Bottom Line

Having a new baby is a whirlwind of happiness, love, and yes, stress. It's normal to be elated, relaxed, or worried about your baby in rapid succession—or even all at once. Trust your instincts, and if you ever have any questions or concerns, reach out to your baby's doctor right away.

But when all seems well, instead of focusing on your fears, look for the signs that your baby is doing just fine. Most likely, they're doing great. Letting go of your worries can help you relish this precious time—and every minute matters as it will be over in a flash.

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