What Can a Newborn Do?

a newborn baby swaddled and peacefully sleepingAlthough a newborn baby does not appear very active, there is actually a great deal of brain activity going on. And many new parents wonder just what is going on inside that adorable little sleepy head. It might surprise you how much is happening as your baby’s brain takes in the world with all it’s sights and sounds.

Infants at this age can focus clearly on an object eight to ten inches from their eyes. This is exactly the distance between the baby and the mother’s (or father’s) face during feeding. You may notice your baby trying to make eye contact with you during this time. This is because babies react to the human face (or even a drawing of a face) during this time period more than any other shape. They are most drawn to the eyes. Smiling and making faces at your new arrival is the best stimulation you can do – and it’s fun too!

At this age, babies are good imitators and they will try to mimic your facial movements (open mouth, stick out tongue). In addition to the human face, babies also enjoy sharply contrasting colors, large squares, bright lights and round shapes. Moving objects are more attractive than still ones.

There are also reflexes that every new baby will have during the first weeks of life. One that you may have noticed is the startle reflex. This occurs whenever the baby hears a loud noise or moves suddenly downward. Both arms will move out and then in, and the baby may grimace or cry. This is a normal reaction. Another reflex is to grasp his tiny hand around your finger. It’s a great way to connect with your baby. If you place your finger on the bottom of his foot, the toes will try to do the same.

Babies usually smile by two months of age. This can occur earlier and I will never argue with the grandmother who claims the baby smiled at one week of age. But most babies are at least six weeks old before they can smile in response to something (such as another smiling face.)

Touching, cuddling and holding are all important stimuli to your baby. They are a form of communication, which will often calm a fussy baby. When a baby is crying and upset, he will have some capacity to quiet himself by hand-to-mouth activities. This may range from brief swipes of the hand to the mouth to actual thumb sucking.

You should be able to use some of this information as well as your own observations to console your baby and to interact with him in a positive, stimulating way. Be careful not to over stimulate! If you see your baby start to look away, it might be time to decrease the stimulation and allow the baby to rest. Remember to relax and enjoy your baby!