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Child Development & Parenting: Infants (0-2)

Infancy Introduction

Child Development & Parenting: Infants (0-2)

This topic center covers parenting and child development of infant children (ages 0-2). For a complete review of the theories of child development upon which this article is based, please visit our Child and Adolescent Development topic center. For coverage of child development and parenting topics applicable to preschool children (early childhood aged 3 to 7 please visit our Early Childhood Parenting and Child Development topic center. For information on parenting and child development of middle childhood children (ages 8 to 11), please visit our Middle Childhood Parenting and Development center and Child Development Theory: Middle Childhood center. For information on parenting adolescents (ages 12-24), please visit our Adolescence Child Development and Parenting and Child Development Theory: Adolescence topic center.

 

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Fast Facts: Learn! Fast!

What physical development takes place in infants?

  • Physical development occurs in several important ways, including children growing in size and weight, but also becoming better able to move themselves around and to manipulate objects, and having senses that become more refined over time.
  • Babies can feel and respond to pain and touch from birth, and this is an important first connection between infants and caregivers.
  • Babies can hear at birth, and doctors can test infants for hearing problems right after birth. As infants grow, their mental ability to process and use information they hear improves.
  • Unlike their abilities to smell or hear, babies are not able to see as well as adults do. However by age 2-3 months they have the ability to see a full range of colors and can focus on objects just like adults.
  • Infants need to learn how to move and to use their bodies to perform various tasks, a process better known as motor development.
  • One way babies learn to use their bodies is by learning to achieve large physical tasks, or gross motor skills, such as crawling and walking.
  • Fine motor skills develop alongside gross motor skills. Beyond just learning how to use and manipulate their bodies in large movements, babies are learning how to use their hands and how to coordinate smaller movements with their senses, such as sight.
  • Babies grow at an amazing rate in the first months and years of life as they rapidly reproduce cells and grow in length and weight.
  • In the first 2 years, babies grow to almost half their adult height and can quadruple their birth weight, and their bodily proportions also change.

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What cognitive development takes place in infants?

  • Babies are not only growing physically during the first 2 years of life, but also cognitively (mentally).
  • Every day while they interact with and learn about their environment they are creating new connections and pathways between nerve cells both within their brains, and between their brains and bodies.
  • A major development during this period (usually around 8-12 months) is that of object permanence, the understanding that something still exists even if it can't be seen.
  • As infants' brains continue to develop, infants also develop the ability to communicate; to comprehend and produce spoken language.
  • Babies learn language by taking in information through their senses of hearing and sight as they learn to process the meanings behind those sights and sounds.
  • Babies' and young children's language development is strongly influenced by the language they hear spoken around them and to them.
  • Research has shown that young children are better able to learn multiple languages or languages other than their family's primary language because their growing brains enable them to learn a wide variety of meanings, words, and language structures.

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What emotional/social development takes place in infants?

  • Babies can feel interest, distress, disgust, and happiness from birth, and can communicate these through facial expressions and body posture.
  • Infants begin showing a spontaneous "social smile" around age 2 to 3 months, and begin to laugh spontaneously around age 4 months.
  • Between ages 2 and 6 months, infants express other feelings such as anger, sadness, surprise, and fear.
  • Between ages 5 and 6 months, babies begin to exhibit stranger anxiety where they do not like it when other people hold or play with them, and will show this discomfort visibly.
  • Around age 12 months, babies become aware of not only other peoples' expressions but also their actual emotional states, especially distress.
  • Between the ages of 13 and 18 months, separation anxiety may subside as object permanence develops, and they understand their caretaker isn't gone even when they can't see them.
  • By age 2, toddlers can show a wide range of emotions and are becoming better at regulating and coping with their emotions.
  • Another important aspect of emotional development, temperament, has to do with babies' general emotional and social state.
  • Temperament refers to babies' innate personality; the general pattern of how babies will react to and interact with their environment which is present from birth.
  • Closely related to infants' emotional development is their social development; it's through relationships with caregivers and other people that children learn how to apply and use their emotions, expressions, and emotional understanding.

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What sexuality and body awareness takes place in infants?

