You've dreamed of this day, quite possible, most of your life. You've taken all the proper classes. Assembled the crib you never thought you would get put together. You've laundered all the little bitty outfits and blankets. Folded and refolded them trying to picture your new little baby wearing them. And the big day has come and you've brought your little one home from the hospital. Now you wondering what will be coming next. As most parents know babies don't come with a manual. So if you are worried about being a new parent hear is some information that will help to set your mind at ease.
There are a few milestones that most babies will reach in just the first few days of life. Keep in mind all babies are different and mature at different paces. A premature baby, for example, will reach milestones later than a baby born between 36-40weeks gestation. Here are some things to look for the first week or two after your baby arrives at home.
First, he may be able to hold his head up for a 1-3 seconds while on his tummy. If you are not sure if your baby is able to do this you can get a bright colored toy or rattle to capture his attention while he is on his tummy. Also be sure to always supervise a baby on their tummy. If your baby should fall asleep while on his tummy you will need to place him in his bed on his back to sleep. Recent studies have shown that there are more cases of SIDS in babies who sleep on their tummies verses babies who sleep on their backs.
Secondly, your baby should be able to move her arms and legs well on both sides of her body. Movements should be equally strong for both sides of the body. If you are not sure if she moves her arms and legs well pay special attention during diaper changes. Most newborn babies are very opposed to being naked in any form and will protest by flailing their arms and legs. If you are uncertain about the movements being equal for both sides of the body contact your pedestrian.
Lastly, your baby should be able to focus on objects that are within 8 to 15 inches from his face. This is approximately the distance from your face to his when you are holding him in your arms. During feedings read a book to him or sing him a favorite lullaby. Or simply just talk to him in an animated voice. He will respond mostly by staring at your face, which in turn will show you his eyes are focusing on you.
All newborn babies have a variety of primitive reflexes. Like other members of nature human babies are also born with instinctual behaviors that insure their survival. Though they will rely greatly on you for survival, they do have inborn instincts. While some are very obvious others are more subtle. Here are the reflexes to look for in the first week of life.
Newborns have what is called a startle reflex or Moro reflex. When they are startled by a loud noise or bright light they will extend their arms and legs and fingers, draw their heads back and then curl their limbs back in and clench their fingers into fists. Most babies will continue this until 4 to even 6 months old.
Babies are born with what is called a rooting reflex. Some are stronger than others but will develop more if baby is breastfed. When baby's cheek is touched the baby will turn towards the touch with mouth open, ready to suckle. This reflex, one of the more obvious, is to help insure that baby finds either the breast or a bottle for mealtimes. This reflex will last longer in breastfed babies but will usually not be as prominent after three to four months. All though it will persist more when baby is tired or sleeping.
The walking reflex is misunderstood by many. All babies have this reflex though some are not as prominent as others. Some are less prominent simply because most newborns don't support their weight while placed on there feet or may protest about being put in such a position. Those that do stand on their feet while supported under their arms may lift on foot and then the other seeming to try and take steps. This is in no way a sign of an early walker. Most likely it is just to strengthen the leg muscles.
All babies, though some are stronger, have a sucking reflex. When something is placed in baby's mouth baby will frivolously suck on said object. This reflex insures that baby can suckle on a breast or bottle to get fed. Some babies will exhibit the need to suckle, for non-nutritional purposes, more than others. If this is the case a pacifier will come in handy. If you don't have one the tip of your finger (make sure your hand are washed first) will suffice. If breastfeeding it is okay to let your baby suckle after a feeding is over. You in turn are acting as a pacifier to your baby. This can be very comforting to your baby and is a unique bonding experience between the two of you. The sucking reflex lasts until two to four months at which point it will be replaced with voluntary sucking.
Lastly, babies have a palmar grasping reflex. When babies hand is open and something is placed in it's hand (most times this will be your finger) baby will grasp on very tightly to the object. Although you would never want to test this, it is thought to be true that a newborn's grasp is so strong that it could possibly support the baby's own entire body weight. The grasping reflex also works on babies feet. In most babies this reflex will last until three to six months.
All of the above attributes will come naturally and some with time. If you feel there is something wrong with your newborn and are not sure trust your instincts and contact your pediatrician or go to your local emergency room if you think that your baby needs immediate attention. Don't worry if it ends up being something minor. You will not be the first new parent who has over-reacted.