Baby's First Year: Weeks 5-9
Babies are individuals
While infant development is generally predictable, babies express their individuality right from the beginning. You've already seen your baby's unique temperament in the way he responds to his world. His preference for gentle bouncing or rocking; the way he falls asleep; his sensitivity to sounds, light, or interaction; his meek or feisty cry - all these responses are windows into the person your baby is and will be.
Growing and changing
Just a month old, your baby has already grown in many ways. He may have settled into a pattern of waking, sleeping, playing, and fussing each day. He may be more awake during the day than at night. Perhaps the most exciting and satisfying development to take place in the fifth or sixth week of your baby's life is his first smile. He may even giggle. These early moments of joy are a rich reward for the first few weeks of parenting a newborn.
Have you noticed your baby smiling in his sleep? Soon, you will enjoy his first true smile in response to seeing your face, your smile and hearing your voice. When a baby smiles for the first time, we aren't always certain if it is a real smile at all. And when they do smile, do babies' smiles signal happiness, the way an adult's smile does? A recent study shows that infant smiles made with raised cheeks and open mouths are more likely to occur when a mother smiles at her baby, or when the baby catches sight of his mother. It seems safe to assume, therefore, that a baby's smile means what anybody's smile means: I'm feeling good and am glad to see you.
Your baby gains better control of his arms and legs by the end of the first month. Shakes and quivers give way to smooth movements. Watch to see if your baby moves his arms and legs rhythmically in response to your voice or in crawling motions if you lay him on his stomach. He has more control over his head as his neck muscles strengthen and can turn from side to side. His head is still too heavy for his neck when sitting up, however, and needs to be supported.
Your growing baby
Your baby matures with amazing speed. Already, at just 6 weeks, instead of startling, your baby moves his arms and legs with control. When you place him on his belly, he lifts his head to look around. On his back, he can turn his head to a preferred side and bring his fist to his mouth to suck. When pulled to a sit, he keeps his neck straight and holds it up for a minute or longer. If you touch his hand with a toy or other object, he may jerk the hand toward the object as his hand-eye coordination begins to develop. If you watch closely as your baby grows, you will see how newborn reflexes soon give way to real skills.
Playing with your baby
In the early weeks, it may have been next to impossible to get anything done because your baby needed to be held, rocked and fed so much of the day. Now, you may find it hard to do much except smile and play with your baby. Around 6 to 8 weeks of age, babies develop enchanting methods of engaging their parents, including gazing at your face, smiling, wriggling with glee and delicious gurgles and coos.
Suddenly, after weeks of sleep deprivation and emotional transition, many parents report they are utterly and passionately in love with this charming new person in their life. You may find yourself riveted to your baby's face, smiling and cooing back and forth for long periods. Not only are these parent-baby "dialogues" pleasurable for both you and your baby, but researchers report they are also key to building your baby's ability to communicate with his voice, eyes and facial expressions.
Your style, your partner's style
The experience of pregnancy and birth, the intimacy of breastfeeding and the fact that mothers usually take longer leaves than their partners can all leave their partners feeling like a fifth wheel.
Mom, if your partner feels left out and unsure of his ability to care for, comfort and play with the baby, he will become more confident if you can stand back and let him find his own way. The way he comforts and plays with the baby may not be the same as yours, but your baby will learn to love it just as much.
In fact, research has shown what families have known all along: parents have different styles with babies, and babies respond to each differently. For example, when placed in front of their mothers, researchers say, babies soften their faces and move their hands and feet in smooth cycles.
With their fathers, however, their eyebrows go up, their mouths open in grins and their legs and arms jump out as if they expect fun to begin! One study suggests fathers may interact with children in a "more stimulating and unpredictable way" than mothers do, which may help them cope with less predictable social encounters outside the family.
If you are raising your baby on your own, the research into a baby's ability to enjoy different styles of interaction may encourage you to invite friends and family to form close bonds with your baby. Loving, healthy socialization takes many forms, and they all can enrich your baby's world.
Watching your baby receive his first shots may be more painful for you than it is for him. You can ease your anxiety and make him more comfortable during his shots by holding him. If you are breastfeeding, nursing him during any uncomfortable procedure will also help both of you get through it more easily.
At your baby's 2 - month checkup at your pediatrician's office, he will receive his first full set of vaccines against multiple childhood diseases, including polio, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, H. influenza, hepatitis B, pneumococcal disease and, an oral vaccine for Rotavirus, a major cause of diarrhea and dehydration in young children. MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) and chicken pox vaccines are given at 12-15 months. This checkup usually involves three shots given in the thigh, which is a baby's biggest muscle. While most babies show no side effects, these vaccines can cause a little fussiness or a slight fever later in the day or evening. Your baby will receive more doses of vaccines at 4, 6, 12, 15, and 18 months, with another set of booster shots between his 4- and 6-year-old birthdays. Keep a record of your baby's vaccinations to be sure that none are missed. Outbreaks of measles and pertussis (also known as whooping cough) and other dangerous diseases still occur.
Your baby's pediatrician can help you, too
When you take your baby to visit the pediatrician, he or she wants to know how you are feeling, too. Your emotional health is the foundation to much of your baby's health and development, and pediatricians who know you and your family are in the position to provide support. A recent study highlighted the importance of pediatricians in helping mothers recognize and find treatment for their own parenting stress and depression. In the study, seven focus groups of mothers from a wide range of backgrounds all had symptoms of depression or maternal stress. Among mothers with a positive, ongoing relationship with their baby's doctor who believed their pediatrician knew them well; symptoms of depression and stress were greatly reduced.
Development varies from child to child, so know that milestones are guidelines only. Trust your sense of how your baby is doing. If you are worried, see your child's doctor and have them do a developmental screening. Generally, keep a lookout for these milestones in the first few months:
• Language: 1 - 3.5 months - squeaking, cooing
• Social: 1 - 3 months - first smiles
• Gross motor: 4 - 7 months - rolls over
• Fine motor: 2 - 4.5 months - grasps for rattle
• Cognitive: 3 - 5 months - attends and turns to objects of interest