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Normal Growth and Development of Newborns

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 31, 2022.

What is the normal growth and development of newborns?

Normal growth and development is how your newborn sleeps, eats, learns, and grows. A newborn is younger than 1 month old.

How quickly will my newborn grow?

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

  • Weight. Your newborn will lose up to 10% of his or her birth weight during the first 3 to 5 days. He or she will regain this weight by the time he or she is 2 weeks old. Your newborn will gain about 1½ to 2 pounds during the first month.
  • Length. Your newborn will go through a growth spurt when he or she is about 2 weeks old. He or she will grow about 1 inch during the first month.
  • Head shape and size. Your newborn's head should increase by ½ inch in the first month. He or she has 2 soft spots called fontanels on his or her head. The soft spot in the back of the head will close when he or she is about 2 or 3 months old. The front soft spot will close by the end of the first year. Be very careful when you touch your newborn's soft spots.

What should I feed my newborn?

  • Breast milk is the only food your baby needs for the first 6 months of life. Breast milk provides all the nutrients your newborn needs to grow strong and healthy. The first milk breasts make is called colostrum. Colostrum contains antibodies that protect your newborn's immune system. It also contains more fat than the milk breasts will make later. Your newborn will use the fat and calories as he or she develops. Talk to your newborn's pediatrician about the best formula for your newborn if you cannot breastfeed. He or she can help you choose formula that contains iron.
  • Do not add cereal to the milk or formula. Your newborn is not ready for cereal. Cereal should never be added to a bottle of milk or formula, at any age. Your baby can get too many calories during a feeding. You can make more formula if your baby is still hungry after he or she finishes a bottle.

How much should I feed my newborn?

  • Your newborn may want different amounts each day. The amount of formula or breast milk your newborn drinks may change with each feeding and each day. The amount your baby drinks depends on his or her weight, how fast he or she is growing, and how hungry he or she is. Your baby may want to drink a lot one day and not want to drink much the next.
  • Do not overfeed your baby. Overfeeding means your baby 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. Newborns have a natural ability to know when they are done feeding. Your newborn 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 newborn each time he or she is hungry. Your newborn will drink about 2 to 4 ounces at each feeding. He or she will probably want to feed every 3 to 4 hours.

What do I need to know about feeding my baby safely?

  • Hold your baby upright to feed him or her. Do not prop your baby's bottle. Your baby could choke while you are not watching, especially in a moving vehicle.
  • Do not use a microwave to heat a bottle. The milk or formula will not heat evenly and will have spots that are very hot. Your baby'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 does my newborn need?

  • Your newborn will sleep about 16 hours each day. He or she will have 2 stages of sleep. The first stage is called active sleep. You may see him or her twitch or smile while he or she is in active sleep. The second stage is called quiet sleep. His or her body will relax completely while he or her is in quiet sleep.
  • Always put your baby on his or her back to sleep. This will help him or her breathe while he or she sleeps.
    Back to Sleep

How will my newborn let me know what he or she needs?

  • Your newborn will cry to let you know that he or she is hungry, wet, or wants your attention. You will soon be able to hear the differences in your newborn's crying. Set up a routine of sleeping and eating. A regular routine is important to make sure you and your newborn get enough rest and sleep. A routine also makes your newborn feel safe and learn to trust you.
  • Newborns often cry at certain times every day. When the crying does not stop and your newborn cannot be comforted, he or she may have colic. Colic usually starts when the newborn is about 2 weeks old and can last for up to 6 months. Ask your newborn's pediatrician for more information about colic and how to cope with your newborn's crying. Ask someone to help you with your newborn 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?

Your newborn will be able to do some actions on purpose by the time he or she is 1 month old. His or her movements may be jerky as his or her nervous system and muscle control develop. Your newborn may be able to lift his or her head for a second, but will not hold his head up by himself or herself. Support his or her head when you change his position. This is especially important when you put him or her into a sitting position. He or she may be able to turn his or her head from side to side when lying on his or her back. Your newborns 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 or she is born. The rooting and sucking reflexes make your newborn turn his or her head toward your hand if you stroke his or her cheeks or mouth. These reflexes help him or her find the nipple at feeding times. The rooting reflex starts to disappear by 2 months. By this time, your newborn knows how to move his or her head and mouth to eat.
  • Moro reflex. This reflex causes your newborn to flail his or her arms out and cry when he or she is startled. The Moro reflex stops when your newborn is about 2 months old.
  • Grasp reflex. The grasp reflex is when the palm of your newborn's hand closes when you stroke it. The hand grasp turns into grasping on purpose when your newborn is about 5 to 6 months old. Your newborn can bring his or her hands toward his or her mouth and suck on his or her fingers.
  • Crawling reflex. This action happens when your newborn is put on his or her tummy. He or she will move his or her legs like he or she is crawling. He or she may also start to push himself or herself up on his or her arms. The crawling reflex will start near the end of your newborn's first month.

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 healthcare providers 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.

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Further information

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