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The Growing Child: Newborn

The Growing Child: Newborn 

How much will my baby grow?

In the first month of life, babies often catch up and exceed their birth weight. Then they steadily continue to gain weight. A weight loss up to about 10% of birth weight is normal in the first 2 to 3 days after birth. But the baby should have gained this back and be at their birth weight by about 2 weeks old. All babies may grow at a different rate. Here is the average for boys and girls up to 1 month old:

  • Weight. After the first 2 weeks, should gain about 1 ounce each day.

  • Average length at birth:

    • 20 inches for boys

    • 19 3/4 inches for girls

  • Average length at 1 month:

    • 21 1/2 inches for boys

    • 21 inches for girls

  • Head size. Increases to slightly less than 1 inch more than birth measurement by the end of the first month.

What can my baby do at this age?

A newborn spends about 16 hours a day sleeping. But the time a baby is awake can be busy. Much of a newborn's movements and activity are reflexes or involuntary. This means the baby does not purposefully make these movements. As the nervous system begins to mature, these reflexes give way to purposeful behaviors.

Reflexes in newborns include:

  • Root reflex. This reflex happens when the corner of the baby's mouth is stroked or touched. The baby will turn their head and open their mouth to follow and "root" in the direction of the stroking. The root reflex helps the baby find the breast or bottle.

  • Suck reflex. When the roof of the baby's mouth is touched with the breast or bottle nipple, the baby will begin to suck. This reflex does not begin until about the 32nd week of pregnancy. It is not fully developed until about 36 weeks. Premature babies may have a weak or immature sucking ability. That's because they are born before this reflex develops. Babies also have a hand-to-mouth reflex that goes with rooting and sucking. They may suck on their fingers or hands.

  • Moro reflex. This is often called a startle reflex. That's because it often happens when a baby is startled by a loud sound or movement. In response to the sound, the baby throws back their head, throws out their arms and legs, and cries. Then the baby pulls their arms and legs back in. Sometimes a baby can be startled by their own cries. That also can trigger this reflex. The Moro reflex lasts until the baby is about 5 to 6 months old.

  • Tonic neck reflex. When a baby's head is turned to one side, the arm on that side stretches out. And the opposite arm bends up at the elbow. This is often called the "fencing" position. The tonic neck reflex lasts until the baby is about 6 to 7 months old.

  • Grasp reflex. Stroking the palm of a baby's hand causes the baby to close their fingers in a grasp. The grasp reflex lasts only a couple of months. It is stronger in premature babies.

  • Babinski reflex. When the bottom of the foot is firmly stroked, the big toe bends back toward the top of the foot and the other toes fan out. This is a normal reflex until the child is about 2 years old.

  • Step reflex. This is also called the walking or dance reflex. A baby seems to take steps or dance when held upright with their feet touching a solid surface.

Newborn babies also have many physical characteristics and behaviors that include:

  • Head sags when lifted up, needs to be supported

  • Turns head from side to side when lying on their stomach

  • Eyes are sometimes uncoordinated, may look cross-eyed

  • First fixes eyes on a face or light, then begins to follow a moving object

  • Begins to lift head when lying on stomach

  • Jerky, erratic movements

  • Moves hands to mouth

What can my baby say?

At this early age, crying is a baby's only form of communication. At first, all of a baby's cries sound the same. But parents soon recognize different types of cries for hunger, discomfort, frustration, tiredness, and even loneliness. Sometimes, a baby's cries can easily be answered with a feeding or a diaper change. Other times, the cause of the crying can be a mystery. The crying can stop as quickly as it begins. But whatever the cause, it's important to respond to your baby's cries with a comforting touch and words. This helps your baby learn to trust you and rely on you for love and security. You may also use warmth and rocking movements to comfort your baby.

What does my baby understand?

You may find that your baby responds in many ways, including:

  • Startles at loud noises

  • Looks at faces and pictures with contrasting black and white images

  • Gives attention to voices, may turn to a sound

  • Hints of a smile, especially during sleep

How to help increase your baby's development and emotional security

Young babies need the security of a parent's arms. They understand the reassurance and comfort of your voice, tone, and emotions. The following things can all help your newborn to feel emotionally secure:

  • Hold your baby face to face.

  • Talk in a soothing tone and let your baby hear your affectionate and friendly voice.

  • Sing to your baby.

  • Walk with your baby in a sling, carrier, or a stroller.

  • Swaddle your baby in a soft blanket to help them feel secure and prevent startling by the baby's own movements.

  • Rock your baby in a rhythmic, gentle motion.

  • Respond quickly to your baby's cries.

Reviewed Date: 04-01-2022

The Growing Child: Newborn
Find a pediatrician
Health Tips
Babies Need "Tummy Time"
Help Your Babysitter Prepare for Anything
How to Bathe Your Baby
How to Use a Pacifier
Is It Time for Toilet Training?
Prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome
Reading to Kids Helps Their Development
Sports and Music: Both Good for Kids
Taking Baby's Temperature
Weight Room No Longer Off-Limits to Kids
Child Development Quiz
Diseases & Conditions
Anatomy of a Newborn Baby’s Skull
Assessments for Newborn Babies
Baby's Care After Birth
Bathing and Skin Care for the Newborn
Behavior Changes
Breast Milk Collection and Storage
Breastfeeding and Delayed Milk Production
Breastfeeding at Work
Breastfeeding Difficulties - Baby
Breastfeeding Difficulties - Mother
Breastfeeding Your Baby
Breastfeeding Your Premature Baby
Breastfeeding: Getting Started
Breathing Problems
Care of the Baby in the Delivery Room
Caring for Babies in the NICU
Caring for Newborn Multiples
Common Conditions and Complications
Common Procedures
Congenital Heart Disease Index
Difficulty with Latching On or Sucking
Digestive Disorders
Fever in a Newborn Baby
Hearing Loss in Babies
Hearing Screening Tests for Newborns
Heart Disorders
High-Risk Newborn Blood Disorders
Infant Feeding Guide
Infant of a Mother with Diabetes
Infant Play
Infant Sleep
Infection in Babies
Inguinal Hernia in Children
Keeping Your Baby Warm
Male Conditions
Megaureter in Children
Micropenis in Children
Neurological Disorders in the Newborn
Newborn Appearance
Newborn Babies: Getting Ready at Home
Newborn Behaviors and Activities
Newborn Complications
Newborn Crying
Newborn Health Assessment
Newborn Measurements
Newborn Reflexes
Newborn Screening Tests
Newborn Senses
Newborn Sleep Patterns
Newborn Warning Signs
Physical Exam of the Newborn
Preparing for Your New Baby
Preparing the Family
Skin Color Changes
Substance Exposure
Taking Your Baby Home from the NICU
The Growing Child: 1 to 3 Months
The Growing Child: 10 to 12 Months
The Growing Child: 1-Year-Olds
The Growing Child: 2-Year-Olds
The Growing Child: 4 to 6 Months
The Growing Child: 7 to 9 Months
The Growing Child: Preschool (4 to 5 Years)
The Growing Child: School-Age (6 to 12 Years)
The Respiratory System in Babies
Thrush (Oral Candida Infection) in Children
Transient Tachypnea of the Newborn
Umbilical Cord Care
Vision and Hearing
When to Call Your Child's Healthcare Provider

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.