  • While many people believe that sexual development does not become an important issue until puberty and adolescence, children actually begin showing sexual behavior and interest in their sexual functioning from infancy.
  • Babies are continually exploring their own bodies in order to learn about them.
  • They want to understand what they look like and how parts work and this will include investigating their genitals or walking around naked.
  • Because such behavior is a normal and natural development of their sexual, gender, and personal identity, caregivers should avoid chastising young children or labeling these kinds of exploratory actions as "bad" or "dirty."
  • Instead, caregivers should set and enforce proper limits on such behavior, allowing toddlers and young children to explore themselves at home in private and discouraging them from doing these behaviors in public.
  • Distracting children, and guiding them towards more socially appropriate behavior are good ways to get children to refocus without shaming them in the process.

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How can I successfully parent my infant?

  • Coming home from the hospital for the first time with a tiny person who depends entirely on you for all his needs can be a daunting prospect and it's normal to feel a mixture of excitement, joy, and love along with some anxiety, fear, and a little trepidation.
  • It's important to support the baby\'s head and neck in order to stabilize the entire body, and holding infants securely also communicates unconditional love that helps to form the parent-child bond.
  • Parents and caregivers should facilitate movement and growth by giving babies safe environments to play and to explore on their own.
  • Infants need food and water to survive, to grow, and to thrive.
  • Babies take in nutrients and fluids, and their bodies break them down, keep what they need, and get rid of the waste products through urination and fecal elimination. Preparation is the key to smooth diaper changes for everyone involved.
  • Caregivers can help their baby learn how to sleep in more adult-like patterns and how to soothe themselves to sleep. While some babies easily adapt to more mature sleep cycles, other babies may take much more effort and patience to do so.
  • Babies need to be bathed regularly and there are different ways to wash babies, according to their age, motor abilities, and preferences.
  • Babies cry because they're hungry, tired, sick, hot, cold, in pain, bored, over stimulated, want affection, or are uncomfortable in some way and parents can often learn to differentiate their baby's cries.
  • At a normal well-baby visit, parents should expect doctors to measure and weigh the baby and to discuss the baby's feeding and elimination, sleep habits, growth, development, and general well-being.
  • Another important factor in maintaining infant health is building up their immune system, or their ability to fight off serious infections, through immunizations.
  • Common baby medical concerns include teething, colic, coughs and colds, fever, and diarrhea and vomiting
  • Babies need to be loved and nurtured from birth to create a trusting bond between them and the adults who care for them, and to help create trust and interest in the world at large, which enables them to grow and to learn.
  • Another way to help babies begin to learn social skills, stay safe, and begin to learn values and morals is to provide appropriate discipline from birth.
  • Caregivers need to provide their babies with a safe environment in which to live and to grow.

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How can I keep my infant safe?

  • Caregivers can help babies to safely explore their world by attending to and fixing aspects of babies' environments that may be dangerous for them.
  • Caregivers need to baby-proof not only a baby's primary home, but also the car that the baby will be transported in, and the community of other homes and environments that the baby may visit and explore.
  • Caregivers can ensure a good night's sleep for their babies and themselves by following these tips to create a safe sleeping space for infants and toddlers.
  • Caregivers can follow some simple guidelines to keep diaper changing safe.
  • With a few precautionary measures, the family kitchen can be the center of a rich and busy family life.
  • The bathroom can become a safe and pleasant place for bath time and other baby fun times if important precautions are observed.
  • There are several things that caregivers can do to reduce the possibility that their children will be harmed in a fire-related situation.
  • If a family is looking to bring a pet into the home (and no pet is presently in the home), they should consider waiting until their child is at least five years old.
  • Concerned parents can also think about ways to make car outings occur as safely as possible.
  • Backyard play areas and other segments of the home property need to be monitored and outfitted for safety.
  • A solid emergency plan should be developed for handling worst-case scenarios, should they ever come to pass.

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How can I stimulate my infant and enrich their life?

