Though it may seem like all your newborn baby does during the day is eat and sleep, she is learning a lot too. Every new sight and sound stimulates her development, and she is learning to communicate her needs. She is learning to trust a caring adult to comfort her and take care of her. You can do many activities with your infant in the first six months of life that will help her develop and learn.
From the very beginning, infants need to spend some awake time on their tummies. Although for sleeping babies should always be put down on their backs, they also need to develop the muscles in their neck and shoulders to be able to hold their heads up. By the time he is 3 months old, your baby should be lifting his head and chest while on his stomach, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. To encourage him to lift his head, prop a brightly colored board book, a black and white toy or an unbreakable mirror in front of him to give him something to look at. Around 4 months of age, your baby will have better hand-eye coordination and will want to reach out for objects that interest him. Hold his favorite toys close. You could also place toys that make noise near his feet so he will be encouraged to practice kicking. Usually by 6 months old, babies are ready to sit with support, so let him practice sitting by propping him on his hands. Just make sure you put some soft pillows around him for when he loses his balance and tips over.
Although you won't hear your baby's first words for a while, she is developing language skills from birth. When you talk and sing to her, she learns to locate the source of the sound and begins to recognize it as one that is comfortable and caring. Between 1 and 2 months, your baby will begin to respond to your voice with her own noises -- mostly oohs and aahs -- so make her own sounds back to her and you will be teaching her about the back-and-forth flow of communication. Read books and nursery rhymes to your infant often so she can hear the patterns of language. By 6 months, you may begin to hear a few babbling sounds, like "ma," "da" or "ba." Encourage those attempts at language by responding enthusiastically and acting like you understand her. "Did you say 'ba?' Oh, do you want your bottle?"
At birth, infants can begin to recognize faces and objects of different colors and sizes. In the first month or two, your baby will respond positively when he sees you approaching or hears your voice in a room of others. By 4 months old, he will begin exploring most objects with his mouth, because this is how he learns about them. Make sure that objects your baby will be handling are large enough that he will not swallow or choke on them. At 6 months, your infant will begin to enjoy peek-a-boo games, as he begins to learn that things he can't see are still there, a skill called object permanence. To help develop this concept, partially hide toys under a blanket and see if he can find them.
Your love and caring is the most important thing for your newborn baby as she learns to feel secure and trust that you are there to meet her needs. Hold her and massage her to help develop a bond with skin-to-skin contact. Smile at her often and watch for her to return that smile at around 2 months old. Begin a bedtime routine that includes a bath, reading stories, singing songs and going to sleep in a crib. This will help your baby know what to expect each night and make falling asleep on her own easier. By 4 months old, babies enjoy looking at their own image in a mirror, so put an unbreakable mirror in her crib or where she plays so she can practice looking at and talking to her reflection. Once babies have reached 6 months of age, they are often extremely interested in watching what is going on around them and the people around them. She will reach for you as a way to interact, so respond with happiness and play simple social games like pat-a-cake or peek-a-boo, or tickle her playfully.
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