Newborn’s Behavioural Development – Infant Behavior: Crying And Sleeping – Snapshots of the first year of life
Twinkle twinkle little star…! The parents have been singing these couplets for their bundles of joy whose sequential growing laps add to their delight. Who can forget the exciting “firsts” of their baby – first smile, first step, first word and likewise? Infancy (the first postnatal year) remains the most enigmatic, dynamic, ever-changing stage of life with a well-defined predictable progression of a growth-track. Nevertheless, each infant is unique in its own right. Various internal and external factors cause individual variations in behavioural development which include genetically determined traits in utero environment and care-giving style of the parents and the cultural milieu, etc.
It has been found that babies who do not get a sufficient emotional and physical nurturing lag in mental and physical maturity. Thus develop mental status of infants is largely influenced by their bonding with the parents. Various stages of their childʼs maturation of biological functions (developmental milestones) are known which act as a road map for the childʼs overall growth. The maturation (myelination) of the nervous system affects the rate of development of any infant. It is not usually a cause for alarm if your baby does not pull itself up to a sitting position or point to objects it wants at the exact same time as other babies of that age.
The physical growth, maturation, acquisition of skills and psychological competence in the initial months of life occurs in bursts. Various screening tests like the Denver Development Screening–test (DDST), Baroda DST, Trivandrum DST, etc. are designed to test the motor, language, social and adaptive skills of the infants.
Motor Development Domain -Physical Development
As the baby gains control over his or her body, the arm movement precedes leg movement because the motor (gross and fine) development pattern proceeds from the head to the toes. All infants show a tendency to explore the world soon after birth and move their eyes, mouths and bodies towards the people who comfort them.
Pattern For Motor Development Domain
An infant progressively learns to sit with support with no head lag (implies developing muscle tone), raises head slightly when lying on stomach, holds hand in a first and uses sucking, grasping and rooting reflexes.
The baby shows increasing agility and begins to roll over, push body forward, pull body up by grabbing the edge of a crib, lifts head and chest over the plane of the body, reaches for and touches objects (visual-motor coordination), grasps with both hands (intentional reaching) and makes discoveries with objects by putting them in mouth.
ʻChild–proofingʼ is needed as the baby becomes more mobile and learns to sit without support (can sit briefly unsupported at about seven months with head leaning forwards) and rolls back to stomach. Most babies begin to crawl, creepcrawl, grasp and pull things towards self
and transfer self and transfer objects between hands. The thumb–finger (pincer) grasp also appears.
Most babies can sit without support, stand unaided, walk with aid, cruise holding the furniture, roll a ball, throw objects, pick things up with thumb and one finger, drop and pick up toys, turn pages of books (increasing autonomy) etc.
Cognitive Development Domain – Intellectual Development Of Childhood
Cognitive milestones highlight an infantʼs progress in developing perceptual and thinking skills. An infantʼs preferential turning towards the motherʼs voice indicates recognition memory.
Pattern For Cognitive Development Domain
Most infants develop a sense of perception and cognition as they start focusing on and following moving objects, including human face, distinguishing colours, hue and brightness, distinguishing the pitch and volume of sound, responding with facial expressions to strong odour and show a lack of object permanence (out of sight, out of mind).
The perceptual abilities improve rapidly and a four month-old is described as ʻhatchingʼ socially. The sensation of self and non-self develops as infants explore their own body parts. They are able to recognise faces and react to the facial expressions and familiar sounds.
The babies depict inquisitiveness and inspect and mouth any object given to them. An inherent tendency to reach, grasp and manipulate the objects is enhanced as the upper extremities come within visual range.
The one-year-old child associates objects with their functions. Object constancy develops – i.e. they understand that an object still exists even when itʼs not in view (can search objects which may be hidden behind you). A refined and precise manual–visual manoeuvre, better macular vision along with a longer attention span heralds a shift from the learning to control and manoeuvre stage to ʻmanoeuvring to learnʼ state which forms the building block of nonverbal intellectual development. They exhibit an egocentric pretends behaviour (e.g. pretending to drink from a cup) thus implying the beginning of symbolic thought.
