Skip 
Navigation Link

1527 Albia Road
Ottumwa, Iowa 52501
Phone: (641) 682-8772
Fax: (641) 682-1924

Infancy Introduction

Child Development & Parenting: Infants (0-2)

This topic center covers parenting and child development of infant children (ages 0-2). For a complete review of the theories of child development upon which this article is based, please visit our Child and Adolescent Development topic center. For coverage of child development and parenting topics applicable to preschool children (early childhood aged 3 to 7 please visit our Early Childhood Parenting and Child Development topic center. For information on parenting and child development of middle childhood children (ages 8 to 11), please visit our Middle Childhood Parenting and Development center and Child Development Theory: Middle Childhood center. For information on parenting adolescents (ages 12-24), please visit our Adolescence Child Development and Parenting and Child Development Theory: Adolescence topic center.

 

This center is the second in a series concern...More

Fast Facts: Learn! Fast!

What physical development takes place in infants?

  • Physical development occurs in several important ways, including children growing in size and weight, but also becoming better able to move themselves around and to manipulate objects, and having senses that become more refined over time.
  • Babies can feel and respond to pain and touch from birth, and this is an important first connection between infants and caregivers.
  • Babies can hear at birth, and doctors can test infants for hearing problems right after birth. As infants grow, their mental ability to process and use information they hear improves.
  • Unlike their abilities to smell or hear, babies are not able to see as well as adults do. However by age 2-3 months they have the ability to see a full range of colors and can focus on objects just like adults.
  • Infants need to learn how to move and to use their bodies to perform various tasks, a process better known as motor development.
  • One way babies learn to use their bodies is by learning to achieve large physical tasks, or gross motor skills, such as crawling and walking.
  • Fine motor skills develop alongside gross motor skills. Beyond just learning how to use and manipulate their bodies in large movements, babies are learning how to use their hands and how to coordinate smaller movements with their senses, such as sight.
  • Babies grow at an amazing rate in the first months and years of life as they rapidly reproduce cells and grow in length and weight.
  • In the first 2 years, babies grow to almost half their adult height and can quadruple their birth weight, and their bodily proportions also change.

For more information

What cognitive development takes place in infants?

  • Babies are not only growing physically during the first 2 years of life, but also cognitively (mentally).
  • Every day while they interact with and learn about their environment they are creating new connections and pathways between nerve cells both within their brains, and between their brains and bodies.
  • A major development during this period (usually around 8-12 months) is that of object permanence, the understanding that something still exists even if it can't be seen.
  • As infants' brains continue to develop, infants also develop the ability to communicate; to comprehend and produce spoken language.
  • Babies learn language by taking in information through their senses of hearing and sight as they learn to process the meanings behind those sights and sounds.
  • Babies' and young children's language development is strongly influenced by the language they hear spoken around them and to them.
  • Research has shown that young children are better able to learn multiple languages or languages other than their family's primary language because their growing brains enable them to learn a wide variety of meanings, words, and language structures.

For more information

What emotional/social development takes place in infants?

  • Babies can feel interest, distress, disgust, and happiness from birth, and can communicate these through facial expressions and body posture.
  • Infants begin showing a spontaneous "social smile" around age 2 to 3 months, and begin to laugh spontaneously around age 4 months.
  • Between ages 2 and 6 months, infants express other feelings such as anger, sadness, surprise, and fear.
  • Between ages 5 and 6 months, babies begin to exhibit stranger anxiety where they do not like it when other people hold or play with them, and will show this discomfort visibly.
  • Around age 12 months, babies become aware of not only other peoples' expressions but also their actual emotional states, especially distress.
  • Between the ages of 13 and 18 months, separation anxiety may subside as object permanence develops, and they understand their caretaker isn't gone even when they can't see them.
  • By age 2, toddlers can show a wide range of emotions and are becoming better at regulating and coping with their emotions.
  • Another important aspect of emotional development, temperament, has to do with babies' general emotional and social state.
  • Temperament refers to babies' innate personality; the general pattern of how babies will react to and interact with their environment which is present from birth.
  • Closely related to infants' emotional development is their social development; it's through relationships with caregivers and other people that children learn how to apply and use their emotions, expressions, and emotional understanding.

For more information

What sexuality and body awareness takes place in infants?

  • While many people believe that sexual development does not become an important issue until puberty and adolescence, children actually begin showing sexual behavior and interest in their sexual functioning from infancy.
  • Babies are continually exploring their own bodies in order to learn about them.
  • They want to understand what they look like and how parts work and this will include investigating their genitals or walking around naked.
  • Because such behavior is a normal and natural development of their sexual, gender, and personal identity, caregivers should avoid chastising young children or labeling these kinds of exploratory actions as "bad" or "dirty."
  • Instead, caregivers should set and enforce proper limits on such behavior, allowing toddlers and young children to explore themselves at home in private and discouraging them from doing these behaviors in public.
  • Distracting children, and guiding them towards more socially appropriate behavior are good ways to get children to refocus without shaming them in the process.

