A baby grows at an unprecedented rate within the first year of his life. He increases in height and weight while acquiring a number of developmental skills along the way. This helps him adapt to the new environment around him in a gradual yet productive way.
In fact, a baby’s physical growth and development are two different aspects which have to be measured or evaluated separately.
Assessing your baby’s physical growth
Physical growth of a baby is evaluated based on several criteria including a number of physical measurements.
Length: This is measured in babies less than two years of age. A baby usually measures 50cm at birth and grows up to 75cm in length at the end of the first year and 90cm at the end of the second year.
Height: A child usually acquires a height of 100cm at the end of 4 years and there onwards gains about 5cm every year.
Head circumference: It usually measures about 35cm at birth, 40cm at three months, and 45cm at 12 months. Increased head circumference is an indicator of the hydrocephalus condition.
Weight: A newborn usually weighs about 3kg at birth. During the first week, it loses 10% of its body weight due to the loss of extracellular fluid in the body. However, your baby will regain this amount within the next 10 days. Normally, a baby gains approximately 25-30g per day for the first three months of life and about 400g every month for the rest of the year.
Velocity of Growth
This is a comparison of a baby’s weight and height with the standard measurements expected for the age group by making use of growth charts. Growth charts show progressive changes in height and weight of a baby as the age advances. If your baby’s height/length and weight are within the normal percentiles of the growth chart, you don’t have to worry.
Assessing your baby’s development
Development is the process of acquisition of skills and cognitive abilities. The development of a baby is assessed based on certain developmental milestones.
What are developmental milestones?
Normally, babies gain certain skills and abilities after they reach a specific age. The acquisition of important developmental skills is
known as developmental milestones.
There are four important aspects of a child’s developmental process. They are;
Gross motor development (sitting, standing etc.)
Vision and fine motor development
Hearing, speech, and language development
Social, emotional, and behavioral development
During this period your baby displays a number of reflexes.
Rooting reflex: Your baby turns head towards the stimulus when touched near the corner of the mouth or the cheek. This helps him to locate the nipple when breast feeding.
Grasp reflex: Your baby flexes its fingers when an object is placed on the palm.
Asymmetrical tonic neck reflex: Baby outstretches its arm towards the side to which its head is turned when lying on its back.
Stepping reflex: Your baby displays stepping movements when held vertically
In addition, by the end of the first month your baby will gain the ability to raise its head while lying on the stomach. Your baby will be able to make a fist by clenching fingers by now. He can now look at objects and faces which are about 12 inches away. He will blink and act startled to noises and movements.
After one month the primitive reflexes displayed by your baby gradually begin to fade away. Here are the developmental milestones your baby will acquire in different fields of development after one month of age.
Gross motor development
3 months: Gains better neck control
5 months: Sits with support
6-8months: Sits without support; at 6 months sits with round back and at 8 months sits with straight back
8-9 months: Begins to crawl
10 months: Stands with support
12 months: Walks unsteadily with a broad gait and hands apart
15 months: Walks easily
Vision and fine motor development
6 weeks: Follows moving objects and faces by turning the head
4 months: Reaches out for toys
4-6 months: Grasps objects and can hold them using both hands
7 months: Can transfer toys from one hand to another
10 months: Can hold small objects using the thumb and the index finger. (Displays mature pincer grasp)
16-18 months: Creates marks using a crayon
Hearing, Speech, and communication development
3 months: Produces sounds like coos and laughs
6 months: Speaks monosyllables like “ma”, “ba”
7 months: Turns to sounds out of sight
7-10 months: Speaks bi-syllables like “mama”, “dada”
12 months: Speaks two to three additional words
18 months: Speaks 6-10 meaningful words
20-24 months: Uses two or more words to make simple phrases
2-3 years: Talks continuously in 3-4 word sentences
Social and behavioral development
6 weeks: Smiles responsively
6-8 months: Puts food in mouth, smiles at a mirror image
10-12 months: Waves bye-bye and plays a peek-a-boo
12 months: Plays a simple ball game, drinks from a cup using both hands
18 months: Know how to use a spoon when eating