24 March 2006

How the baby develops 0-3 months

As a parent you're allowed to make gooey, cooing noises, but you can already start stimulating your newborn's mind and body.

What’s happening:
At the moment the baby has only one way to express herself, so she seems to do it a lot. You’ll learn to discern the cries that say “I’m hungry” from the ones that announce “I’ve rolled off the bed and landed on my head” soon enough. She’s already learning that crying will generate a response from you. Her little brain is assimilating new data a terrifying rate, so you can capitalise on it by providing plenty of stimulus. Her best field of focus is at around eight inches, so she’ll focus on your face if you hold her. Babies need physical contact, so feel free to cuddle her.

What you’re feeling
After the emotional rollercoaster of labour and childbirth, you’d be reasonably expected to hope for some rest. And you may have had an hour or two to catch up on a cold beer, a plate of chicken wings and the newest Formula One ratings, but that’s about all. The rest of the time you’re changing nappies.

How soon you can have sex again depends entirely on what your partner went through during labour. If she was in labour for 20 hours and had triplets and an episiotomy, she’s not likely to be interested in getting hot and nasty for a while. As with all aspects of your relationship, openness is best.

What she’s feeling
If your partner’s breastfeeding, she’s likely to feel sore and tender, and may think of herself in bovine terms, rather than feminine ones. She may develop mastitis, which will do little for her sense of wellbeing or her self-image. The enormity of having actually produced a baby may now cause her to feel depressed. Maintain your support, and shoulder your share – at least – of the work.

What to do
Stimulate with texture: Fiddle with texture: give your baby a variety of textures – wool, leather, satin, lace, twine (short, harmless pieces), suede, tin foil, fake fur and whatever else you think will stimulate the little tyke’s sense of touch.

Carry on: Put those rock-hard abs and biceps to work. Carry the baby around the house and garden, talking as you go. Narrate what you’re doing and seeing. You can also introduce them to smells and sounds – nothing too sharp in either of these categories.

Make them shove off: Put the little spud tummy-down on a bed, or lie on your back and put the baby on its belly. Raise you head and make the appropriate silly noises (As a parent you’re allowed to). This will encourage the baby to raise his or her head, which is good preparation for learning crawl.

Have a three-way dialogue: When you and your partner speak to your baby you encourage her to look at each of you in turn, which helps develop her coordination.

Kneel at the baby’s feet while he or she lies on her back. Let her push off your hands or knees. It’s a good way of teaching the baby how her muscles work.

Practice cycling: Lay the baby on his or her back and hold a foot in each hand. Guide the legs in a bicycling motion. The baby will learn to do this without your help.

Try batting practice: At around two months your baby will be able to bat at a toy or at your hand if you hold either about six inches away from his or her face.

Be a moving target: Hold a toy or a brightly coloured object about ten inches from the baby’s face and move it back and forth, encouraging her to follow it.

A time of reflection: Hold up a small mirror up and let her watch her face.

Give feedback: Make a recording of the baby’s coos and gurgles, then play them back. Babies are fascinated by these sounds. You baby will also be delighted by you mimicking the sounds she makes.

Snuggle and sing: If your baby is unsettled, trying lying down next to her and match your breathing with hers. She’ll also love you singing simple ditties like “Thula, Baba”, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” and “The Teddy Bear’s Picnic”.

Touchy-feely: When you baby is on the changing table or in the bath, experiment with different types of touch. Babies also love to be massaged, which is good for their circulation and cognitive development.


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