  • It is important to think about infant stimulation or enrichment (activities that arouse or stimulate your baby's sense of sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell).
  • This stimulation can help foster physical, social, emotional, brain, and nervous system development.
  • You don't have to worry excessively about making sure your baby masters a rigid set of exercises or activities in the first months of life, but by being aware of the different areas of child development, you can help enrich your child's experiences and growth.
  • The foremost way you provide encouragement to children is through showing them love and nurturing.
  • Another way you can show your baby love and affection is through providing them with toys, songs and games as learning tools.
  • From birth, you can help your baby to develop physically by giving him or her activities that help build upper body and neck strength.
  • To help very young infants develop language and other cognitive skills, you can talk to your baby.
  • Between ages six to twelve months, you can continue to encourage physical growth and motor skill development through interactive games and activities.
  • For more social and emotional development, you can play light chasing and surprising games by crawling around the living room or other space.
  • Another way to help build sociability is to expose babies to new social situations.
  • By twelve months, toddlers are generally beginning to master walking on their own and caregivers can begin to build on that skill.
  • By 18-24 months, children often enjoy simple pretend play.

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News Articles

  • Infant Mortality Down in United States From 2005 to 2014

    From 2005 to 2014, infant mortality declined for all major racial and ethnic groups in the United States, except American Indian or Alaska Natives, according to a March data brief published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics. More...

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  • For 'Preemies,' Human Touch May Be a Brain Booster

    Diminished response seen in premature infants who spend weeks in the hospital, study finds. More...

  • 45 More
    • Nursery Items Contribute to Increased Infant Injury Rates

      Emergency department visits for injuries related to strollers, cribs, and other nursery products rose nearly 24 percent between 2003 and 2011, after more than a decade of decline, according to a report published online March 13 in Pediatrics. More...

    • More Babies in Strollers, Cribs Winding Up in ER: Study

      Concussions driving upswing, with only 1 percent of cases blamed on product failure. More...

    • Health Tip: Washing Baby Bottles

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    • Health Tip: Watch for Constipation in Babies

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    • Risk of Birth Defects 20 Times Higher for Zika Moms: CDC

      Finding highlights importance of preventing infection during pregnancy, researchers say. More...

    • Do Early Dental Visits Really Prevent Kids' Cavities?

      Study found preventive care didn't help Medicaid toddlers in one state, but more research is needed. More...

    • More 'Extreme Preemies' Are Surviving

      But many born between 22 and 24 weeks don't make it, or have serious health complications. More...

    • Tiny Babies May Face Mental Health Problems Later

      Review found greater likelihood of ADHD, anxiety and depression. More...

    • Preemies Bombarded With Noise in First Weeks of Life

      But private rooms may not be the solution, study suggests. More...

    • Newborn Screening Tests Approved

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    • Pet Meds Sending Kids to the ER

      It's not uncommon for toddlers to ingest drugs intended for dogs and cats, study finds. More...

    • Dressing Baby for a Safe Winter Drive

      Avoid bulky clothing, American Academy of Pediatrics says. More...

    • Laundry Detergent Pods Linked to Eye Burn Danger in Kids

      Nearly 500 such injuries occurred in 2015, study reports. More...

    • Pediatricians Say No to Wearable Smartphone Baby Monitors

      Sensors in infant clothing that track 'vitals' can cause unnecessary alarm, report says. More...

    • MRI Helpful in Identifying White Matter Injury in Preemies

      Magnetic resonance imaging shortly after birth might help determine which premature babies have sustained a brain injury that will affect their development, according to a study published online Jan. 18 in Neurology. More...

    • Most Cow's Milk Baby Formulas Don't Up Risk of Type 1 Diabetes

      But one type of formula may be linked to greater chances if given in week 1, study suggests. More...

    • U.S. Health Care Costs From Birth Defects Total Almost $23 Billion a Year

      CDC study finds many cases involve babies, but care may be needed for a lifetime. More...

    • MRIs Might Help Guide Preemies' Neurological Care

      Brain scans after birth may pinpoint potential developmental problems, study finds. More...

    • Delayed Clamping Reduces Anemia at 8, 12 Months of Age

      For infants at high risk of iron deficiency anemia, delayed umbilical cord clamping reduces anemia at 8 and 12 months of age, according to a study published online Jan. 17 in JAMA Pediatrics. More...

    • Neurodevelopment at Age 2 Not Worse After ART Conception

      Cognitive, motor, and language development at age 2 years is similar for children born after assisted reproductive technologies conception and natural conception, according to a study published in the February issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology. More...

