Newborn development at 0-1 month: what’s happening
Cuddling, sleeping, feeding. That’s what it’s all about in the first few months.
Your baby is also learning a lot as you spend time together every day. Your baby’s brain is growing and developing as they see, hear and touch the world around them.
Around this age faces are the most interesting thing to your baby, and your baby might be able to follow your face with their eyes. Your baby will also like looking at toys with contrasting colours like red, black and white, as well as toys with faces or patterns like swirls or checks.
Your one-month-old can hear you and knows your voice, but your baby might sometimes startle when they hear you or another sound.
Although eye contact is one way your baby tells you they want your attention, your baby communicates with you mostly through crying. For example, your baby will cry or make throaty noises if they need you.
Your baby might lift their head briefly when they’re lying on their tummy or turn it to the side when they’re lying on their back. This helps your baby see where you are and what’s around them.
Sometimes your baby will hold your finger, but most of the time they’ll keep their hands in a tight fist.
Helping newborn development at 0-1 month
Here are simple things you can do to help your newborn’s development at this age:
- Spend time with your baby: try reading and telling stories, talking and singing. Doing these things every day also helps your baby get familiar with sounds and words. This develops language and communication skills your baby will need when they’re older.
- Look into your baby’s eyes: this is important for bonding with your baby. It can also help to build your baby’s neck strength and head control when you get your baby to follow your eyes and turn their head. But when your baby looks away from you, they’re letting you know they need a rest.
- Smile at your baby: when your baby sees you smile, it releases natural chemicals in their body. This makes your baby feel good, safe and secure. It also builds attachment to you.
- Play with your newborn: this helps your baby’s brain to grow and helps them learn about the world. It also strengthens the bond between you.
- Give your baby tummy time: start with 1-2 minutes and build up to 10-15 minutes several times a day. Tummy time builds your baby’s head, neck and upper body strength. Your baby needs these muscles to lift their head, crawl and pull themselves up to stand when they’re older. Always watch your baby during tummy time, and put your baby on their back to sleep.
- Try baby massage: baby massage is a great way to bond with your baby. It can also be relaxing and soothing if your baby is cranky.
- Have skin-to-skin contact: this physical connection helps your baby get to know your smell and voice. This comforts and relaxes your baby and strengthens the bond between you.
Sometimes your baby won’t want to do these things – for example, they might be too tired or hungry. Your baby will use baby cues to let you know when they’ve had enough and what they need.
Newborn crying and how to respond
Sometimes you’ll know why your baby is crying. When you respond to crying – for example, by feeding your baby if they’re hungry – your baby feels comfortable and safe.
Sometimes you might not know why your baby is crying, but it’s still important to comfort them. You can’t spoil your baby by picking them up, cuddling them, or talking to them in a soothing voice.
Never shake a baby. It can cause bleeding inside the brain and likely permanent brain damage. If you feel like you can’t cope, it's OK to take some time out until you feel calmer. Gently put your baby in a safe place like a cot. Go to another room to breathe deeply, or call your state or territory parenting helpline.
Parenting a newborn
Every day you and your baby will learn a little more about each other. As your baby grows and develops, you’ll learn more about what your baby needs and how you can meet these needs.
As a parent, you’re always learning. It’s OK to feel confident about what you know. And it’s OK to admit you don’t know something and ask questions or get help.
It’s also important to look after yourself. Looking after yourself physically, mentally and emotionally is good for you, and it’s good for your baby. When you’re well, you can give your baby the loving attention they need to grow and thrive. You can also cope better if your baby is crying a lot.
Remember that part of looking after yourself is asking for help, especially if you’re feeling stressed, anxious or angry. There are many people who can support you and your baby, including your partner, friends, relatives, child and family health nurse and GP.
When to be concerned about newborn development
You know your baby best. So it’s a good idea to see your child and family health nurse or GP if you have any concerns or notice that your one-month-old:
- is crying a lot and this is worrying you
- isn’t feeding well
- seems very tired
- is sleeping more than is typical for newborn sleep
- isn’t moving their arms or legs
- isn’t responding to bright light or seeing things – for example, isn’t following your face with their eyes
- isn’t making sounds like gurgling
- isn’t hearing things – for example, isn’t startling to loud sounds or turning their head towards sounds.
It’s also a good idea to see your child and family health nurse or GP if you or your partner experiences the signs of postnatal depression in birthing mothers or postnatal depression in non-birthing parents. Signs of postnatal depression include feeling sad and crying for no obvious reason, feeling irritable, having difficulty coping and feeling very anxious.
Development usually happens in the same order in most children, but skills might develop at different ages or times. If you’re wondering whether your child’s development is on track or you feel that something isn’t quite right, it’s best to get help early. See your child and family health nurse or GP.