The first year of your new baby’s life is an amazing time. Within just 12 months, your baby will transform from a newborn who is totally dependent on you to a toddler who is starting to walk, talk, and exhibit the first signs of independence.
During the first month, your newborn is just getting used to this big, strange new world. And you are getting used to taking care of their many needs. Below are just a few of the changes you can expect to see during your child’s first month.
It's important to remember that infants who were born prematurely won't follow these baby milestones exactly. They will likely hit each milestone according to their due date, rather than on their birthday. Babies who were born a month early will probably take an extra month to catch up to their peers.
Don’t be alarmed if your baby loses some weight during the first few days of life. Babies are born with extra body fluid and typically lose up to 10% of their birth weight before they stabilize and start gaining. By their two-week birthday, babies should be back up to their birth weight, and during the first month they’ll gain weight quickly -- putting on between a half-ounce and an ounce a day. Your doctor will check baby’s weight gain against a growth chart during your well-baby visits, to make sure they are growing at the right rate.
A newborn’s nervous system is still maturing, but babies can accomplish a lot in their first month. You’ll notice that your baby was born with several innate reflexes, including sucking. Soon after birth, they will be able to (with a little help from you) latch on to a breast or nipple to feed. If you put your finger inside baby’s palm, you’ll notice that they’ll close their fist around it (and many a proud father has bragged about the strength of their newborn’s grip). Babies who are startled will quickly flare both arms and legs out and then pull them in. This is called the Moro reflex. Even at 1 month old, your baby has the instinct for walking. If you put a newborn's feet on a solid surface while supporting their body, they'll appear to take a few steps.
Although 1-month-olds may be able to turn their head while lying on their stomach, they don’t yet have the neck strength to support their head while upright. Make sure to put a hand under your baby’s head whenever you lift them.
Being born is hard work. For the first few weeks, it seems that all your newborn will want to do is sleep. In fact, newborns sleep 15 to 16 hours a day. Those hours may be erratic, because baby hasn’t yet adjusted to the normal day and night cycle. You can help your baby adjust by limiting activities to daytime, and keeping things quiet, dark, and boring at night. Eventually they will get the hint that day is for play and night is for sleep.
Also, your 1-month-old’s sleep cycles are much different than yours. Unlike adults, newborn babies spend more time in REM sleep than in deeper non-REM sleep. That means they may wake up fairly easily during those first few weeks.
Babies are born with very fuzzy eyesight. Newborns are very nearsighted. Your baby can see objects and people most clearly when they are just 8 to 12 inches away. That means they can see your face while they are nursing, and in fact, will prefer looking at you than at a stuffed animal, because infants are naturally drawn to human faces. They also prefer high-contrast objects because they’re easier to see (although you needn’t outfit your entire nursery in black-and-white; bright colors are good, too).
You may notice that your 1-month-old’s eyes cross when trying to focus. That is normal, because a newborn's eye control hasn’t fully developed. However, if they remain crossed at three or four months, call your pediatrician, because it could be a sign of strabismus (crossed eyes).
Although a newborn's hearing isn’t yet fully developed, babies can recognize sounds -- especially their parents’ voices, which they got used to hearing in the womb. They especially like high-pitched sounds; so don’t get too annoyed when your mother-in-law uses that squeaky baby voice every time they talk to your newborn. If baby doesn’t seem to be responding at all to sound, be sure to mention this to your pediatrician at your well visits. Many states screen all babies’ hearing at birth, but be sure to mention hearing concerns to your pediatrician even if the birth test was OK.
Like many older children (and adults), babies prefer sweet tastes. Their taste buds aren’t yet mature enough to distinguish bitter and sour. They have a well-developed sense of smell, and can already pick out the scent of their mother’s nipple, and breast milk, within the first few days of life.
During month one, expect your breastfed baby to eat eight to 12 times a day (about every two to three hours). Bottle-fed babies may only need to eat six to eight times. Some parents feed on demand, while others stick to a schedule. You’ll know when your baby is hungry, because they'll start to root (move their head back and forth, searching for a breast) or get fussy and turn their mouth when you touch their cheek. A baby who has had enough to eat will seem satisfied, and may even fall asleep. Look for four to six wet diapers a day as a sign that your baby is eating enough.
One-month-old babies pretty much have one mode of communication -- crying. Your baby will cry for up to three hours a day (don’t panic, the crying will decrease as time passes). Crying is baby’s way of saying, ''I’m hungry - feed me!'' ''I have a wet diaper,'' or, ''I’m really tired.'' Eventually, you’ll start to translate these cries, and discover the best ways to soothe them (for example by rocking or swaddling your baby). Some babies who cry too much may have colic or a medical problem, so call your doctor if you just can’t console your newborn.
Tips For Your Baby’s First Month:
- Babies love to be touched. Give your 1-month-old lots of skin-to-skin contact, for example by holding and rocking, or giving them a gentle massage. It will make your newborn feel comforted and loved.
- Move baby's legs in a bicycling motion for a couple of minutes at a time. This easy exercise will help tone the muscles to prepare for crawling and walking -- which your baby will start doing before you know it!