After nine months of many strange feelings, cravings, body functions and sights (some of which you'd rather forget...), your baby's at-long-last birth is but the start of a new lifetime of big changes and memories. Some of these can be predictable, but others will take you by surprise. To help prepare and de-scare you, we're going to start bringing you instalments of our all new Daisy Baby Development Calendar. To start off, we look at the earliest days: the first month after birth.
Interestingly, your child will never progress so much as in their first five years, and even in the first six weeks there's even clear signs of growth. One thing you may notice is when you pull your little one up to a sitting position, gently of course, they should be able to hold your head up for few moments. For most of the time his or her hands will be closed, but, if you notice a moment in which they're open, touch the underside of the fingertips and they'll grasp them as a reflex.
Speaking of reflexes, the one you're sure to become acquainted with right after they're born is their ability to suck; very soon after greeting the world, they'll be able to latch onto the nearest breast or nipple. Interestingly, as they start to feed, they'll actually lose quite a bit of weight - for most babies, 10%. This is due to the fact they're born with a lot of extra body fluid. By the two-week mark though, they should be back to how much they weighed at birth, and then they'll start piling it on - between a 1/2 ounce and an ounce a day.
No words yet, obviously, but very quickly you'll start to recognize which little grunting, gurgling and cooing noises from your baby indicate pleasure. She'll cry, most likely, but they'll also make small little grunts and blow bubbles when you look & talk to them face-to-face. Most interesting in this area is the fact that infants can typically recognize their mother's face and voice after just a few days. Notice how they react around you and how that differs to strangers. Encourage this by singing and talking to them as often as you can, even if you're in the other room.
For this section, we want to through some science into the cycle. A Swiss study in 2003 tracked 493 children from birth to 16 years, and recorded their sleep patterns up until the 2 year mark. The one-month year old babies slept on average eight hours each night, with 96% of babies getting 6 and 13.3 hours of night time rest. During the day, the average baby slept between 5 and 6 hours, while 96% slept between 2 and 9 hours.
Whilst this study lays out a rough guide, the fact that all participants were Swiss children should be kept in mind, as sleep-times can vary cross-culturally. Each baby is different, but you can help your newborn child fall into a normal day and night cycle - an instinct they aren't born with - by limiting activities to daytime, and keeping things nice and humdrum at night. They'll wake up fairly easily in the first few weeks, so expect their sleep cycle to be rather different to yours.
The advance of your baby's eyesight is actually a very fun thing to test out. You can play eye-to-eye with your baby by moving in close to their face, and by either nodding or shaking your head you'll see their eyes look onto yours. Other objects likely to stimulate her growing vision like rattles are a good idea, as whilst they're very near-sighted to begin with, newborns quickly become capable of scanning objects for edges, which they see as a difference in light intensity as way of understanding what it is they're looking at.
Not being able to distinguish bitter or sour tastes this early, newborn baby tastebuds prefer the sweet stuff to begin with. Their sense of smell will also be coming in fast, and they'll already be able to notice certain scents like their mother's nipple and the breast milk itself after just a few days.
The littlest of babies enjoy being touched, so take every opportunity to hold them as much as possible. Naturally we're the first to encourage you to get a sling as early as needed; you'll be able to get stuff done around the house, show her many wonderful sights and sounds of the outdoors and you can take advantage of that early need for closeness. Don't pass up the opportunities to entertain your baby either. The comically named 'parentese' talk of up-and-down, slow voices will be met with excitement and interest if spoken just 30 cm from her face. For playtime, attach soft and safe toys to their pushchair and cot, give them a bit of tickling every so often and, when in the bath, move their legs a bit so they kick and they'll start having fun getting water all over you.
Next time on our Development Calendar, we'll look at the next big milestone: 3 months. Full of laughs, reaching out and actual sleep patterns, there's going to be a lot to cover. Let us know what some of the major, perhaps unique changes you noticed in your newborn in the first month, either here in the comments or on our Facebook page, Twitter and Google+.