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YOUR CHILD’S DEVELOPMENT

The first phase of your child’s life is more eventful than you could ever imagine. On average, a baby grows 25 cm and triples in weight during their first year of life.

The journey of discovery actually begins in the womb, and consists of a mix of mental and physical developmental stages.

“We now know that babies begin examining the umbilical cord, their face and their fingers in the womb,” explains Gustaf Gredebäck, Professor of Developmental Psychology and Director of Uppsala Child & Baby Lab, which employs over 35 researchers and PhD students. “The fact that babies explore their face in the womb is probably the reason why newborns are so fascinated by faces: they already ‘know’ what a face looks like.”

FULL SPEED FROM DAY ONE

Babies explore their own body and try out their senses at the foetal stage, and develop their love of movement in the womb. Once the baby is born, they continue to develop their mobility. A newborn baby needs the opportunity to move about. Carrying your baby around in a baby carrier gives your baby the space they need to wave their arms and kick their legs freely, all the while enjoying the important closeness to you.

THE TRUTH ABOUT A CHILD’S HIPS AND LEGS

“When you choose a baby carrier, it’s important that the child’s body weight is evenly distributed and the child’s spine gets the proper support,” notes Göran Kendorf, Paediatric Orthopaedist at Aleris Specialist Care Centre and the Astrid Lindgren Children’s Hospital.

It’s important to consider the position of the child’s hips and legs in the baby carrier. The medical teams working with BABYBJÖRN to develop a new baby carrier pay special attention to this very aspect.

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A FEW WORDS ABOUT THE HEAD

A newborn’s head accounts for about one third of the baby’s total body weight. But that doesn’t stop babies from trying to hold up their head and take a peek at the world around them. You can see babies doing their best to hold up their heads during their very first hours of life, as if to see where they have ended up.

“The neck muscles of a newborn baby aren’t fully developed and the baby can’t manage to lift their head. But you can still see there’s a degree of muscle tone that develops very quickly,” says Camilla von Lörinszky, Paediatric Physical Therapist at Barnsjukgymnasten.

HOLD-YOUR-HEAD-UP GAME

Camilla von Lörinszky encourages parents to play with their children, even when they’re very young. This could involve the baby lying on their tummy when they’re awake and the parent lying down face-to-face and talking to them. This is good for both motor skill development and balance.

“Babies then spend a longer and longer time trying to hold their head up. Start with several very short sessions every day. All the time a baby spends lying on their tummy helps them to develop their motor skills. Your baby also develops their neck muscles when you carry them in a baby carrier, as your baby instinctively wants to peek up at Mum or Dad’s face from time to time.”

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BLURRY AND COLOURLESS AT FIRST

Even though babies have well-developed eyesight, their sight is blurry during the first three months and there’s probably a good reason for this.

Babies have blurry eyesight
for their first three months
and there’s probably
a good reason for this.

If a baby had the sharp focus of an adult, the sheer quantity of impressions would be overwhelming, so this is probably nature’s way of helping to shield the child from the intensity of their surroundings. Carrying the baby facing inwards towards Mum or Dad’s chest is another way of helping to shield the baby.

The ability to see colours isn’t completely developed at birth. The baby won’t be able to see colour differences until they are one month old – about the same age a baby starts being able to track a moving object with their eyes. Around the age of three months a baby develops stereo vision, i.e. depth perception.

ALL SENSES ARE SWITCHED ON

Hearing is well-developed when the baby is born and the baby recognises the voices of family members. The sense of taste is also developed and 3D ultrasound shows that a baby in the womb prefers sweet flavours to sour. The sense of smell works from day one and the best thing a newborn knows is the smell of their parents in general and breast milk in particular.

“It’s fair to say that small children use all their senses, while we adults tend to rely much more on sight. But for a little baby smell, sight, touch, hearing and taste all converge to create an overall impression of how the world works,” says Gustaf Gredebäck, Professor of Developmental Psychology and Director of Uppsala Child & Baby Lab.

Very young children
are not as reflex-controlled
as people believed
twenty or so years ago.

What used to be explained away as infant reflexes, e.g. the sucking reflex, the rooting reflex, the grasp and the walking reflex, are now known to be aspects of a motive to learn more.

“Babies understand a great deal and are not nearly as reflex-controlled as was thought only 20 years ago. The things a newborn does are frequently triggered by some kind of motive to learn more,” explains Gustaf Gredebäck.

 

Text: Anna-Maria Stawreberg : http://www.babybjorn.co.uk/campaigns/your-first-year/your-childs-development/

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