For more information

How can I successfully parent my infant?

  • Coming home from the hospital for the first time with a tiny person who depends entirely on you for all his needs can be a daunting prospect and it's normal to feel a mixture of excitement, joy, and love along with some anxiety, fear, and a little trepidation.
  • It's important to support the baby\'s head and neck in order to stabilize the entire body, and holding infants securely also communicates unconditional love that helps to form the parent-child bond.
  • Parents and caregivers should facilitate movement and growth by giving babies safe environments to play and to explore on their own.
  • Infants need food and water to survive, to grow, and to thrive.
  • Babies take in nutrients and fluids, and their bodies break them down, keep what they need, and get rid of the waste products through urination and fecal elimination. Preparation is the key to smooth diaper changes for everyone involved.
  • Caregivers can help their baby learn how to sleep in more adult-like patterns and how to soothe themselves to sleep. While some babies easily adapt to more mature sleep cycles, other babies may take much more effort and patience to do so.
  • Babies need to be bathed regularly and there are different ways to wash babies, according to their age, motor abilities, and preferences.
  • Babies cry because they're hungry, tired, sick, hot, cold, in pain, bored, over stimulated, want affection, or are uncomfortable in some way and parents can often learn to differentiate their baby's cries.
  • At a normal well-baby visit, parents should expect doctors to measure and weigh the baby and to discuss the baby's feeding and elimination, sleep habits, growth, development, and general well-being.
  • Another important factor in maintaining infant health is building up their immune system, or their ability to fight off serious infections, through immunizations.
  • Common baby medical concerns include teething, colic, coughs and colds, fever, and diarrhea and vomiting
  • Babies need to be loved and nurtured from birth to create a trusting bond between them and the adults who care for them, and to help create trust and interest in the world at large, which enables them to grow and to learn.
  • Another way to help babies begin to learn social skills, stay safe, and begin to learn values and morals is to provide appropriate discipline from birth.
  • Caregivers need to provide their babies with a safe environment in which to live and to grow.

For more information

How can I keep my infant safe?

  • Caregivers can help babies to safely explore their world by attending to and fixing aspects of babies' environments that may be dangerous for them.
  • Caregivers need to baby-proof not only a baby's primary home, but also the car that the baby will be transported in, and the community of other homes and environments that the baby may visit and explore.
  • Caregivers can ensure a good night's sleep for their babies and themselves by following these tips to create a safe sleeping space for infants and toddlers.
  • Caregivers can follow some simple guidelines to keep diaper changing safe.
  • With a few precautionary measures, the family kitchen can be the center of a rich and busy family life.
  • The bathroom can become a safe and pleasant place for bath time and other baby fun times if important precautions are observed.
  • There are several things that caregivers can do to reduce the possibility that their children will be harmed in a fire-related situation.
  • If a family is looking to bring a pet into the home (and no pet is presently in the home), they should consider waiting until their child is at least five years old.
  • Concerned parents can also think about ways to make car outings occur as safely as possible.
  • Backyard play areas and other segments of the home property need to be monitored and outfitted for safety.
  • A solid emergency plan should be developed for handling worst-case scenarios, should they ever come to pass.

For more information

How can I stimulate my infant and enrich their life?

  • It is important to think about infant stimulation or enrichment (activities that arouse or stimulate your baby's sense of sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell).
  • This stimulation can help foster physical, social, emotional, brain, and nervous system development.
  • You don't have to worry excessively about making sure your baby masters a rigid set of exercises or activities in the first months of life, but by being aware of the different areas of child development, you can help enrich your child's experiences and growth.
  • The foremost way you provide encouragement to children is through showing them love and nurturing.
  • Another way you can show your baby love and affection is through providing them with toys, songs and games as learning tools.
  • From birth, you can help your baby to develop physically by giving him or her activities that help build upper body and neck strength.
  • To help very young infants develop language and other cognitive skills, you can talk to your baby.
  • Between ages six to twelve months, you can continue to encourage physical growth and motor skill development through interactive games and activities.
  • For more social and emotional development, you can play light chasing and surprising games by crawling around the living room or other space.
  • Another way to help build sociability is to expose babies to new social situations.
  • By twelve months, toddlers are generally beginning to master walking on their own and caregivers can begin to build on that skill.
  • By 18-24 months, children often enjoy simple pretend play.

For more information


News Articles

  • Abnormal Gut Microbiome May Stunt Preemies' Growth

    The gut microbiome of premature infants in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) may hinder their future growth, new research shows. More...

