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Normal Growth and Development of Infants
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Normal growth and development is how your infant learns to walk, talk, eat, and interact with others. An infant is 1 month to 1 year old.
Infant growth changes:
Your infant will grow faster while he or she is an infant than at any other time in his or her life. Healthcare providers will record the following changes each time you bring him or her in for a checkup:
- Your infant will double his or her birth weight by the time he or she is 6 months old. He or she will triple his or her birth weight by the time he or she is 1 year old. He or she will gain about 1 to 2 pounds per month.
- Your infant will grow about 1 inch per month for the first 6 months of life. He or she will grow ½ inch per month between 6 months and 1 year of age. He or she should be 2 times longer than his or her birth length by the time he or she is 10 to 12 months old. Most of his or her growth will happen in the trunk (mid-section).
- Your infant's head will grow about ½ inch every month for the first 6 months. His or her head will grow ¼ inch per month between 6 months and 1 year of age. His or her head should measure close to 17 inches around by the time he or she is 6 months old and 20 inches by 1 year of age.
What to feed your infant:
- Breast milk is the only food your baby needs for the first 6 months of life. If possible, only breastfeed (no formula) him or her for the first 6 months. Breastfeeding is recommended for at least the first year of your baby's life, even when he or she starts eating food. You may pump your breasts and feed breast milk from a bottle. You may feed your baby formula from a bottle if breastfeeding is not possible. Talk to your baby's pediatrician about the best formula for your baby. He or she can help you choose one that contains iron.
- Do not add cereal to the bottle. Your infant will not be ready for cereal until he or she is about 4 months old. Your infant may get too many calories during a feeding if you add cereal to the bottle. You can always make more milk or formula if your infant is still hungry after finishing a bottle.
- Your infant will want to feed himself or herself by about 6 months. This may be messy until your infant's eye-hand coordination improves. Give him or her small pieces of food that he or she can hold in his or her hand. Your infant might not like a food the first time you offer it. He or she may like it after tasting it several times, so offer it a few times. You will learn the foods your infant likes and when he or she wants to eat them. Limit his or her sugar-sweetened foods and drinks. Cut your infant's food into small bites. Your infant can choke on food, such as hot dogs, raw carrots, or popcorn.
How much to feed your infant:
- Your infant may want different amounts each day. The amount of formula or breast milk your infant drinks may change with each feeding and each day. The amount your infant drinks depends on his or her weight, how fast he or she is growing, and how hungry he or she is. Your infant may want to drink a lot one day and not want to drink much the next.
- Do not overfeed your infant. Overfeeding means your infant gets too many calories during a feeding. This may cause him or her to gain weight too fast. Your baby may also continue to overeat later in life. Infants have a natural ability to know when they are done feeding. Your infant may cry if you try to continue feeding him or her. He or she may not accept a nipple. Do not try to force him or her to continue.
- Feed your infant each time he or she is hungry. Your infant will drink about 2 to 4 ounces at each feeding. He or she will probably want to feed every 3 to 4 hours. Wake your infant to feed him or her if he or she has been sleeping for 4 to 5 hours.
Feed your infant safely:
- Hold your infant upright to feed him or her. Do not prop your infant's bottle. Your infant could choke while you are not watching, especially in a moving vehicle.
- Do not use a microwave to heat your infant's bottle. The milk or formula will not heat evenly and will have spots that are very hot. Your infant's face or mouth could be burned. You can warm the milk or formula quickly by placing the bottle in a pot of warm water for a few minutes.
How much sleep your infant needs:
- Your infant will sleep about 16 hours each day for the first 3 months. From 3 months until 6 months, he or she will sleep about 13 to 14 hours each day. He or she will sleep more at night and less during the day as he or she gets older.
- Always put your infant on his or her back to sleep. This will help him or her breathe well while he or she sleeps.
When your infant will be able to control his or her movements:
- Your infant will start to open his or her hands after about 1 month. Your infant can hold a rattle by about 3 months old, but he or she will not reach for it.
- Your infant's eyes will move smoothly and focus on objects by 2 months. He or she should be able to follow moving objects by 3 months. He or she will follow moving objects without turning his or her head by 9 months.
- Your infant should be able to lift his or her head when he or she is on his or her tummy by 3 months. Your infant's pediatrician may tell you to you place your infant on his or her tummy for short periods. Do this only when your infant is awake. This can help him or her develop strong neck muscles. Continue to support your infant's head until he or she is about 4 months old. His or her neck muscles will be stronger at this age. Your infant should be able to hold his or her head up without support by 6 to 8 months old.
- Your infant will interact with and recognize the people around him or her by 3 months. He or she will smile at the sound of your voice and turn his or her head toward a familiar sound. Your infant will respond to his or her own name at about 6 months old. He or she will also look around for objects he or she drops.
- Your infant will grab at things he or she sees at 4 to 6 months. He or she will grab at objects and bring his or her hands close to his or her face. He or she will also open and close his or her hands so that he or she can pick up and look at objects. Your infant will move an object from one hand to the other by 7 months. Your infant will be able to put an object into a container, turn pages in a book, and wave by 12 months.
- Your infant will move into the crawling position when he or she is about 6 months old. He or she should be able to sit with some support by 6 months. He or she may also be able to roll from back to side and from stomach to back. He or she will start to walk at about 10 to 12 months old. Your infant will pull himself or herself to a standing position while holding onto furniture. He or she may take big, fast steps at first. He or she may start to walk alone but not have good balance. You may see him or her fall down many times before he or she learns to walk easily. He or she will put his or her hands on walls or large objects to stay steady while walking. He or she will also change how fast he or she walks when stepping onto surfaces that are not even, such as grass.
How to care for your infant's teeth:
Teeth normally come in when your infant is about 6 months old, starting with the 2 lower center teeth. His or her upper center teeth will come in at about 8 months old. The upper and lower side teeth will come in at 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 or her. Brush your infant's teeth after he or she eats. Ask your infant's pediatrician 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 or her risk for cavities.
Cradle cap is a skin condition that causes scaly patches to form on your baby's scalp. Some infants may also have scaly patches on other parts of their body. Cradle cap usually goes away on its own in about 6 to 8 months. To help remove the scales, apply warm mineral oil on the scales. Wash the mineral oil off 1 hour later with a mild soap. Use a soft-bristle toothbrush or washcloth to gently remove the scales.
When your infant will begin to talk:
Your infant will start to babble at around 4 months old. He or she will start to talk at about 9 months old. Your infant will learn to talk by copying the words and sounds he or she hears. He or she 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 or she will begin to say short words, such as mama and dada. He or she will understand the meaning of simple words and commands by 9 to 12 months. He or she will also know what some objects are by their name, such as ball or cup.
Why it is important to create routines for your infant:
Routines will help your infant feel safe and secure. Set a schedule for your infant to sleep, eat, and play. Routines may also help your infant if he or she has a hard time falling asleep. For example, read your infant a story or give him or her a bath before bed.
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