Newborn baby: Development, Milestones & Growth (2023)

It may seem like your newborn isn't doing much yet – but they're busy growing and learning the basics of life. Eating, sleeping, and pooping are the focus these days as your baby adjusts to life outside the womb. You'll notice that your baby has some cool reflexes, including a rooting reflex and a sucking reflex to help them eat. Meanwhile, you're adjusting to constant feedings, sleep deprivation, and plenty of diaper changes. Learn more about what to expect from your newborn's growth and development this month.

This month, reality sets in – you have a baby! Your little one is all yours, they're home with you, and they're dependent on you for love, care, and feeding.

No doubt you've been reading up on what to do and how to do it. We have plenty of articles and tools to refresh your memory and offer you new tips, but here's our best advice: Don't try to master the art of caring for a baby all at once.

The most important thing you can do for your newborn is to respond promptly when your baby cries or is in distress. This helps establish trust between you and your little one, and is the primary foundation of healthy development.

All babies are unique and meet milestones at their own pace. But talk with your child's provider about any concerns you have. The earlier a missed milestone is identified, the easier it will be to address.

Your baby's development

First off, it's perfectly normal if your newborn looks funny. Few newborns look like beauty contest winners, which isn't surprising when you consider what they've been through. If you had a vaginal birth, your baby's head may look misshapen or kind of pointy. It will return to its original shape in a week or two.

In addition to a pointy head, your newborn may have swollen genitals and breasts (caused by hormones from Mom just before birth) and reddish-purple skin that changes to pinkish-red in a day or so. (That's true for babies of all races and ethnicities.) The pink tint comes from the red blood vessels that are visible through your baby's still-thin skin. Because your baby's circulation is still maturing, their tiny hands and feet may look blue for a few days, too.

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At first, your child's skin is likely to be a shade or two lighter than their eventual skin color. The skin may darken and reach its natural color in the first two to three weeks, though this process can take longer – even a few years – for darker-skinned children.

Because they were curled up inside your uterus until very recently, your newborn will probably look scrunched up for a while, with their arms and legs not fully extended. Your baby may even appear bowlegged. Don't worry; over the coming weeks and months, your baby will stretch out little by little.

Newborn milestones

The three big activities for newborns are eating, sleeping, and pooping. These things are crucial to master, so you won't see a lot of specific developmental milestones just yet. Your baby is brand-new, and their main job is learning how to live outside the womb.

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But generally speaking, here are a few newborn milestones that you can look forward to (and several cool reflexes your baby is born with):

  • Moro (startle) reflex. The Moro reflex causes your baby to automatically arch their back, extend their arms and legs, and sometimes cry out when they sense a loud noise or a sudden movement. Newborns can have these reactions even during sleep, but the reflex goes away after three to six months.
  • Sucking reflex. Your baby will start sucking when anything is placed in their mouth. Your baby knows how to eat! But it still takes practice to get enough milk. To breastfeed successfully, your baby has to learn to suck in two ways: first, how to draw out your nipple and get the milk flowing, and then a deeper sucking to swallow the milk. And they have to do all that while breathing and staying latched to your breast. It's a lot to learn, so if your baby is having any trouble latching on or getting milk, be sure to ask a nurse or lactation consultant for help.
  • Rooting reflex. Your baby's rooting reflex helps them find your breast and learn how to eat. When you touch your newborn's cheek, lips, or mouth with your finger or nipple, your baby will turn their head to face you and open their mouth.
  • Stepping reflex. Another newborn reflex, the stepping reflex, makes it looks like your baby is taking steps if you hold them upright with their feet on a flat surface.
  • Grasping reflex. Your baby has an instinctive grasping reflex. Touch your baby's palm, and they'll curl their tiny fingers around yours. This movement is involuntary for now. Most newborn reflexes disappear after babies are about three months old.
  • Self-soothing. Babies love and need to suck, so don't discourage it. In fact, you may have already discovered that pacifiers live up to their name, often working wonders in helping to calm your baby down. (If you're nursing, it's best to wait until breastfeeding is well established before you offer a pacifier.) When your breast, your finger, or the "binky" isn't available, your baby may even be able to find their thumb or fingers to soothe themselves.
  • Vision. Your baby's eyesight is still pretty fuzzy. Babies are born nearsighted, so they see things best when they're 10 inches or less away. That means they can only see your face clearly when you're holding them close. Even this early, babies can recognize faces and gestures intuitively – and sometimes even imitate them. Try putting your face close to your baby's and sticking out your tongue or raising your eyebrows a few times. Then give your baby some time to mimic your gesture.
  • Tummy time. It's not too soon for your baby to start doing tummy time. Babies need to spend time on their bellies every day to strengthen their neck muscles, which will help them push up, roll over, sit up, and crawl. Tummy time will also help your baby avoid developing a flat spot on their head from lying on their back. By the end of the fourth week, your baby may lift their head briefly when they're lying on their stomach, and possibly move it from side to side. Try putting your face in front of your baby's to encourage them to hold up their head to look at you.

