This is a common question that if not asked by parents is on their mind from the moment they first look at their beautiful newborn. The sign of relief that your newborn was born safely and is healthy doesn’t last for long as you will face new challenges at each stage of your child’s life. Skin rashes, lumps and bumps, green poop, coneheads, falls, coughs, and that pulsating soft spot can send parents into panic mode. Most of the things that cause alarm for parents are temporary or a normal part of development. So, yes, you most likely have a “normal” child who is experiencing the world around them normally. Over the next few weeks we will cover what you may expect and things you can do help your child move through that first year more gracefully. The day your sweet bundle turns one is a day to celebrate for parents because you ALL made it through all the joys, tears, and worries that accompany that first year. What a year! I will breakdown some key developmental milestones that occur during that first year and how you can help your little one experience and move through the world independently.
Babies grow rapidly during their first year of life, physically and emotionally. They also go through major achievement stages called developmental milestones such as lifting her head, sitting, rolling over, and walking. Babies tend to follow a similar progression, but no two babies will go through these at the exact same time. Children develop along a spectrum. If you have concerns it is important to contact your health-care professional and determine if an early intervention is necessary. Over the next few weeks I will break down what the range of “normal” development should follow.
During the first month of life, much of what your baby will do is reflexive or automatic. Primitive or newborn reflexes are vital. These reflexes are important because from the womb on, the childhood reflex movements help the brain grow. They assist baby through the birth canal and are essential for the development of balance, mobility, vision, hearing, speaking, and learning. As the baby matures these will be integrated into the nervous system. During our newborn visits I will check these reflexes and determine if they are within the normal range. For example, the rooting reflex is important for baby’s survival, helping them find food. If the infant is unable to turn the head to the bottle or breast due to tight muscles or reduction in rooting reflex it may lead to a flat spot developing in the infant and challenges in nursing from the breast. It is also important to determine if the infant may have a lip or tongue tie. Lip and tongue ties may create excess gas for baby, cracked nipples for mom, decrease in milk production, and is one of the reasons moms stop nursing their infant. Identifying the issues early can allow for a proper referral and will decrease stress in the following months.
By the end of the first month most babies will:
- Raise head while on stomach
- Hands will be held in tight fists
- Focuses 8-12 inches away. This is the approximate distance from breast to mom’s face. They also look at objects, faces, and patterns.
- Responds to noises
The time is flying by and between 1-3 months of age, babies will transform into active and responsive infants. Many of the newborn reflexes are diminishing at this point. The baby may follow a moving object, gain control of neck muscles, start using hands and eyes in coordination, and react to familiar faces. They are more aware and interested in the world around them. The ability for baby to support and hold his own head is very important. This is when the development of the cervical or neck curve occurs. The muscles are strengthened each time the head is help up and by three months of age babies should be able to lie on their stomachs and support their head and chest up to their forearms. If the infant is favoring one side of the neck this will hinder balanced development and muscular strength. Infants learn from their senses and should be encouraged to touch, see, hear, smell and put textured toys in the mouth to foster brain development
By the end of the third month, most babies have accomplished:
- Supporting the head and upper body while lying on stomach
- Stretching out the legs and kicking
- Grasping objects, opening and shutting hands, and swatting at hanging objects
- Turning their head to stimulus equally side-to-side
- Smiling and enjoying people engaged with them
The skills your infant is learning during this period is building a solid foundation that will enable them to sit, roll, crawl, and eventually walk independently. Do not worry if your baby is struggling with achieving these milestones because there is help. Early prevention is key. Parents will ask, “What causes milestone delays?”
Unintegrated reflexes can be caused by:
- Lack of proper movement in early childhood such as playpens, walkers, swings, car seats, propping devices, and those devices that hinder free play. TV and computer use also hamper opportunities for development.
- Stress of mom during pregnancy, birth trauma, breech birth, caesarian section, or excess use of sonograms.
- Illness, trauma, or injuries
- Environmental exposure to toxins or poor nutrition
In our office I am here to help you through these stages and have various health professional that I will refer to if additional assistance is required. Throughout the first year, the integration of newborn reflexes is important for your baby to achieve proper physical, emotional, and learning goals. At any age, we can integrate the reflexes and rebuild the foundation of our nervous system. A series of age appropriate activities specifically designed for each reflex will be introduced. Chiropractic adjustments, therapeutic exercise, dietary support, and muscle work can assist with improving delays that may be present. We add play, because play is fun, healing and transformative. Life and learning become much easier once the childhood reflexes are integrated. Watch for the next blog that will cover what milestones should be accomplished during months four through six.
- Melanie Dockter, DC CACCP