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Baby's physical and sensory development: what to expect

27 Nov, 2023

Often when your baby is born, they seem to just feed and sleep! This is very normal for a newborn, but as they grow, they will start to interact with you and their surroundings more which can be really fun. Babies grow and learn more in their first 12 months of life than at any other time – which is just incredible!

In this article, I have covered what to expect in your baby’s physical and sensory development, and how to support their growth.

What should you expect with your new baby?

  • Newborn babies generally sleep for 14-20 hours per day. They will often want to be fed or cuddled as they go to sleep which is completely normal. Remember they have been held and cuddled in your womb for months. It will take them some time to get used to being on the outside world. You are not setting up any ‘bad habits’. Babies need to be close to you.
  • Your baby initially cannot see very far, so holding them close to your face so they can see you is a great way to interact. You will often find that that they focus on your eyes as you are talking.
  • Your baby will be able to hear noises around them and will often startle when there is a loud noise. Babies will recognise their parent’s voices from birth as it is familiar from their time in the womb. This can be comforting for babies and can help them to calm if they are crying.
  • Babies will grasp your finger if you place it in their hand, however it will take some time for them to develop the ability to play with rattles or to reach for something they want.
  • By four to six weeks of age your baby will start smiling and may also turn to look at your face when you are talking.

What can you do to support your baby’s development?

  • Tummy time can begin from birth and is a great way to help your baby to strengthen their neck and upper body. Ensure that your baby is always supervised when having tummy time and never leave them alone. Your baby should always be placed on their back for sleep.
  • Holding your baby so they can see your face while talking to them. Smiling at your baby is also great for their development.
  • Baby massage is a great way to bond with your baby and a relaxing exercise for you both! The gentle physical touch techniques may assist your baby to release any gas or wind and can help them to relax.
  • If your baby is unsettled with wind/digestion try holding them upright with their legs in an ‘M’ position against your stomach.
  • Going for a walk is a relaxing way for your baby to be exposed to new sights and smells and is also great for parents.

What to do if you have concerns about your baby’s development

If you are concerned about your baby’s development, please get in touch with your GP or child/maternal health nurse. They can be a great resource for further information on normal childhood development too. Babies grow and develop so quickly. You will notice that each week your baby is changing and interacting with their world. It is an exciting time, and really rewarding helping your child learn a new skill.

Article written by PBC Expo Midwife

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