Newborn weight and length

You might have noticed that your baby actually lost weight by the time you left the hospital. It's normal for babies to lose up to ten percent of their birth weight in the first week as they flush fluids from their systems and adjust to life outside of the womb. As long as your baby is eating properly, they'll regain this weight in no time – usually by the time they are 14 days old.

So how much should a newborn weigh? There's a wide range of normal – between 5.5 pounds and 10 pounds. In general, boys are a little heavier than girls, and larger parents tend to have larger babies. Here are some average newborn sizes:

Baby boys

Average weight for a newborn: 7 pounds 4 ounces

Average length for a newborn: 19 3/4 inches

Baby girls

Average weight for a newborn: 7 pounds 1 ounce

Average length for a newborn: 19 1/4 inches

Newborn feeding

Food is the most important thing in your newborn's life, with sleep running a close second. Most newborns will eat every two to three hours around the clock. At this age, it's important to feed your baby on demand, meaning you feed your newborn whenever they show signs of hunger, such as:

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  • Licking their lips
  • Opening their mouth
  • Sticking their tongue out
  • Rooting (moving their jaw, mouth, or head looking for your breast)
  • Sucking on things
  • Fussiness

"Feeding on demand" makes it sound like your baby is being demanding, but your little one needs very frequent feedings! Newborns have tiny stomachs – about the size of a walnut.

Crying is a late sign of hunger, so try to feed your baby before this point. Offer your baby the breast or the bottle every 2 to 3 hours, and look for early signs of hunger. You'll soon learn your baby's hunger cues.

So how much does a newborn eat? Because they eat every 2 to 3 hours, it works out to 8 to 12 times every 24 hours. You'll be feeding your newborn around the clock – your baby will wake up at night to eat, and if they don't, you'll need to wake your baby every 2 to 3 hours to feed.

In the first two days after birth, your baby is only able to take in about half an ounce of milk or formula at a time. Around day 3, they can drink 1 or 2 ounces per feeding.

How much formula should you make for a newborn? By two weeks, formula-fed babies may have 2 to 3 ounces at every feeding, and from weeks 2 to 4, they may have 2 to 4 ounces every three to four hours. Find out more about how much formula your baby needs.

Breastfeeding moms, especially, tend to worry that their baby isn't getting enough to eat. Breasts don't have measurement lines, so you can't see how much your baby is drinking. But there are telltale signs that your breastfed baby is getting enough milk: Your breasts feel softer after nursing, you can hear your baby swallowing, your baby seems relaxed and satisfied after a feeding, and they're growing in both length and weight.

In fact, one of the best indicators of whether your baby is getting enough to eat is all those diapers you've been changing. After the first 4 to 5 days, your baby should have at least 5 to 6 wet diapers a day. Also, it's normal for breastfed newborns to poop after every feeding. Formula-fed babies should poop at least once a day.

Newborn sleep

Your newborn will likely sleep a total of about 16 hours every 24 hours, with about 8 hours at night and 8 hours during the day. Anywhere from 14 to 17 hours in 24 hours is normal, however. At first glance, that seems like a lot of sleep, but there's a catch: It won't happen in the longer stretches that we adults appreciate.

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Your baby may only nap for 20 to 30 minutes at a time, or your baby may snooze for a few hours, or they might mix it up constantly. In any case, you'll be sleep-deprived.

There's not much you can do to help your baby sleep more until they're older, because they need to wake up and eat! But you can try swaddling your newborn to help them feel safe and comfortable (and hopefully stretch those sleep times out a bit more).

Over the next couple of months, your baby will establish more regular feeding and sleep patterns. Until that happens, work on getting in a groove with feeding and catch zzz's whenever you can. It's easy to nod off in strange places when you're exhausted, but make sure you don't fall asleep while holding your baby on a couch, armchair, or any other soft surface. These environments are dangerous for infants because of the risk of SIDS or suffocation.

Other important tips to reduce your baby's risk of SIDS:

  • Always put your baby to sleep on their back
  • Sleep in the same room as your baby, but not in the same bed. Instead, move your baby's crib, bassinet, or play yard next to your bed.
  • Put your baby to sleep on a firm, flat mattress with no pillow or toys – nothing but a fitted sheet and a thin, tight-fitting mattress pad.
  • Don't let your baby sleep for extended periods in a sitting device – including car seats, strollers, swings, or bouncers – and never in an inclined sleeper.
  • Don't overdress your baby. Babies need just one layer more than an adult would need to be comfortable.