  • Health Tip: Do's and Don'ts of Homemade Baby Formula

    Although homemade formulas may seem healthy or inexpensive, they may not meet your baby's nutritional needs. More...

  • Too Much Screen Time May Be Stunting Toddlers' Brains

    Toddlers who spend loads of time looking at tablets, smartphones or TVs may be changing their brains, and not for the better. More...

  • High-Tech Pacifier Might Monitor Baby's Blood Sugar

    Parents of babies with type 1 diabetes have to prick their child's skin multiple times a day to check their blood sugar. But researchers may have developed a much easier way to check -- a sugar-sensing pacifier. More...

  • Many Women Are Sharing Breast Milk, and That Has Health Experts Worried

    "Informal" sharing of breast milk may be more common than thought, with too many parents mistakenly thinking it's risk-free, new research suggests. More...

  • 45 More
    • Good News for Parents: Many Preemie Babies Grow Up Fine

      Having a premature baby can be frightening for parents, but new research delivers a calming finding: Many premature babies end up as healthy adults without major illnesses. More...

    • Many Parents Not Following Safe-Sleep Advice for Babies

      Many U.S. parents are not heeding recommendations on how to put their babies to sleep safely, a new government study finds. More...

    • Health Tip: Baby's First Tooth

      For most babies, the two front teeth appear first, says the American Academy of Pediatrics. More...

    • Breast Milk Combats Growth of Bad Bacteria

      Researchers say they have identified a compound in breast milk that combats the growth of infection-causing bacteria in infants. More...

    • Health Tip: Addressing Your Child's Biting Habit

      From wanting attention to communicating their feelings, children bite for a variety of reasons, says the National Association for the Education of Young Children. More...

    • Paid Family Leave Helps Keep Babies' Vaccines on Track: Study

      Children whose parents take paid family leave when they're born are more likely to get vaccinated at the recommended ages, a new study finds. More...

    • Making the Most of Your Baby's First 3 Years

      Experts agree that the first three years of a baby's life are a unique time of fast development. More...

    • New Healthy Drinks Guidelines for Kids: Skip the Soy, Avoid Sugars

      Four of America's biggest health organizations are banding together to urge parents to better monitor the drinks their young kids sip each day. More...

    • Treatment for Very-Preterm Infants May Lead to Antibiotic Resistance

      A new study finds long-term antibiotic treatment puts preterm infants at risk of developing multidrug-resistant gut bacteria, which could affect their health later in life. More...

    • Secrets to Soothing a Cranky Baby Safely

      Trying to calm a cranky baby can be stressful for parents, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has an important caution about what not to do. More...

    • Kids in Hot Cars: How to Prevent Heatstroke Deaths

      Hot car deaths set a U.S. record last year, with 53 children dead because they were left behind or got trapped inside an overheated vehicle, according to the National Safety Council. So far this year the tally is 35. More...

    • Every Sudden Infant Death Deserves a Closer Look: Report

      "It is important that we correctly identify deaths that occurred from abuse or neglect, because when they are missed, it leaves other children at risk," report co-author Dr. Erich Batra said in an AAP news release. More...

    • How to Protect Your Baby Against Eczema

      Using a rich moisturizer, even an inexpensive one like petroleum jelly, is one part of keeping eczema under control. Now researchers have found that this skin care step can keep many newborns at risk for the condition from developing it. More...

    • Bathing a Baby Less Scary Than It Sounds

      Every parent remembers the first time they bathed their newborn, terrified they might accidentally drop or harm their tiny bundle of joy. More...

    • Vulnerable Preemie Babies Often Behind On Vaccines

      Preemies often lag behind full-term babies in getting routine vaccinations -- and the difference remains at age 3, a new study finds. More...

    • Twins' Deaths in Hot Car Highlight a Preventable Tragedy

      It's happened again: A seemingly loving parent forgets a small child -- in this case two children -- in the back seat of a car on a hot day, with tragic results. More...

    • Smog Could Land Newborns in Intensive Care

      The danger that air pollution poses to the hearts and lungs of adults is well-documented, but new research suggests that newborns are also at risk. More...

    • How to Protect Your Baby From Unsafe Products

      In an average year, close to 70,000 children under age 5 go to the emergency department because of injuries from common nursery items, according to the journal Pediatrics. More...

    • Extreme Eating Habits Could Be an Early Clue to Autism

      Lots of kids are picky eaters. But when eating habits in young children are extreme, it could be a sign of autism, researchers say. More...

    • Tongue, Lip Snip Surgeries May Be Overused in U.S. Newborns

      Too many American newborns may be undergoing unnecessary tongue and lip surgeries to improve their ability to breastfeed, a new study finds. More...

    • In a U.S. First, Baby Is Delivered From Womb Transplanted From Deceased Donor

      Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic announced that they've achieved a first in North America: delivering a baby from a uterus that had been transplanted from a deceased donor. More...

