Physical development of babies

A baby starts by using the head

It's a gradual process by which a baby learns to control his body. It starts with the head and gradually works down to the hands, trunk and legs. Just as soon as he's born, he knows how to suck. And if something touches his cheek - the nipple of your finger, for example - he tries to reach it with his mouth.

Using his hands

As soon as they are born, a very few babies can put their thumbs in their mouths any time they want to. But most can't get even their hands to their mouths with any regularity until they are 2 or 3 months old. And because their fists are still clenched tight, it usually takes them longer to get hold of a thumb separately. But at about 2 or 3 months, many babies will spend days just looking at their hands, bringing them up until they bang themselves in the nose - only to stretch their arms out and start all over again.
But the main business of hands is to grab and handle things. A baby seems to know ahead of time what he's going to be learning next. Weeks before he actually grab an object, he looks as if he wants to and is trying.

Around the middle of the first year, he learns how to reach something that's brought within arm's reach. At about this time, he'll learn how to transfer an object from one hand to another. Gradually he handles things more expertly. 

In the last quarter of the first year, he loves to pick up tiny objects, like a speck of dust, carefully and deliberately.

Right and left - handedness

The subject of handedness in children is a somewhat confusing one. Some babies stay ambidextrous for the first year or so, and then gradually become right or left - handed.

Scientists who are interested in handedness believe that it is an inborn trait that will sooner or later become evident in each individual, with approximately 10 percent of all people being left-handed.

Many specialists believe that forcing a left-handed child to become right-handed may cause stuttering or reading difficulties or emotional problems, so it's the best not to try to influence any baby or small child.

If your baby seems ambidextrous, as he is likely to be when the first begins to hold things in the middle of the first year, or right-handed, then assume he is right-handed, hang his first crib toy nearer his right hand, and favor his right hand as you hand him toys and finger foodsand, later, a spoon. But if from the beginning he has a definite preference for the left hand, you shouldn't argue with him but leave him to his preference.

Rolling over and sitting up

The age when babies rollover, sit up, creep, stand up, or walk is more variable than the age when they get control of their head or arms. A lot depends on temperament and weight. A wiry, energetic baby is in a great rush to get moving. A plump, placid one is willing to wait until later.

By the time he can actually rollover, anywhere from 2 to 6 months, it is not safe to leave him even in the middle of an adult's bed. It is amazing how fast such a baby can reach the edge.

Most babies learn to sit steadily between 7 and 9 months. Some normal,intelligent ones wait till as late as a year. 

Doctors feel that in general it's better not to prop babies straight until they can sit steadily by themselves for many minutes. This doesn't mean that you can't pull them up to a sitting position for fun, or sit them in your lap, or prop them on a slanted pillow in the carriage, just as long as the neck and back are straight.

Text source: Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care -Beanjamin Spock and Michael Rothenberg

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