By month two, you and your baby are settling into a routine. You might still be exhausted by the constant diaper changes and middle-of-the-night feeds, but your baby will soon reward you by showing the first glimmers of her personality -- and maybe even that first smile. This is when parenthood starts to get more fun.
What to expect: "By the age of 2 months a mother can see her baby's reactions and movements becoming less reflexive and more purposeful and directed by the environment," explains Kimberly Williams, Psy.D., a pediatric neuropsychologist in Great Neck, NY. "At this young age, babies actually start to hold eye contact and mimic their parents' facial expressions."
Progression: Your baby will start to spend more time awake, and for good reason -- she's discovering the joy of interacting with her loved ones. "Your baby may respond to your playful interactions with soft coos, blowing bubbles, squeals and gurgles," Dr. Williams says. "Your infant will then begin to show some emotions with little smiles and facial gestures. You will see your baby becoming connected to you as [she] follows your movements with [her] eyes."
How to help: "Spend lots of time talking to your baby and reading to him," recommends Anne Zachry, Ph.D., a child development specialist and author of the forthcoming book Retro Baby. "The more language [you expose your baby to] the better. Research tells us that the number of words a baby hears directly affects language development. In fact, the more words a baby hears leads to more intricate wiring in the brain and enhances learning, thinking, and creativity." At the same time, teach your baby the art of conversation by knowing when to stay quiet. "Give your baby time to respond," says Claire Lerner, LCSW-C, director of parenting resources at Zero to Three, a national nonprofit focused on infant and toddler development. "They coo, you respond with a sound, they coo back. That's how they learn about back-and-forth communication, and your response makes them want to communicate more," she explains.
Engaging in other fun activities can also boost your baby's brain development. "Cognition and awareness should be stimulated by little 'hide it and show it' games. For instance, hiding a colorful toy or puppet behind your back and then popping it out for the infant to see," Dr. Williams says. "Taking your baby on regular walks also gives [him] exposure and builds tolerance and familiarity to different sights, sounds and people to enhance social development."
When you should you worry: "Parents should keep in mind that infants reach milestones at different rates," Dr. Williams says. But you might want to talk to your pediatrician if your baby doesn't respond to loud noises or the sound of your voice, doesn't seem to notice her hands, or doesn't follow objects with his eyes -- all red flags that could affect social development, Dr. Williams says.
Don't freak out if: Baby's fussiness drives you mad. Fussiness can peak in the second month, and it's OK to put the baby down in a safe place and walk away for a few minutes.
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