Infant development: Birth to 3 months

An infant’s physical development is the source of pride and happiness. Each step of developmental milestone, from rolling to sitting followed with standing to walking brings child one step nearer to his own physical and mental independence.  As the child grows he becomes much more alert and responsive. Apart from sleeping, crying, taking the feed and filling diapers, he begins to move his body smoothly.

For infants’ motor development, various activities are manifestations of early development. By end of one and a half months, the child develops better coordination especially in getting the hand to his mouth and recognising mother’s touch. During this time baby’s brain generate millions of neurones every day causing body’s development at the phenomenal rate. He receives information through all the senses which help him to learn and grow.

During this period, he moves his head side to side while lying on his stomach. And keeps his fists tight. He may flop head backwards if unsupported since head and neck control are not yet achieved milestones. He explores his hands and brings them to the mouth for sucking. He uses different sensory systems such as vision, touch (tactile), auditory to explore the environment around them.

Primary reflexes like sucking and rooting are present since birth which help a child in taking mothers feed. In simple terms, these reflexes are already programmed in child’s brain system and assist him in breastfeeding. They are usually present for -4 months and then disappear and gradually feeding becomes voluntary control.

More reflex (Arms open outward on being tilted backwards) is commonly seen among children of 0-3 months. This reaction to reflex means that child’s balance and movement sense are developing well. Moreover, being able to hold head up when lying on tummy tells about functioning of the vestibular system (the sensory system responsible for maintaining our relationship with gravity). This sense gives us information where our head and body are in space. Due to this sense, the baby is able to roll, sit, stand and walk well.

Emotional Security has major role every newborn's life since it establishes expressive protection, trust and acquaintance with mother or caregiver. After delivery, child’s first bodily contact with his mother or caretaker has great influence on child’s body system for rest of his life. After contact, the brain should interpret ate the sensations correctly and appropriately in order to form the first emotional attachment. Sometimes, it is also called as mother-infant bond. This bond is essential for the physical and mental development of the baby. This bonding later helps in developing body image and body awareness. It also provides a sense of himself as the physical body. 

Tactile (Touch)The sense of touch relates to Tactile System. We (children and adults) are nourished, calmed and attached to mother or caregivers (bonding) through touch. This is considered as the first language of communication. An infant and mother completely depend on touch until language, cognitive skills are matured and other developmental milestones are not achieved.

The tactile system starts developing since 5th week of pregnancy, supports child to influence recognise different types of touch sensations as he grows. It has very important on newborn for the rest of his life. 

Functionally, this system supports in two important aspects, sucking and establishing emotional security. It comforts baby in sucking, chewing and swallowing food. Children who have difficulties in sucking may face challenges in eating different textures of food later in their lives.

Vision (Seeing)At birth babies, may look at highly contrasting targets, however, their abilities develop much later to distinguish between two images. Their primary focus is on objects 8-10 inches from their face. During the first-month child’s eyes work in conjugation and vision improves rapidly. Infants begin to follow moving objects with their eyes and reach to things at around 3 months. Sometimes their eyes may appear to cross or wander but this is normal since eye coordination is still not well developed.

Auditory (Hearing)A month-old child startles to loud sounds and smiles when spoken to. He responds to mother’s voice and quiets if crying. By this time, he may make pleasurable sounds such as cooing. As the child progresses to 2-4 months, he starts moving eyes in direction of sounds and responds to changes in voice tone of known people. He starts expressing displeasure and excitement. He may coo in response to face to face contact.

Gustatory and Olfactory (Taste and Smell)Babies orients to a smell of their mothers breastfeed. They display preference for pleasant smells and displeasure for pungent smells such as spoiled food

Activities for Development of Senses:

  • ·   Baby’s tummy time is essential as it helps in colic movement and helps core muscles to strengthen.
  • ·        Rocking, swaying and baby helps to promote vestibular sense.
  • ·        Post-delivery skin-to-skin contact is important.
  • ·        Daily massage and sponge play important role in child’s growth and development
  • ·        Maintain hygiene
  • ·        Talk to baby softly and gently.
  • ·        Keep the environment clean, and quiet to support his sleeping well.