Your baby's health

Your newborn's first well-baby visit will happen only a few days after birth, when your little one is three to five days old. Most pediatricians like to see newborns within the first week so they can assess them for any problems and help parents with any questions or concerns.

Here's what you can expect at the first well-baby visit with your newborn:

  • Measurements. A medical assistant or nurse will take all your baby's measurements, including vitals, weight, length, and head circumference.
  • Start of your baby's growth chart. The first visit is when your baby's doctor will begin plotting your baby's growth chart.
  • Thorough physical assessment. The doctor will check your baby from head to toe; listen to their heartbeat, lungs, and stomach; assess their hips and legs; check their reflexes; look over their eyes, ears, and throat; and check for jaundice.
  • Check of the umbilical cord stump. You don't need to do anything to your baby's umbilical cord stump. Letting it dry in the air is all that's needed. The doctor will check the stump to make sure it's drying out correctly. Don't submerge the umbilical cord stump in water – stick to sponge baths when bathing your newborn until the stump dries and falls off and the area heals.
  • Diaper area assessment. If your baby has been circumcised, the doctor will check to make sure it's healing and assess the area for signs of a problem. If you have any questions about taking care of a circumcision, now is the time to ask. Baby girls may have white or blood-tinged vaginal discharge as a result of hormones from birth. That's normal, but the doctor may point it out to you.
  • Health recommendations. Your baby's doctor will give you information to keep your baby healthy, including guidance on giving vitamin D drops, doing tummy time, and safe sleep practices. Don't be afraid to ask any questions you have about baby care or your baby's health.
  • Testing or follow-up. If there's any additional testing or follow-up needed for hospital testing that was done, such as the newborn screening, your baby's doctor will discuss it with you during this visit.

Your baby doesn't need any vaccines at the first well-baby visit. However, if your baby didn't receive the hepatitis B vaccine at the hospital, it will be offered now.

Your newborn baby: Week by week

Want to learn more about what's happening with your baby this month? Get more details on your newborn's weekly development here:

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  • Newborn week
  • 1 week old baby
  • 2 week old baby
  • 3 week old baby

FAQs

What are the growth and development of the newborn? ›

Soon after birth, an infant normally loses about 5% to 10% of their birth weight. By about age 2 weeks, an infant should start to gain weight and grow quickly. By age 4 to 6 months, an infant's weight should be double their birth weight. During the second half of the first year of life, growth is not as rapid.

What are three major milestones in growth and development that an infant should achieve? ›

Developmental milestones are behaviors or physical skills seen in infants and children as they grow and develop. Rolling over, crawling, walking, and talking are all considered milestones. The milestones are different for each age range.

What are major milestones in growth and development that an infant should achieve in the first year of life? ›

Children reach milestones in how they play, learn, speak, behave, and move (like crawling, walking, or jumping). In the first year, babies learn to focus their vision, reach out, explore, and learn about the things that are around them.

What are the 4 main types of growth and development? ›

Human development is a lifelong process of physical, behavioral, cognitive, and emotional growth and change.

What is the most important part of infant development? ›

While many factors influence brain development, [a parent's] early intervention and interactions have the most impact – and they include talking, reading, and singing.” Overall, it is the simple, everyday moments that will help your children develop cognitively.

What are the milestones of development and why are they important? ›

Developmental milestones are things most children can do by a certain age. Skills such as taking a first step, smiling for the first time, and waving “bye-bye” are called developmental milestones. Children reach milestones in how they play, learn, speak, act, and move.

What is a developmental milestone checklist? ›

Developmental milestones are behaviors and skills that most children demonstrate at a given age. It's important to note that all children develop differently. Milestone checklists provide examples of typical development progress at that age.

What are the most important stages of growth? ›

Recent brain research indicates that birth to age three are the most important years in a child's development. Here are some tips to consider during your child's early years: Be warm, loving, and responsive.

What is the correct sequence in growth and development? ›

Hence, it becomes clear that the correct sequence of human development is infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood. The HTET Answer Key was released on 4th December 2022 on the official website.

What is the most important in early child development? ›

Children's early experiences – the bonds they form with their parents and their first learning experiences – deeply affect their future physical, cognitive, emotional and social development. Optimizing the early years of children's lives is the best investment we can make as a society in ensuring their future success.

Which developmental milestone is usually reached during the first month of a baby's life *? ›

By the end of the first month of life, most babies may display the following: Raises head when on stomach. Keeps hands in tight fists. Focuses 8-12 inches away, looks at objects and faces, and prefers the human face over other patterns.

