Women have been cradling baby dolls and planting devoted kisses on the heads of “sick dollies” since they were old enough to walk, yet it’s still hard for expecting mothers to realistically picture what their first year with a newborn will be like. If you or a loved one will be raising an infant in 2014, read on to learn what to expect in that first exciting year of life and how to help baby make developmental strides before her first birthday.
The four major concepts which newborns will slowly develop from birth to the celebration of their first birthday include spatial reasoning, object permanence, babbling, and emotional bonds.
Objects in Space
One of the first concepts that baby will grasp is spatial reasoning – simply stated, she will understand that there is a world full of STUFF with which she can play! It is hard to imagine not understanding the concept of space and distance, but newborns cannot comprehend depth and projection like we adults do. Our minds process the sight of objects so quickly that we hardly realize we judge how far away they are – we assume their locations are obvious. Newborns, however, need to be exposed to lots of stimuli to start recognizing that their favorite blankie at the other side of the nursery is something to which they can crawl. Encourage and cheer for these seemingly mundane discoveries made by your little explorer. Her world expands exponentially every single day, and the joy of parenthood is being the conductor of that journey.
In addition to realizing that her blankie is over there, your baby girl will shortly learn that her possessions have permanence. Object permanence means that things exist even when they’re not in plain sight. This is a BIG DEAL for your little one, and should rightly be celebrated with lots and lots of playing Peek-a-boo! Expect to spend quite a bit of time beneath a fleece baby blanket during your first year of parenthood. Cherish those baby giggles and snap lots of photos!
Communicating with Baby
The first year of a baby’s life is pretty noisy. You certainly don’t need to be told that there will be a lot of crying going on in year one, but remember that you can encourage your child to communicate in ways besides crying. Tune into her body language to get a clue about what she is feeling or what she desires. Further, appreciate your baby’s babbling. The jibber-jabber, incoherent ramblings of an infant should be encouraged, not only for their high level of cuteness, but also for their potential to help baby express herself. As a parent, instead of slipping into “baby talk” (and insanity) all the time, describe the world around your child to her in English lay terms. The repetition of basic words, such as “hungry” and “milk” during mealtime will surely help her development more than “tum-tum” and “milky-wilky.” Arm baby with simple means to express herself, and you can help cut down on her reliance on wailing for attention.
One last concept to expect in the first year of your beautiful newborn’s life: the bond between parent and child. From the moment she is born and placed in a mother’s arms, she clings to the breast and craves skin-to-skin contact with a warm and loving presence. This innate reaction is based on natural instinct to survive, however, the most exhilarating development during year one of a baby’s life is when she truly makes the connection between herself and her parents. Though she won’t have the capacity to say “I love you” or “thank you for taking care of me,” baby smiling with the understanding that it communicates happiness can occur as early as three months old. The gas-induced grins of tiny newborns are no less adorable than these, but the genuine smile of recognition from a baby greeted by her parent will fill that parent up with an ecstasy that can wipe away the memories of long, sleepless nights of feeding and changing diapers.
The first year of baby’s life is full of thrilling discoveries made by both child and caretakers. The most sage advice for new parents is to take everything one day at a time. No sooner will you have mastered being the parent of a newborn, when she will suddenly be turning one. Best of luck.