Normal Growth And Development Of Newborns

What is the normal growth and development of newborns?

A newborn is a baby who is younger than 1 month old. Most newborns will sleep, feed, learn, and grow within the same general time frame. This is called normal growth and development.

How quickly will my newborn grow?

You will notice changes in your newborn's size, weight, and appearance. The changes will happen quickly. Caregivers will record the following changes each time you bring your newborn in for a checkup:

  • Weight: Your newborn will lose up to ten percent of his birth weight in water loss during the first 3 to 5 days. He will regain this weight by the time he is 2 weeks old. Your baby will gain about 1 1/2 to 2 pounds during his first month.

  • Length: He will go through a growth spurt when he is about 2 weeks old. He will grow about 1 inch during his first month.

  • Head shape and size: It is normal for your newborn's head to look large compared with the rest of his body. His head should increase by 1/2 inch in his first month. Your newborn may look wrinkled and chubby when he is born. His skull may have changed shape if he was born through the vagina. It may return to a normal rounded shape within a couple of weeks. Any bruises or swelling may also go away in a few weeks. Your baby has 2 soft spots on top of his head. The soft spot in the back of the head will close when he is about 2 or 3 months old. The front soft spot closes by the end of his first year. You will need to be careful when you touch the soft spots.

What should I feed my newborn?

Breast milk is the best food for your baby. It provides all the nutrients your baby needs to grow strong and healthy. The first milk your breasts will make for your baby is called colostrum. Colostrum contains antibodies that protect your baby's immune system. It also contains more fat than the milk your breasts will make later. Your newborn will use the fat and calories as he develops. Choose a formula with added iron if you cannot breastfeed. Your newborn will feed 8 to 12 times every day. He is getting enough breast milk or formula if he is having 6 to 8 wet diapers a day.

How much sleep does my newborn need?

Your newborn will sleep about 16 hours each day. He will have 2 stages of sleep. The first stage is called active sleep. You may see him twitch or smile as he is in active sleep. The second stage is called quiet sleep. His body will relax completely as he is in quiet sleep.

How will my newborn let me know what he needs?

  • Your newborn will cry to let you know that he is hungry, wet, or just wants your attention. You will soon be able to hear the differences in your baby's crying. Set up a routine of sleeping and eating. A regular routine is important to make sure you and your baby get enough rest and sleep. A routine also makes your baby feel safe and learn to trust you.

  • Newborns often cry at certain times every day. When the crying does not stop and your baby cannot be comforted, he may have colic. Colic usually starts when the baby is about 2 weeks old and can last for up to 6 months. Ask your caregiver for more information about colic and how to cope with your baby's crying. Ask someone to help you with your baby if the crying causes you to feel nervous or irritable. Never shake your baby. This can cause serious brain injury and death.

When will my newborn develop movement control?

Fine motor movements are when your baby can control his fingers. Your newborn will be able to do some actions on purpose by the time he is 1 month old. He was also born with the following natural movements, called reflexes:

  • Rooting and sucking: Your newborn has a natural ability to suck and swallow when he is born. The rooting and sucking reflexes make your baby turn his head toward your hand if you stroke his cheeks or mouth. They help him find the nipple at feeding times. The rooting reflex starts to disappear by 2 months. By this time, your baby knows how to move his head and mouth to eat.

  • Moro reflex: This reflex causes your baby to flail his arms out and cry when he is startled. The Moro reflex stops when your baby is about 2 months old.

  • Grasp reflex: The grasp reflex is when the palm of your baby's hand closes when you stroke it. The hand grasp turns into grasping on purpose when your baby is about 5 to 6 months old. Your newborn can bring his hands toward his mouth and suck on his fingers.

  • Crawling reflex: This action happens when your baby is put on his tummy. He will move his legs like he is crawling. He may also start to push himself up on his arms. The crawling reflex will start near the end of your baby's first month.

  • Movement control: It is normal for your baby to curl up during his first days of life. His posture will straighten as he grows and develops. His movements may be jerky as his nervous system and muscle control develop. Support his head when you change his position. This is especially important when you put him into a sitting position. He may be able to turn his head from side to side when lying on his back. Your newborn may be able to lift his head for a second, but he is unable to hold his head up by himself.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your baby's care. Learn about your baby's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your baby's caregivers to decide what care you want for your baby. 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.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.