What is growth and development with examples? ›

Physical growth is an increase in size. Development is growth in function and capability. Both processes highly depend on genetic, nutritional, and environmental factors. As children develop physiologically and emotionally, it is useful to define certain age-based groups.

What are the three basic of growth? ›

There are three phases of growth – meristematic, elongation and maturation.

What are the 3 biggest milestones of newborn? ›

Your baby's first year is one full of developmental milestones. These are skills like rolling over, sitting up and first steps. It's also things like smiling, cooing and waving “bye-bye.” Each of these milestones are things most children do by a certain age.

What are the 4 basic needs of a newborn? ›

There are six basic needs that all newborn babies require: security, clothing, enough sleep, nutritious food, sensory stimulation, love, and attention.

What milestones should a 1 month old have? ›

At 1 month, most of what babies do is still caused by reflexes. They aren't thinking about their actions. They will be sucking, swallowing, searching for milk and grasping an object if you put it in the palm of their hand (although most of the time they'll keep their hands clenched in tight little fists).

When should babies roll over? ›

Babies start rolling over as early as 4 months old. They will rock from side to side, a motion that is the foundation for rolling over. They may also roll over from tummy to back. At 6 months old, babies will typically roll over in both directions.

What can I expect in newborn stages? ›

Your newborn will sleep most of the time, waking up every few hours to feed. Newborns can't 'sleep through the night'. They have tiny tummies, so they need to wake and feed often. Most newborns feed every 2-4 hours, and they have around 8-12 feeds every 24 hours.

What is a newborn checklist? ›

Baby Essentials for the First 3 to 4 Months

Baby linens, including crib and bassinet sheets, baby blankets, and swaddles. Babyproofing gear. Feeding gear. Diaper essentials. Hygiene and grooming essentials.

What do 2 week old newborns do? ›

Two-week-old babies can: Be expected to sleep a large portion of the day – about 16 - 20 hours. Raise their heads slightly. When your baby is awake, give him or her supervised time on his or her tummy so he or she can develop upper body muscles.

What are the five factors that influence growth and development? ›

Five main factors identified in contributing to growth and developments at early childhood are nutrition, parent's behaviours, parenting, social and cultural practices, and environment.

What are developmental needs of a child? ›

Having a safe and loving home and spending time with family―playing, singing, reading, and talking―are very important. Proper nutrition, exercise, and sleep also can make a big difference.

What are the basic concepts of growth and development? ›

Growth involves physical changes in height and weight and appearance of the body, while development refers to a change in functional ability, such as cognitive, motor, and psychological aspects of the client. Growth and development start from the time of conception and progress until a person dies.

What are the two main principles of growth? ›

There are three principles of growth and development: the cephalocaudal principle, the proximodistal principle, and the orthogenetic principle. These predictable patterns of growth and development allow us to predict how and when most children will develop certain characteristics.

How long is the newborn stage? ›

A neonate is also called a newborn. The neonatal period is the first 4 weeks of a child's life. It is a time when changes are very rapid.

What is the physical development of a newborn? ›

An infant's physical development begins at the head, then moves to other parts of the body. For example, sucking comes before sitting, which comes before walking. Newborn to 2 months: Can lift and turn their head when lying on their back.

What is the definition of growth and development? ›

Growth refers to the increase in mass and size of a body or organs. It typically occurs through the multiplication of cells and an increase in intracellular substance. Development refers to the physiological and functional maturation of the organism.

What are the main features of child growth and development? ›

Child development incorporates four main characteristics that can be assessed at each stage of a child's milestones. These characteristics are physical, intellectual, emotional and social.

What skills are babies born with? ›

Healthy babies are born with fully developed systems that allow their bodies to function, such as the ability to suck, swallow, and breathe. In order to support the best possible physical development, all infants require responsive care from loving adults, proper nutrition, and appropriate and stimulating environments.

What is growth and development give examples? ›

Growth is a process that focuses on quantitative improvement. For instance, a child visibly grows in weight and height. Development focuses on both qualitative and quantitative refinement. For instance, a child's IQ increases with the growing age. 3.

What is the importance of growth and development? ›

Many reasons exist for why we study human growth and development. Common benefits include the following: To gain a better understanding of one's own life experiences. This can help people personally reach an understanding of what childhood events shaped their adulthood.

What is growth in child development? ›

What Is Growth? Physical growth refers to the increases in height and weight and other body changes that happen as kids mature. Hair grows; teeth come in, come out, and come in again; and eventually puberty hits. It's all part of the growth process.

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