Promoting your baby's development

Your relationship with your child is the foundation of his or her healthy development. Trust your ability to meet your baby's needs. You can:

  • Hold your baby. Gentle caresses and tender kisses can help your newborn feel safe, secure and loved. Hold and rock your baby. Allow him or her to study your face. Let your baby grasp your little finger and touch your face.
  • Speak freely. Simple conversation lays the groundwork for language development, even before your baby can understand a word. Ask questions and respond to your baby's coos and gurgles. Describe what you see, hear and smell around the house, outdoors, and when you're out and about. Use simple words that apply to your baby's everyday life. Remember that your tone of voice communicates ideas and emotions as well.
  • Change positions. Hold your baby facing outward. With close supervision, place your baby on his or her tummy to play. Hold a colorful toy or make an interesting noise to encourage your baby to pick up his or her head. Many newborns get fussy or frustrated on their tummies, so keep these sessions brief at first — just a few minutes at a time. If drowsiness sets in, place your baby on his or her back to sleep.
  • Respond quickly to tears. For most newborns, crying spells peak about six weeks after birth and then gradually decline. Whether your baby needs a diaper change, feeding session or simply warm contact, respond quickly. Your attention will help build a strong bond with your baby — and the confidence he or she will need to settle down without your help one day.

When something's not right

Your baby may reach some developmental milestones ahead of schedule and lag behind a bit on others. This is perfectly normal. There's typically no cause for concern. It's a good idea to be aware of the warning signs, however. Consult your baby's doctor if you're concerned about your baby's development or you notice any red flags by age 3 months:

  • No improvement in head control
  • No attempts to lift the head when lying facedown
  • Extreme floppiness
  • Lack of response to sounds or visual cues, such as loud noises or bright lights
  • Inability to focus on a caregiver's eyes
  • Poor weight gain

Remember that every baby is unique — but your instincts are important, too. The earlier a problem is detected, the earlier it can be treated.

Jan. 08, 2010 See more In-depth