Development stages infants

Welcoming a new baby into your family is exciting but it can also be exhausting! Infants, from birth to age one, require a lot of attention and it can be difficult to know what to do every step of the way. There’s a range of information online and in books, but your GP and health visitor are also excellent sources of advice. You might also find some of these tips helpful as you adjust to life with your new baby. 

Feeding your baby

Some mothers choose to breastfeed while others choose to use formula milk, and there have been great debates over the years as to the benefits of both methods. In the end, it’s a personal choice and depends on a number of factors including a mother’s ability to provide enough milk, through to their lifestyle and cultural beliefs. How and when to feed your baby can be confusing but your health visitor can offer advice prior to the birth.

You might also like to visit the National Childbirth Trust for more information on feeding options for your infant. They offer a helpline, online information and peer support groups for both new and experienced parents wanting guidance on all aspects of parenting. Additionally, information on weaning, which usually begins at about the age of six months, can be found by visiting NHS Choices which offers a guide to choosing your baby’s first solid foods.

Your baby’s sleep – and yours!

Every baby is different. Some sleep through the night from birth while others wake regularly for a number of weeks or months. It’s for this reason that it’s not usually helpful to compare your baby’s sleep with that of your friends’ children. Babies need a lot of sleep – they’re growing rapidly and developing constantly, and unlike their parents, babies can’t tell if it’s night or day because their body clocks are still adjusting. In general, frequent night waking peaks at four to six weeks of age, and many babies will become more settled in the night from about 12 weeks old. The National Childbirth Trust offers lots of information on infant sleep including hints and tips for helping your baby to get into a routine. And don’t forget about yourself – being tired on a regular basis has a negative impact on mood and physical health, so speak to your GP or health visitor about ways you can get a better sleep in the first few months of your baby’s life. It’s important that you take care of yourself too.

Keeping baby busy

All babies need physical and mental stimulation to help them to develop and adjust to the strange new sounds and activity around them. Studies show that babies who are held and played with by their parents on a regular basis are more likely to experience a sense of security in later life. Touching, holding, rocking and tickling are all examples of ways that you can offer your child physical and emotional connection. Exposing your baby to different sounds, sights and smells is also important, although some babies might feel overwhelmed by too much stimulation at once. Your health visitor can offer you ideas on how to stimulate your baby in a proactive and safe way. You can also visit Baby Centre for some great ideas on how to play with your infant from birth to 12 months old.

Coping with postnatal depression

Around 8% to 10% of mums experience ‘the baby blues’ after the birth of their baby and feeling low usually passes after a few days or weeks. Not as common is postnatal depression, a more serious problem which can appear at any time between two weeks and two years after a birth. It’s extremely important that any mother feeling overwhelmed, unable to emotionally connect with their baby, anxious or depressed speaks to their health visitor, their GP or their midwife as soon as possible. There are excellent treatments available these days including short-term medications, counselling and support groups. Postnatal depression is nothing to be ashamed of and help is always close to hand. Visit Pandas Foundation for support and resources relating to both perinatal and postnatal depression.