Infants cry in order to communicate their needs. Cries vary in pitch, tone and length. Different cries communicate hunger, hurt, anger or fear. Avoid discounting the infant’s cries as unnecessary or demanding – they are needs that are not being met. Deal with each cry patiently, according to the need. Even when angry, the infant can be quickly soothed and reassured of your constant love and care.
When an infant hears sounds, they often will become quiet, frown or wiggle. If the parent will practice whispering into the ear of a newborn, the child will quickly develop the skill of listening attentively. They will even stop crying in order to hear what is being whispered in their ear. Not only does this develop attention skills, it fosters trust and assurance.
Unexpected loud noises may be unsettling, startling or cause crying. Yelling – even in play – can be very upsetting to the infant. Naturally, noises and voices that incite fear foster distrust and timidity or apprehension. Try to minimize loud noises and to protect the young infant from loud, boisterous, or angry voices. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to run the vacuum while the infant is sleeping to teach them how to be a sound sleeper.
Around four months of age, the infant will begin to turn and look toward the sounds in their environment. Experiment with various different sounds: Squeaks, beeps, chimes, etc. Conversation skills are taught early when adults speak to a young infant: Speak, then pause and wait for the infant to respond through cooing or looking intensely at you. You’ll notice that many of the infant’s first sounds are sounds of comfort that show contentment and pleasure.
If you suspect the baby is ill, has a fever, swollen gums, etc. CALL A DOCTOR!
The diet of the newborn is strictly breast milk or formula. Breast milk is ideal as it will provide the baby with properly balanced nutrients and antibodies. Supplemental vitamins or fluoride may be needed, though, especially if the child is on formula.
Infants will determine their own feeding scheduled. Try to avoid the temptation of forcing your baby into a sleeping routine dictated by doctors, friends, family members or books. Everyone will be much happier if you create predictable rituals and routines that work for your young family as a whole.
Some infants will want to nurse/eat just for comfort and might need to be put on a feeding schedule to avoid obesity and bad eating habits. A pacifier can be very helpful for little ones needing comfort.
NEVER WARM A BOTTLE IN THE MICROWAVE. A microwave can cause hot pockets in the bottle that you won’t know about until the baby has been drinking it and suddenly screams with pain from a liquid burn. Purchase a bottle warmer or place a bowl in a sink, fill it with hot water and then place the bottle in it for about 5 minutes. Of course, not all infants care to have warm milk – your baby’s preference will be obvious.
Here’s another reminder: When the infant stops sucking, coax them to eat a little more. If they again stop sucking, don’t push them to eat more than they want. Simply assume they are done and empty any remaining contents. Re-warmed milk or formula has micro-organisms in it from the baby’s mouth and they will multiply and grow. If given to the infant later will make them very sick.
PRECAUITION: Never prop a baby’s bottle up and leave them to eat on their own. Also, never allow an infant to fall asleep with a bottle. Always hold them while feeding. If you must stop the feeding, take the bottle with you. Leaving a bottle with an infant can cause choking, ear infections or damage their first teeth when they come in.
The young infant’s head and neck quickly grow stronger over these first few months. Daily “tummy time” when they are awake helps. Still, be sure to move the baby slowly from one position to the next. Slow movements help them maintain better head control. Remember: Never, ever shake a baby – not even in play.
Even newborn babies can wiggle and move, so watch them closely. They also have pretty strong reflexes. These wiggles and reflexes can cause them to scoot or roll off of elevated surfaces such as counters and changing tables – or under feet and rocking chairs. Always keep one hand on an infant who is on an elevated surface.
At first, the young infant will begin to roll over to one side. By four or five months, though, they’ll begin rolling in both directions. Those nonstop kicks and waves are the baby’s daily exercise, so encourage them and have fun!
Infants up to age 4 months like you to talk and sing to them. Coo back and forth with baby. Hold, rock, walk, carry, read to or take on a stroller ride. Gently massage arms and legs. Place your baby under a mobile and vary their position; i.e. crib, swing, floor, play pen, bounce chair, infant seat, etc. Show bright and simple pictures to him/her and play soft music or give them a musical toy. Place soft infant toys in your baby’s hands. Play “Peek-a-Boo”, “Pat-a-Cake” and other games that require touch and eye contact.
Smile and laugh when you play and talk with your baby. Spend time with your baby, focusing only on the infant. Hold and touch your baby. Your infant will smile in response to the social games you play. Watch closely – you’ll see the infant smile or coo as an invitation to begin playing. The infant will turn away for a bit and then again invite you to play. When the parent waits for the infant’s invitation to play and responds accordingly, it helps the infant learn to pace their interactions.
Remember, more is not better. An infant can easily become over-stimulated and this can make them fussy, confused and unable to focus or choose. Play things need to be safe, sturdy and developmentally appropriate. Playing both inside and outside is exciting and doing both gives them a good mixture of adventure, exercise and play. Vary the baby’s position and place of play by placing them in a play pen, swing, on a blanket on the floor or in an infant bounce seat – at this age, they’re not yet ready for a Bumbo chair, though.
Faces, especially eyes, are very interesting to infants. They can track with their eyes at a very young age and especially enjoy seeing different facial expressions complete with different sounds! Toys with bright, contrasting patterns are interesting to look at, but so are real live people and animals. During these first few months, infants need toys and people to be about 8-12 inches from their eyes. As they get older, babies will be able to track people as they move through the room.
