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Normal Growth And Development Of Infants


An infant is a baby who is 1 month to 1 year old. Most infants will learn to walk, talk, eat, and interact with others within the same general time frame. This is called normal growth and development.


Infant growth changes:

Your baby will grow faster while he is an infant than at any other time in his life. Caregivers will keep a record of his growth. They will write down the following changes each time you bring him in for a checkup:

  • Weight: Your baby will double his birth weight by the time he is 6 months old. He will triple his birth weight by the time he is 1 year old. He will gain about 1 to 2 pounds per month. He will weigh close to 22 pounds by 1 year old. By 2 months, your baby may look chubby. His muscles will get stronger the more he learns to use his legs and arms.

  • Length: He will grow about 1 inch per month for the first 6 months of life. He will grow 1/2 inch per month between 6 months and 1 year of age. He should be 2 times longer than his birth length by the time he is 10 to 12 months old. Most of his growth will happen in his trunk (mid section).

  • Head size: Your baby's head will grow about 1/2 inch every month for the first 6 months. His head will grow 1/4 inch per month from 6 months of age until he is 1 year old. His head should measure close to 17 inches around by the time he is 6 months old, and 20 inches by 1 year of age. His head will be large compared with the rest of his body. With time, his body will catch up.

Infant movement control:

Fine motor movements are when your baby can control his fingers. Your infant should be able to do the following things in the first year:

  • Hold objects: Your infant will start to open his hands after about 1 month. He can hold a rattle by about 3 months old, but he will not reach for it.

  • Follow objects with his eyes: His eyes will move smoothly and focus on objects by 2 months. He should be able to follow moving objects by 3 months. He will follow moving objects without turning his head by 9 months. He may grab or bat at objects in front of him.

  • Lift his head: Your infant should be able to lift his head when he is on his tummy by 3 months. Continue to support his head until he is about 4 months old and his neck muscles are stronger. Your infant should be able to hold his head up without support by 6 to 8 months old. Your caregiver may tell you to you place your infant on his tummy for short periods when he is awake. This can help him develop strong neck muscles.

  • Interact with others: Your infant will interact with and recognize the people around him by 3 months. He will smile at the sound of your voice and turn his head toward a familiar sound. Your baby will respond to his own name at about 6 months old. He will also look around for something he drops.

  • Move on purpose: Your infant will develop eye-hand coordination (grab at things he sees) at 4 to 6 months. He will grab at objects and bring his hands close to his face. He will also open and close his hands so that he can pick up and look at objects. Your infant will move an object from one hand to the other by 7 months. He should be able to sit with some support by 6 months. He may also be able to roll from his back to his side and from his stomach to his back. Your infant will be able to put an object into a container, turn pages in a book, and wave by 12 months.

  • Crawl and walk: Your infant will probably crawl before he walks. He will move into the crawling position and rock back and forth when he is about 6 months old. He will start to walk when he is about 10 to 12 months old. Your infant will pull himself to a standing position while he holds onto furniture. He may take big, fast steps at first. He may start to walk alone but not have good balance. You may see him fall down many times before he learns to walk easily. He will put his hands on walls or large objects to steady himself as he walks. He will also change how fast he walks when he steps onto surfaces that are not even, such as grass.

What to feed your infant:

Feed your infant healthy foods so he grows and develops as he should. Do not try to force him to eat. Infants have a natural ability to know when they are hungry and when they are full. You can teach your infant healthy eating habits. These habits will help him be healthy and manage his weight when he is older.

  • Breast milk is the best food for your infant. Choose a formula with added iron if you cannot breastfeed. Talk to your caregiver if you have questions or concerns about breastfeeding. Your baby will slowly increase the amount of milk he drinks. Four or 5 ounces may be enough during each feeding during the second month. Your baby may need 5 to 6 ounces for each feeding by the time he is 4 months old. Breast milk or formula will give your infant enough calories, protein, and vitamins for about 6 months. He does not need solid food until he is about 6 months old.

  • Your baby will want to feed himself by about 6 months. This may be messy until his eye-hand coordination improves. Give him small pieces of food that he can hold in his hand. Offer him healthy foods your caregiver recommends. Your infant might not like a food the first time you offer it to him. He may like it after he tastes it several times, so offer it more than once. You will learn the foods your baby likes and when he wants to eat them. Limit his sugar-sweetened foods and drinks. Your infant can choke on food, such as hot dogs, raw carrots, popcorn, French fries, and candy. Cut your infant's food into small bites.

Infant tooth care:

Teeth normally come in when your infant is about 6 months old, starting with the 2 lower center teeth. His upper center teeth will come in when he is about 8 months old. The upper and lower side teeth will come in when he is about 9 months old. You can help keep your infant's teeth healthy as soon as they start to come in. Limit the amount of sweetened foods and drinks you offer him. Sugar causes cavities. Brush your baby's teeth after he eats. Ask your caregiver for information on the right toothbrush and toothpaste for your infant. Do not put your infant to sleep with a bottle. The liquid will sit in his mouth and increase his risk for cavities.

Infant sleep needs:

Your infant will sleep about 16 hours each day for the first 3 months. From 3 months until 6 months, he will sleep about 13 to 14 hours each day. He will sleep more at night and less during the day as he gets older. Always put your baby on his back to sleep. This will help him breathe well while he sleeps.

Infant communication:

Your infant will start to talk when he is about 9 months old. He will start to babble at around 4 months old. He will begin to make word sounds by the time he is 9 months old. Your baby will learn to talk by copying the words and sounds he hears. He will learn what words mean by watching others point to what they talk about. Your infant should be able to speak a few simple words by 12 months. He will begin to say short words, such as ma and hi. Soon he will put sounds together, such as dada and mama. He will understand the meaning of simple words and commands by 9 to 12 months. He will also know what some objects are by their name, such as ball or cup.

Routines for infants:

Your baby should have a schedule for sleeping, eating, and playing. Routines will help him feel safe and secure. He may cry when you leave or when he cannot see you. Routines may also help your baby if he has a hard time falling asleep. For example, read your baby a story or give him a bath before you put him to bed. He should begin to sleep for several hours at a time by 4 months.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.