    • U.S. Cases of Infant Gut Illness Plummet After Vaccine Introduced

      In the midst of the "anti-vaxxer" movement comes more scientific proof that vaccines help save children's lives. More...

    • Health Tip: Safe Sleep For Babies

      Putting baby in unsafe sleep conditions can be deadly, but is done all too often, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More...

    • Another Reason Breast Is Best for Fragile Preemie Babies

      Breast milk provides many benefits for babies. And now researchers say mother's milk contains an antibody that protects premature infants from an often-deadly intestinal bacterial disease called necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). More...

    • Swallowing Toiletries, Makeup Sends Thousands of Kids to ER Each Year

      Over a 15-year period, nearly 65,000 youngsters under 5 years of age were treated in U.S. emergency departments for injuries related to personal care products, a new study reports. More...

    • Common Infant Vaccine May Also Shield Kids From Type 1 Diabetes

      Vaccinating against the common infant infection rotavirus not only cuts a child's odds of getting sick, it might also prevent them from developing type 1 diabetes later in life, new research suggests. More...

    • Few Days of Formula Feeding After Delivery Won't Harm Breastfed Babies

      If your newborn is breastfeeding and losing weight, will feeding her formula do any harm? More...

    • Nursing Moms Who Eat Right Have Slimmer, Healthier Babies

      Breastfeeding moms with healthy eating habits have slimmer infants, who could then be protected from obesity later, researchers say. More...

    • Infant Pain Heightened After Opioid Exposure in Womb

      Newborns who were exposed to opioids in the womb have stronger-than-normal reactions to pain and may require special care sooner than previously thought, researchers report. More...

    • Putting Your Child to Sleep in a Car Seat Can Be Deadly

      A car seat is the safest place for an infant while traveling in a car. But putting your baby to sleep in a portable car seat at home can be deadly, a new study warns. More...

    • Swallowed Batteries Should Be Removed to Avoid Stomach Damage: Study

      Doctors might want to be more aggressive about treating children who swallow a button battery and appear to be out of danger, a preliminary study suggests. More...

    • Health Tip: Physical Milestones at Age One

      Clues about your child's physical development can be found in the way the child moves and plays, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More...

    • What to Do When Your Child Throws a Fit

      You know the scenario -- your child has a meltdown, leaving you frustrated, embarrassed and arguing even though your brain says it's a battle you're not likely to win. More...

    • Quieter NICUs a Good Rx for Premature Babies

      Shhhhh. Preterm infants can benefit from quiet times in hospital neonatal intensive care units (NICUs), a new study says. More...

    • How to Soothe Baby's Teething Pain Safely

      Few things are as distressing as baby's cries when his or her first teeth are coming in, but it's important to know what not to use to soothe that pain. More...

    • How to Protect Your Child From Choking

      Eating solid foods is a milestone in your child's life. With the right precautions to reduce the risk of choking, you can make this a safe transition. More...

    • Nearly 700,000 Infant Rocking Sleepers Recalled Due to Infant Deaths

      he Kids II company is recalling nearly 700,000 of its Rocking Sleepers for infants, after reports of babies dying have been linked to the products' use. More...

    • Breast Milk Has Biggest Benefit for Preemies' Brains: Study

      Another reason breast is best: Breast milk boosts levels of chemicals crucial for brain growth and development in premature babies with a very low birth weight, a new study reveals. More...

    • Babies Still Dying Due to Unsafe Sleep Practices

      The death of a baby is always tragic, but safe sleep practices could have prevented some recent suffocation deaths, new research claims. More...

    • Health Tip: Choosing a Car Seat

      Proper use of car seats can keep children safe in the event of a crash, says American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). More...

    • Hot-Car Deaths Hit Record High in 2018

      Experts say 51 children died in hot cars in the United States last year -- the highest toll on record. More...

    • Kids' ER Visits for Swallowing Toys, Foreign Objects Have Doubled Since 1990s

      About 100 kids a day are rushed to U.S. emergency rooms after accidentally swallowing a toy piece, battery, magnet or other foreign object, according to new research. More...

    • Health Tip: Treating an Infant's Fever

      A baby's first fever can be scary for parents. However, most fevers are relatively harmless, says MedlinePlus. More...

    • Pediatricians' Group Calls for Recall of 'Rock 'n Play' Sleeper After Infant Deaths

      Fisher-Price's Rock 'n Play Sleeper has been linked to dozens of infant deaths and should be recalled immediately, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) said Tuesday. More...

    • Preventing Kids' Food Allergies Starts in Infancy

      It's a scary statistic: Every three minutes, an allergic reaction to a food sends someone to the emergency department, according to the nonprofit group Food Allergy Research & Education. More...

Share This

Resources