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0-1 month: newborn development

0-1 months

Newborns come in all shapes and sizes, but newborn development at 0-1 month typically has a few things in common. Here’s what your baby might be doing, how you can help and when to see a child health professional.

Newborn development at 0-1 month: what’s happening

Cuddling, sleeping, feeding. That’s what it’s all about in the first few months.

Your baby is also learning a lot as you spend time together every day. Her brain is growing and developing as she sees, hears and touches the world around her.

Your baby might be able to follow your face with his eyes. Around this age your face is the most interesting thing to your baby. He’ll also like looking at toys with contrasting colours like red, black and white, or blue, yellow and orange. Your baby will enjoy toys with faces or patterns like swirls or checks.

Your one-month-old can hear you and knows your voice, but she might sometimes startle when she hears you or another sound.

Although eye contact is one way your baby tells you he wants your attention, your baby communicates with you mostly through crying. For example, he’ll cry if he needs you and he might also make throaty noises.

Your baby might lift her head briefly when she’s lying on her tummy or turn it to the side when she’s lying on her back. This helps her see more of what’s around her and where you are.

Sometimes your baby will hold your finger, but most of the time he’ll keep his hands in a tight fist.

Helping newborn development at 0-1 month

Here are a few simple things you can do to help your newborn’s development at this age:

  • Look into your baby’s eyes: if your baby is looking at you, look back. This is important for bonding with your baby. When your baby looks away, she’s letting you know she’s had enough and needs a rest.
  • Smile at your baby: when your baby sees you smile, it releases natural chemicals in his body. This makes him feel good, safe and secure. It also helps build attachment to you.
  • Spend time togetherreading to your baby, sharing stories, talking and singing are all ways to enjoy time with your newborn. Doing these things every day also helps your baby get familiar with sounds and words. In turn, this develops language and communication skills she’ll need when she’s older.
  • Play with your newborn: this helps your baby’s brain to grow and helps him learn about the world. It also strengthens the bond between the two of you.
  • Tummy time: spending 1-5 minutes playing on her tummy each day builds your baby’s head, neck and upper body strength. Your baby needs these muscles to lift her head, crawl and pull herself up to stand when she’s older. Always watch your baby during tummy time and put her on her back to sleep.
  • Baby massage: baby massage is a great way to connect with your baby. It can also be relaxing and soothing if your newborn is cranky. Try it in a warm room after baby has had a bath.

Sometimes your baby won’t want to do these things – for example, he might be too tired or hungry. He’ll use special baby cues to let you know when he’s had enough and what he needs.

Responding to crying
Sometimes you’ll know why your baby is crying. When you respond to crying – for example, by changing your baby’s nappy when it’s wet or feeding her if she’s hungry – she feels more comfortable and safe.

Sometimes you might not know why your baby is crying, but it’s still important to comfort him. You can’t spoil your baby by picking him up, cuddling him, or talking to him in a soothing voice.

But lots of crying might make you feel frustrated or upset. If you feel overwhelmed, put your baby in a safe place like a cot, or ask someone else to hold her for a while. It’s OK to take some time out until you feel calmer. Try going to another room to breathe deeply or calling a family member or friend to talk things through.

Never shake a baby. It can cause bleeding inside the brain and likely permanent brain damage.

It’s OK to ask for help. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the demands of caring for your baby, call your local Parentline. Our coping toolkit also has practical ideas to help you relax and feel calm.

Parenting a newborn

Every day you and your baby will learn a little more about each other. As your baby grows and develops, you’ll learn more about what he needs and how you can meet these needs. 

As a parent, you’re always learning. Every parent makes mistakes and learns through experience. It’s OK to feel confident about what you know. And it’s also OK to admit you don’t know something and ask questions or get help.

Your own physical and mental health is an important part of being a parent. But with all the focus on looking after a child or baby, lots of parents forget or run out of time to look after themselves. Looking after yourself will help you with the understanding, patience, imagination and energy you need to be a parent. 

When to be concerned about newborn development

See your child and family health nurse or GP if you have any concerns or notice that your one-month-old:

  • is crying a lot and this is worrying you
  • isn’t feeding well
  • is very tired or sleeps a lot more than expected for this age – that is, more than around 16 hours a day
  • isn’t moving arms or legs
  • isn’t responding to bright light or seeing things – for example, isn’t following your face with her eyes
  • isn’t making sounds like gurgling
  • isn’t hearing things – for example, isn’t startling to loud sounds or turning her head towards sounds
  • isn’t sleeping well.

You should also see your child and family health nurse or GP if you or your partner experiences the signs of postnatal depression in women or postnatal depression in men. Symptoms of postnatal depression include feeling sad and crying for no obvious reason, feeling irritable, having difficulty coping and feeling very anxious.

Video

Baby development issues

1:55

This short video is about baby development issues, particularly issues with vision, hearing and movement.

All babies develop in the same order but at different rates. There are signs that can tell you that a baby might be experiencing a delay in development. If you’re worried about your baby’s development, it’s a very good idea to have your child checked out by your GP or child and family health nurse.

Video

Developmental delay in babies

2:23

This short video has information about recognising and catching development delay in newborns and babies. If you’re worried about your baby’s development or you suspect a delay in development, you should talk with your GP or child and family health nurse. There’s no need to feel embarrassed if you're worried about your baby.

Children grow and develop at different speeds. If you’re worried about whether your child’s development is ‘normal’, it might help to know that ‘normal’ varies a lot. But if you still feel that something isn’t quite right, see your child and family health nurse or GP.

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Last updated or reviewed
16-11-2017

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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