Child developmental Milestones Newborns

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Developmental Milestones - Newborns


  • during first few days of life skin is wrinkled, but within a few days it will dry and peel
  • skin colour is light
  • head may appear to have an unusual shape as a result of the birth process, but will assume a normal shape within the first week
  • hair colour and amount varies with each child
  • average weight at birth is 6.5 to 9 pounds
  • 5-7% of birth weight is lost within days following the birth
  • average of 5-6 ounces is gained during the first month
  • average length at birth is 18 to 21 inches
  • chest appears to be small and cylindrical, nearly the same size as the head
  • heart rate ranges from 120 to 150 beats per minute, may be irregular at times
  • skin is sensitive, especially on the hands and the mouth
  • head is large relative to the body
  • head circumference averages 12.5 to 14.5 inches at birth
  • "soft" spots called fontanels are located on the top and back of the head
  • breathing is often irregular in rhythm and rate
  • crying is without tears
  • eyes are extremely sensitive to light
  • sees outlines and shapes; unable to focus on distant objects


  • newborn's motor skills are purely reflexive movements and are primarily for protection and survival
  • the infant begins to gain some control over these reflexes during the first month
  • motor activities that are primarily reflexive:
    • swallowing, sucking, gagging, coughing, yawning, blinking and elimination are present at birth
    • rooting reflex is triggered by gently touching sensitive skin around the cheek and mouth; the infant turns toward the cheek being stroked
    • startle reflex is set off by sudden, loud noises; both arms are thrown open and away from the body, then quickly return
    • moro reflex is brought about by quickly lowering the infant's position downward, as if dropping; arms are thrown open and quickly brought back together over the chest
    • grasping reflex occurs when the infant tightly curls its fingers around an object placed in its hand
    • stepping reflex involves the infant moving the feet up and down in walking-like movements when held upright with feet touching a firm surface
    • tonic neck reflex occurs when the infant, in supine (face up) position, extends arm and leg on the side toward which the head is turned; the opposite arm and leg are flexed (pulled in toward the body)
    • plantar reflex is the curling of the toes when pressure is placed against the ball of the foot
  • maintains fetal position, especially when asleep
  • holds hands in a fist; does not reach for objects
  • when held in a prone (face down) position, the baby's head falls lower than the horizontal line of the body with hips flexed and arms and legs hanging down
  • has good muscle tone in the upper body when supported under the arms
  • turns head from side to side when placed in a prone face down) position
  • pupils dilate and constrict
  • eyes do not always work together and may appear crossed a times


  • designed to capture and hold the attention of parents and caregivers and to gain some sense of the environment
  • gives a partial irregular eye blink to a fast-approaching object
  • follows a slowly moving object through a complete arc of 180 degrees
  • follows objects moved vertically if object is close to the infant's face (10-15 inches)
  • looks around even in the dark
  • begins to study own hand when lying in tonic neck reflex position
  • hearing is present at birth and is more acute than vision (infants hear as well as adults, except for quiet sounds)
  • prefers to listen to mother's voice rather than a stranger's
  • often synchronizes body movements to speech patterns of parent or caregiver
  • distinguishes some tastes; shows preference for sweet liquids
  • sense of smell is present at birth; will turn away from strong, unpleasant odors


  • can be identified in several of the newborn's reflexes, such as bite-release action that occurs when the infant's gums are rubbed, the rooting reflex and the sucking reflex
  • crying and fussing are major forms of communication
  • reacts to loud noises by blinking, moving, stopping a movement, shifting eyes about, or making a startle response
  • shows a preference for certain sounds, such as music and human voices, by calming down or quieting
  • turns head in response to voice
  • makes occasional sounds other than crying


  • experiences a short period of alertness immediately following birth
  • sleeps 17 to 19 hours per day, gradually is awake and responsive for longer times
  • likes to be held close and cuddled when awake
  • shows qualities of individuality
  • begins to establish emotional attachment or bonding relationship with parents and caregivers
  • begins to develop a sense of security or feeling of trust with parents and caregivers


Check with a health care provider or early childhood specialist, if by one month of age, the child does not:

  • show alarm or "startle" responses to loud noise
  • suck and swallow with ease
  • show gains in height, weight, and head circumference
  • grasp with equal strength in both hands
  • make eye to eye contact when awake and being held
  • become quiet soon after being picked up
  • roll head from side to side when placed on stomach

The information provided should be used as a general guideline and for general information. Children are unique individuals. No two children grow and develop at the same rate. If you have any questions concerning your child's development, contact your pediatrician.

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