Developmental Psychology:  The Newborn Baby

Congratulations!  It’s a Boy, it’s a Girl, or TWINS, or MORE!  In any case the beautiful bouncing bundle(s) of joy is ready for mommy and daddy to carry him or her or them home to the new life they are about to embark on outside of the warmth and safety of the womb.  What an exciting time for all.

The first thing that the new parents are going to see is a few reflexes that are natural responses to stimulus.  These are not cognizant actions by the newborn baby, but are reflections of what they are feeling at a specific time.  Stroke a baby’s cheek and they will turn their head toward the sensation and open their mouth in anticipation of a bottle or mother’s milk.  Hold a baby by his or her arms and pull them gently forward and they will take what seems to be steps but is actually a reflexive action.  A baby will pull their foot away if they feel pain, and will grasp at things placed in their hands.  None of these actions are voluntary, but are all important in the further development of your newborn baby.  Each of these reflexes as well as normal bodily functions is part of the APGAR test conducted to ensure the basic health of a newborn baby.

There are four natural states that a baby exists in for the first one or two months of life.  These states are alert inactivity, waking activity, crying, and sleeping.   Each of these states is defined below:

Alert inactivity:  calm and attentive with eyes open.  The baby appears to be reviewing their surroundings on purpose.

Waking activity:  awake and randomly moving, the baby does not seem to be focusing on any particular thing.

Crying:  vigorous crying with involuntary body movements of the appendages, usually in communication of a basic need

Sleeping:  during sleep the baby will be still and calm part of the sleep cycle and gentle movement coinciding with more irregular breaths.

When you baby cries, it is not to be fretted over.  After all, most babies spend between two and four hours a day crying, or nearly crying.  In communication terms there are three distinct and specific types of crying that have been noticed by pediatricians.  The first type of crying is basic, when the baby is in need of something.  This kind of crying starts with whimpering and if not addressed will become more amplified until their needs are addressed, usually discomfort or hunger.  The baby also can get mad.  When a baby is mad their crying changes to a more intense version of the basic needs crying.  He or she will tighten muscles and cry when they are mad.  The third distinct type of crying occurs when a baby is in pain.  This cry is specific in that it is more of a hysterical type of crying, including long bursts that are separated by pauses and gasps for air.  It is important to figure out the way your baby cries so that you can begin to help them further in their abilities to communicate.

Modest or moderate stimulation in most cases will help to soothe a baby.  If the mother or father wishes, they can swaddle the baby (wrap them snug in a blanket) pat them on the back, or walk around with them.  Car rides also do wonders for most crying as the vibrations of the running car will soothe the baby back to sleep.

Babies sleep between sixteen and eighteen hours a day.  It may not seem like that much because their stomachs are so small that they need to be awake often to feed and continue to grow.  Most babies are asleep for around three or four hours then wake up for an hour.  These baby naps work for the infant but the mother who cares for this infant can find their new schedule to be quite exhausting.  Even when the baby is in the hour of wakefulness they are likely to alternate between the four states mentioned above, including dozing off.  Studies have found that about half of a baby’s sleep cycle is in REM sleep states.  This has been determined because of the activity that the baby is conducting while they are asleep.  Their arms and legs move, they will coo lightly, and their eyes can be seen moving under their eyelids.

A baby’s temperament is as varied as there are babies.  No two babies have exactly the same personality.  One baby may be extremely calm and their neighbor, even in the newborn infant ward of the local hospital, another baby may be of a less than happy mood.  Each baby begins their journey into their life in different ways, depending on many factors.  Some factors may include the length of the mother’s labor, how the mommy ate while the baby was in gestation, whether the infant was premature or overdue, or other factors.  No one has come to a conclusion what the actual causes are for a baby’s personality and temperament.

A newborn baby is something wondrous to behold and every parent should do their best to know the basics of each step in their child’s life.  Babies are beautiful, embraceable, and loveable.  Enjoy yours!

Next installment includes toddlers, developmental milestones, and what a new mother and father should expect from their baby.  I hope you enjoy this journey through the development of human beings from birth and beyond.

To begin at the beginning of this series on development, visit here, and follow the anchor text links found at the bottom of each article.