Psychological Domain – Social And Emotional – Adaptive Skills
Basic trust develops as the infants realise that their basic needs like hunger are met promptly. The parenting styles affect the infantʼs normal development of adaptive skills (skills related to independence in feeding, dressing, toileting). Delays in adaptive skills also may indicate overprotective parents.
Pattern For Psychological Domain
Babies spend a lot of time sucking their own fingers and begin to recognise the mothers. Most infants can be comforted by a familiar adult, respond positively to touch, begin to smile and show pleasure in response to social stimulation (enjoys coos).
They begin to play peek–a–boo, pay attention to own name, smile spontaneously and laugh aloud and show displeasure if social contact is removed.
Babies show a wider range of emotions of anger, joy, surprise, fear, disgust, etc and stronger preferences for familiar people, especially mothers. Most babies can distinguish friends from strangers, enjoy mirrors, respond actively to language and gestures and show displeasure at the loss of a toy.
Self-regulation and self-feeding start developing. Most babies can feed themselves, hold a cup with two hands and drink with assistance, hold out arms and legs while being dressed (make postural adjustments while dressing), mimic simple actions, show separation anxiety. Tantrums also appear as a result of conflict between newly acquired autonomy and patrental control. The infants develop will and intentions which most of the parents find challenging to manage.
Language And Communication Skills – Communicative Development – Language Development
Expression of language takes several forms – speech, gestures, sign language, writing, typing and “body language.” A child can have normal language and yet be unable to speak – e.g. in deafness or severe cerebral palsy. Conversely, a few children talk but fail to use speech to communicate (e.g. children who have autism) and their speech is just a “parrot talk” or echolalia that does not represent language. Delays in language development are more common than delays in other developmental domains.
Pattern For Language Development
Most infants gradually learn to smile and respond to speech by looking at the speaker, react to changes in a speakerʼs tone, pitch, volume and intonation. They learn to communicate with bodily movements, by crying, babbling and laughing.
Even small babies love to have a “conversation”. Most babies exchange sounds, facial expressions, or gestures with a parent listening to conversations, repeat some vowels and consonants, begin to coo and use vowel sounds like aah, eee, ooo and other speech sounds that are consistent with their home language. At about three months, the infant vocalises immediately upon hearing an adult speak and seems to enjoy ʻvocal tennisʼ where they assume a posture that implies he or she is truly “listening” to the speaker and vocalise again only when the speaker is quiet.
The vocalisation increases and most babies begin repetitive babbling using repeated syllables such as ʻma ma ma, ba baʼ, associated gestures and wave ʻhiʼ and ʻbye–byeʼ and use vocal and nonvocal communication to express interest and influence others.
Around the first birthday, many babies understand the name of familiar people and objects, show their understanding with responsive body language and facial expressions, say a few words, and can be inhibited by a firm ʻnoʼ by parents.The infant now begins to useʻdadaʼ and ʻmamaʼ appropriately. This marks the beginning of exponential growth in receptive language.
Positive Parenting – -Positive Parenting
Consistent and nurturing attention, face-to-face interaction and eye contact is imperative for young infants. Play with your baby when he or she is alert and relaxed. When your baby makes sounds, answer him or her by repeating and adding words. Holding (kangaroo care), cuddling, talking, rocking and singing lullabies to him or her are as important as feeding a hungry baby promptly. Do not leave the child in the swing or seat for long periods of time. Provide a clean, safe area for them to crawl and pull themselves up. Provide toys that are developmentally appropriate and safe. Read out simple picture books to the baby.
Set a routine, fix limits and teach what behaviour is acceptable or unacceptable. In the first year of life the baby progresses from simple methods of expression (crying and grimacing) to a wide range of emotional expressions. A healthcare professional differentiates between normal developmental disability – e.g. a delay in the appearance of a reciprocal smile may be associated with child neglect, an abuse or visual/cognitive impairment. The quality of skill is more important than the age ʻmilestoneʼ. Therefore, appraisal of the quality of skills and developmental milestones is required for early diagnosis of developmental disabilities and expedient referral to timely intervention.