    • For a Colicky Baby, You Might Give Acupuncture a Try

      Treatment with 1 to 5 needles might stop the excessive crying, Swedish researchers say. More...

    • Guidance Provided for Introduction of Foods to Infants

      In a position paper published in the January issue of the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, guidance is presented in relation to complementary foods and their introduction into an infant's diet. More...

    • Brain Deficits in Preemies May Start Before Birth

      Study links weak brain wiring connections in fetuses with preterm delivery. More...

    • Guidelines Urge Earlier Peanut Intro for High-Risk Infants

      Infants at increased risk for peanut allergy should have peanut-containing foods added to their diets as early as 4 months of age, according to new U.S. clinical guidelines published in the January issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. More...

    • Vitamin D Insufficiency in Infancy Not Linked to Food Allergy

      Vitamin D insufficiency at birth or age 6 months is not associated with food allergy at 1 year, according to a study published online Jan. 2 in Allergy. More...

    • Flameless Candle Batteries Pose Risk to Kids

      If swallowed, serious damage can occur in just 2 hours, poison center expert says. More...

    • Health Tip: Skip Winter Coats in Car Seats

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    • Home Visits Can Help New Parents

      Study finds programs reduce ER trips and doctor appointments. More...

    • Christmas Cords Pose Danger to Little Ones

      Holiday extension cords, wires not safe around curious tots, who put everything in their mouths, researchers say More...

    • Shortened Abx Inferior for Acute Otitis Media in Children <2 Years

      Reduced-duration antimicrobial treatment is associated with less favorable outcomes among infants with acute otitis media, according to a study published in the Dec. 22 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. More...

    • ACOG Recommends Delayed Umbilical Cord Clamping

      Delayed umbilical cord clamping is beneficial for most term and preterm infants, according to a Committee Opinion from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology published in the January issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology. More...

    • Short Course of Antibiotics Not Best for Kids' Ear Infections

      10 days of the medication was twice as effective, study finds. More...

    • Don't Forget Child Safety When Traveling for the Holidays

      Nearly 1 in 7 parents of toddlers don't bring a car seat for travel rides, poll finds. More...

    • Child Deaths Highlight Choking Dangers Posed by Grapes

      Deaths of 5-year-old and toddler cited in new report. More...

    • Baby Crib Ads Show Unsafe Practices, Study Says

      Fluffy toys, tummy-sleeping and bumper pads are linked to sudden infant death syndrome. More...

    • Used Safely, Donor Breast Milk Can Help Preemie Babies

      But pediatricians' group warns against informal 'milk-sharing' or buying it online. More...

    • Home-Visiting Program Can Reduce Infant Health Care Use

      A universal home visiting model that employs a nurse-parent educator team as visitors in the homes of primary caregivers and their first-born children can reduce health care use in the first year, according to a study published online Dec. 15 in Pediatrics. More...

    • FDA Issues Anesthesia Warning for Pregnant Women, Kids Under 3

      A long time under or repeated episodes of sedation may pose risk to developing brains, agency says. More...

    • Birth Defects From Zika More Far-Reaching Than Thought

      Studies found greater prevalence than believed, more neurological problems cropping up months after birth. More...

    • Study Shows How Zika Attacks Infant Brain

      Virus can copy itself thousands of times, persist for more than 7 months. More...

    • Fewer Babies in Poor Families Are Overweight: CDC

      Researchers credit improvements in federal food assistance program, awareness of childhood obesity. More...

    • Continuous Skin-to-Skin Contact Benefits Preemies Long Term

      "Kangaroo mother care" -- an intense version of care involving nearly round-the-clock skin-to-skin contact and exclusive or near-exclusive breastfeeding -- may extend and enhance the lives of premature and low birth weight infants well into adulthood, according to a study published online Dec. 12 in Pediatrics. More...

    • Rural Hospitals See Surge in Opioid-Dependent Babies

      Cases have skyrocketed because of widespread maternal drug abuse, study says. More...

    • How to Ease the Pain of Infant Vaccinations

      Three-pronged approach includes anesthetic cream, researchers say. More...

    • 'Kangaroo Mother Care' May Improve Preemies' Lives Into Adulthood

      Skin-to-skin nurturing linked to increased survival, better social and behavioral outcomes, study finds. More...

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