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Your Child's Development: Newborn

From the moment babies are born, they respond to the world around them. Their reactions — being calmed by a parent's embrace or startled by a loud sound — are examples of normal infant development.

Doctors use milestones to tell if a baby is developing as expected. There's a wide range of what's considered normal, so some babies may gain skills earlier or later than others. Babies who were born prematurely may reach milestones later. Always talk with your doctor about your baby's progress.

Here's what your newborn might do:

Communication and Language Skills

  • turns his or her head head toward a parent's voice or other sounds
  • cries to communicate a need (to be held or fed, to have a diaper changed, or needing to sleep)
  • stops crying when a need is met (when picked up, fed, changed, or put down for a nap)

Movement and Physical Development

  • moves in response to sights and sounds
  • rooting reflex: turns toward breast or bottle and sucks when a nipple is placed in the mouth
  • Moro reflex (startle response): when startled, stretches arms and legs out, then curls them back in
  • fencer's pose (tonic neck reflex): when head is turned to one side, straightens the arm on that side while bending the opposite arm
  • grasp reflex: holds a finger placed in the palm; toes curl when touched on the sole of the foot

Social and Emotional Development

  • soothed by a parent's voice and touch
  • has periods of alertness

Cognitive Skills (Thinking and Learning)

  • looks at faces when quiet and alert
  • follows faces

When Should I Call the Doctor?

Every child develops at their own pace. But if something concerns you, tell your doctor. Also, tell the doctor if your baby:

  • doesn't suck well at the breast or on a bottle nipple
  • has an arm or leg that seems weaker than the other
  • is very fussy or hard to soothe
Date reviewed: February 2020