Here’s something to help ease your mind: Life for your baby is pretty simple right now. All that really matters to her is eating every couple of hours, sleeping safely and frequently, having a clean diaper and getting lots of love. That’s it. But for you as a new parent and all that involves, life may feel considerably more complicated. So focus on just those essentials — your baby’s basic needs. They’ll be plenty to keep you busy as you slowly get the hang of things.
This is the time to put laundry, cleaning and other chores on hold as much as you can. Ask your family or friends for help. Order dinner in if you can, or ask a friend to bring you some of hers. Don’t bother keeping up with email. Consult your health-care professional or a lactation consultant if you need some help in the feeding department.
Expect your baby to need to feed at least 6 times/24 hours at 1 month of age. If they are breastfeeding this could increase up to 12 times. Try not to control their feeding times too much and let your baby determine how much and how often they want to feed. Unless they have been unwell or were premature, they will be able to gauge when they need to feed and are satisfied with the volume of milk in their stomach.
Give your baby plenty of opportunity to sleep and be sensitive to their sleep cues. The novelty of having a baby in the house probably hasn’t worn off yet. It’s easy to over handle small babies which, although done with the best of intentions, can cause them to become overtired. Even at this early stage, aim to place your baby into their cot when they are tired, rather than already asleep. Sometimes this will be easier than others. Most small babies go to sleep soon after feeding and their “sleep window” can be very short.
Your baby can track with their eyes now and follow objects as they move. They will primarily look for your face and establish eye contact with you for a couple of minutes. Babies are primed to search for their parents’ faces, listen to their voices and turn in the direction of human sound. Early interactive experiences with you and other people will help your baby’s brain to grow and learn about the world. Although they are extremely vulnerable and dependent on you to fulfill their every need, they are also designed to seek out stimulus.
Having done a lot of development in the womb, your baby’s hearing is very sensitive and it’s fully developed now. They will begin to turn their head towards the source of a sound. Watch their response when you clap your hands from across the room or shake a rattle – they may blink or jump slightly.
You might want to try singing some nursery rhymes or softly playing some music to your baby. You’ll likely find your little one reacting differently to different sounds and types of music, an early indicator of their music tastes perhaps!
A newborn baby’s vision is very fuzzy, but within one month they are able to focus a bit better. They still can’t see far – around 30cm – so when you smile at your baby, lean in close.
They are also beginning to track a moving object by moving their head and eyes but when the object disappears they forget it ever existed. Don’t worry if they look slightly cross-eyed occasionally – it takes a lot of effort to focus. Many toys for this age are black and white: it’s not that they can’t see colour but they find the high contrast easier to pick out.
Will my baby enjoy listening to music?
Now that your baby is awake for longer periods during the day, you can use these times to stimulate her sensory development. Try singing nursery rhymes, or playing music to her. The sound of wind chimes or a ticking clock may also entertain your baby.
Play a variety of music and you may see your baby prefers one piece of music over another, as she begins to work out what she likes and what she doesn’t.
How well can my baby see?
Your baby has learned to focus with both eyes, so she can now track a moving object. A toy passed in front of her face will often catch her attention. Or you can play eyes-to-eyes by moving very close to her face and slowly nodding your head from side to side. Her eyes may lock on to yours.
Although the shops are packed with developmental toys for newborns of different colours and textures, you’ll do just as well with everyday household objects.
Try passing shiny foil, or a bright plastic kitchen utensil, from side to side in front of your baby. Then try moving it up and down. This should attract her attention, but she probably won’t be able to smoothly follow vertical movement until she’s about three months old.
Is my baby developing normally?
Each baby is unique and meets physical milestones at her own pace. These are simply guidelines to what your baby has the potential to do, if not right now, then soon.
If your baby was born prematurely (before 37 weeks of pregnancy), you’ll probably find that she needs more time before she can do the same things as other babies her age. That’s why most babies born prematurely are given two ages by their doctors:
- Chronological age, which is calculated from your baby’s date of birth.
- Corrected age, which is calculated from your baby’s due date.
You should measure your premature baby’s development against her corrected age, not her actual date of birth. Your baby’s doctor and health visitor will also assess your premature baby’s development from the time she should have been born.