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Health & Baby

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Emotional and Social Growth in Newborns - Topic Overview

Your newborn immediately starts to communicate with you. Newborns need and, in their own way, ask for social interaction with others. They communicate by moving their arms and legs and directing their gaze toward a familiar voice. Their eyes and face brighten as they track parents' movements and scan their faces. When they break their gaze, it signals the need for a rest from the interaction.

Of course, they also cry. A cry can communicate that a baby is hungry, lonely, bored, uncomfortable, or simply overwhelmed. You will soon learn to distinguish your baby's different types of crying, sometimes even within the first few days after delivery.

A newborn's smile most often occurs during sleep. Smiles while awake are reflexive reactions to a face or voice rather than an emotional response. But during the second month, your baby's smiles are a genuine sign of pleasure or friendliness.

Each baby is born with a unique disposition, or temperament, which is generally categorized as quiet, sensitive, demanding, or easily distracted. Temperament often determines a newborn's emotional reactions, ability to focus versus ease of being distracted, ability to adapt to changing situations, and activity level (quiet versus busy). For example, some newborns are hypersensitive to stimuli and are easily overloaded. These babies may overreact to playful rocking, while other less sensitive babies might respond with brightened face and interest.

Recognize how your own personality and temperament influence your reactions to your baby. If you are an active person and have a quiet baby, you may need to adjust your expectations and how you interact.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: September 09, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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