By Raising Children Network
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Newborns come in all shapes and sizes. Just visit a parent group to see how different they can be!
Newborn baby grasping mother's finger

First days

Your baby’s appearance will change over the first hours and days of life. It might take a minute or two after your baby is born for his skin to become pinkish, as his lungs start to breath in oxygen. Sometimes a baby’s head might be slightly cone-shaped from the birth process or there might be some marks or bruising. This will soon start to look normal.

On top of physical changes, bonding between you and your baby is one of the main areas of development in these early days. 

First months

Although boys usually weigh more than girls and are slightly longer, there is no ‘right’ size for a newborn. If your baby is active and feeding well, there’s no need to worry if she doesn’t fit neatly into the weight-length chart you see on the baby health centre wall.

In the first nine months, your baby will roughly triple his weight. If he’s not gaining weight at a healthy pace, it could be a feeding problem. Your maternal and child health nurse will be able to help you sort that out.

You might not even need to use a growth chart – as your baby grows, you might notice her outgrowing her clothes, bassinette, baby bath or other items that seemed enormous when she was a newborn.

What your newborn might be doing

All babies pick up new skills in their first year. These are called milestones. Here’s a guide to some of the major milestones:

  • At birth: babies can’t support their head unaided. They close their hands involuntarily in the grasp reflex and startle at sudden loud noises.
  • At four weeks: babies can focus on a face and might respond to a bell in some way (startling, crying, going quiet). They can follow an object moved in an arc about 15 cm above their faces until it’s straight ahead.
  • At six weeks: babies might start to smile at familiar faces. They start to coo.
  • At 12 weeks: babies can lie on their tummies with their heads held up looking around. They can also wave a rattle, and they start to play with their own fingers and toes.
Your baby might be a late starter with milestones. Don’t worry – babies nearly always catch up.

Development problem signs

It’s a good idea to have your baby checked by your doctor if your baby:

  • consistently doesn’t respond to sounds
  • doesn’t seem to see things, has white or cloudy eyes, or there’s anything about his eyes that bothers you
  • doesn’t look at you
  • isn’t interested in what’s going on around him
  • can’t hold his head up by 3-4 months
  • continually cries for more than three hours every day, especially after 3-4 months
  • has an unusual cry (for example, a high-pitched squeal)
  • doesn’t move or use both arms and/or both legs
  • isn’t grasping your fingers or objects.
A note on crying
Babies usually cry for about two hours a day, and the amount of crying usually peaks at 6-8 weeks. For more on constant crying, see Newborn behaviour.

Babies grow and develop at tremendously different rates – and often with blissful disregard for what parenting books say they’ll be doing! Enjoy the variations – they’re what make baby development so exciting and memorable.
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  • Newsletter snippet: Newborn development: in a nutshell

    By Raising Children Network

    There’s no ‘right size’ for a newborn, although boys are generally heavier and longer than girls. In the first hours and days of life, newborns go through some physical changes – for example, in skin colour and head shape. A major area of development in the early days is bonding with you.

    Milestones for newborns

    • Birth: newborns can close their hands in the grasp reflex and startle at sudden loud noises.
    • 4 weeks: they can focus on a face, follow an object moved above them and respond to a bell.
    • 6 weeks: they might smile at familiar faces or make cooing noises.
    • 12 weeks: they can lie on their tummy with their head held up, wave a rattle and play with their fingers and toes.

    Problem signs

    Newborns should be checked by a doctor if they:

    • don’t respond to sounds
    • don’t seem to see things
    • can’t hold their heads up by 3-4 months
    • cry continually for more than three hours a day after 3-4 months
    • don’t move or use both arms or legs
    • can’t grasp a finger or object.

    This article is an extract only. For more information, visit

    Sourced from the Raising Children Network's comprehensive and quality-assured Australian parenting website,

  • Last Updated 21-02-2012
  • Last Reviewed 21-02-2012