Two more hints: Read to your baby daily – several times a day. Make reading a peaceful, loving time together. Also, learn and use sign language. It is recommended that you use a standardized sign language, such as ASL in order to elongate the educational benefits. However, simple baby signs can suffice for pre-verbal communication.
Newborns will use their reflexes to hold onto toys, but gradually begin to swat at toys with their hands. When holding onto a toy, they will shake it or bring it to their mouth – sometimes bopping themselves in the face en route! Putting things in their mouths is a favorite activity and provides learning experiences which we are just starting to study and understand. So it should come as no surprise to find that sucking fingers or a pacifier helps to soothe little ones.
For the first couple of months, infants will spend most of their time sleeping, but they will not have a predictable pattern. By the time they reach 3 – 4 months of age, their physical needs will dictate their sleeping habits and a routine will begin. Try to avoid the temptation of forcing your baby into a sleeping routine dictated by doctors, friends, family members or books. Everyone will be much happier and rested if you create predictable rituals and routines that work for your young family as a whole.
While sleeping, place your baby on their back or on their side for sleeping. Avoid putting them on their stomach as they may suffocate if they cannot turn their head or roll over.
Check on a sleeping infant frequently and/or use a monitoring system. Make sure the infant does not have pillows or stuffed animals in their crib or bassinet. The room should be kept at a comfortable temperature and only a light receiving blanket placed over the sleeping baby.
If an infant cries out while sleeping, they may need their pacifier or a gentle rocking to urge them back to sleep. They may cry louder at first, but soon sleep will take over. Do not give them a bottle in order to go back to sleep. If they are hungry and it is time to eat, go ahead and get them up for a feeding.
For Your Information: Buy a new crib. Avoid used or inherited cribs. Cribs should be painted with lead-free paint (if painted), having slats no more than 2-3/8 inches apart and a rail height of 22 inches. The mattress should be firm and fit snugly into the frame of the crib. Also, be sure that the crib is placed against a wall and away from any windows or other furniture. Once your baby starts climbing, they’ll try to climb out of the crib and you don’t want a window or piece of furniture anywhere around when that happens! Oh, and by the way, the first time your little one climbs out of the crib will be a total surprise to you. Many parents purchase a toddler bed during the first year so they’ll be ready for a quick shift when the climbing begins.
Newborns are very fragile creatures for the first few weeks. To avoid making an infant ill, make sure whoever holds the infant is free from any viral or bacterial infection such as a cold or flu. A simple cold for older children and adults can become a life-threatening illness for a little baby.
Medication should never be given to an infant without first contacting a physician. An infant may be ill if:
· They stop and refuse to suck on their bottle/breast
· Become abnormally fussy and cannot be consoled
· They behave as if they are unusually tired - lethargic
· Have three or more bouts of diarrhea or vomiting
· They begin vomiting forcefully
· Have a temperature of 100° or higher.
In such cases, call your pediatrician immediately. Because of their small size, young infants are very vulnerable to becoming dehydrated, having seizures with high temperatures or developing respiratory problems.
To help protect young children, it is very important that infants receive their immunizations on schedule. No, it is not true that multiple immunizations cause Autism (Center for Disease Control; Medical News; Kids Health; American Academy of Pediatrics). As a result of these shots, though, they may become fussy, have a slight temperature or loose stools. These usually clear up by the second or third day after a shot series.
· Infants are most comfortable if the room temperature is kept around 78 degrees. To keep the baby warm, dress in a t-shirt, one piece outfit and blanket. If the infant is cold, cover their head with a light hat. More than likely, if your baby is too hot or cold, they will be fussy. Simply touching their skin with the back of your hand can help you determine if they need more or less clothing.
· Young infants who cannot yet lift their heads, turn over or raise themselves up with their arms should not be placed on their stomachs for danger of chocking, suffocating or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). NEVER lay an infant on a bean bag chair, water bed or mattress with plastic, pillows or blankets. The infant can suffocate, asphyxiate or choke if they turn or roll over. NEVER leave an infant unattended especially if they are on a bed, couch, chair, changing table or other elevated surface.
· Toys with strings or cords can get wrapped around an infant’s neck or body and strangle them. Watch closely and keep all such toys out of children’s reach. Really – this is serious. Once the child becomes mobile, they will love pull-string toys. Infancy is not the time for them, though.
· Closely supervise—they put everything in their mouth! Putting things in their mouths is their way of exploring their environment.
· Bath-time for the newborn should be a warm, damp washcloth. Bathing in a baby tub should wait until the umbilical cord stump and/or circumcision are healed. Just follow your doctor’s advice. Before diaper changes or bath-time, make sure everything is within arm’s reach, i.e. diaper, wipes, towel, baby wash, lotion, etc. When bathing, only use a small amount of warm water and avoid bubble bath or bar soaps until the baby is several months old. After bathing, gently pat the baby’s skin dry. Remember to never leave an infant alone while bathing.
· Driving with an infant is another matter. In fact, there is an entire page dedicated to young children in vehicles. Most areas have laws that require infants to be placed in a rear-facing car seat in the back seat of the car. Remembering they are back there is the danger. A sleeping baby is quiet – so is a choking baby. One solution is for someone to ride in the backseat with the baby. An additional solution is to invest in an infant seat mirror. These mirrors attach to the headrest of the car seat directly in front of the infant. The driver of the vehicle can then look into the rearview mirror which reflects the baby’s image in the infant mirror . Not only is it a safety tool, these little infant mirrors are also great communication tools.