Skip 
Navigation Link
secslider

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

  • Good Bacteria Aren't Present in Baby's Gut Before Birth

    Bacteria don't set up house in the human gut until after birth, a new study finds. More...

  • Why C-Section Babies May Be at Higher Risk for a Food Allergy

    Could there be a link between having a C-section and your baby's chances of developing a peanut allergy? More...

  • Low Risk of Mom Passing COVID to Newborn

    The risk of mother-to-newborn transmission of COVID-19 is low, but the illness in pregnant women can trigger preterm birth, researchers say. More...

  • Newborns Won't Get COVID Through Infected Mom's Breast Milk: Study

    A new study offers more reassurance that mothers infected with SARS-CoV-2 can safely breastfeed their babies. More...

  • C-Section Babies Have Microbiome Deficit, But Catch Up Over Time

    Infants born by cesarean section initially have less diverse gut bacteria than those delivered vaginally, but they catch up within a few years, new research reveals. More...

  • 30 More
    • Most Parents Skip Child Car Seats When Using Uber, Lyft

      Many U.S. parents don't use child safety seats when they take ride-share vehicles like Uber or Lyft with their young children, a new study finds. More...

    • Whatever the Language, Babies LOVE Baby Talk

      New research shows that babies pay more attention to baby talk than to regular speech. The finding held in many languages, and even when the baby was bilingual. More...

    • Spotting Asthma in Your Baby or Toddler

      A leading pediatrics group offers some tips for parents who suspect their infants or toddlers may have asthma or are having symptoms that could suggest another health condition. More...

    • Kids' ER Visits for Swallowed Magnets Soared After U.S. Lifted Sales Ban

      Calls to U.S. poison centers about incidents involving children and high-powered magnets surged more than 400% after a court overturned a ban on the magnets, a new study finds. More...

    • THC From Pot Lingers in Breast Milk for Weeks: Study

      Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, remains in breast milk for up to six weeks and may be harmful to infants, a new study warns. More...

    • Breastfeeding Moms Get Mixed Messages When Baby Has an Allergy

      Breastfeeding mothers whose babies have food allergies often get conflicting advice from doctors on whether they should change their eating habits, according to a new study. More...

    • Treating Mom's Postpartum Depression Could Help Baby's Brain, Too

      Talk therapy for new mothers with postpartum depression may also benefit their babies' brains, Canadian researchers say. More...

    • Child Car Seat Safety Tip: Skip Puffy Winter Coats

      Puffy coats have their place, but it's not inside a car seat. More...

    • Why a Newborn's First Breath Is So Important

      New research on what happens as a newborn is delivered and takes its first breath may shed light on a potential contributor to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). More...

    • Parents, Don't Worry if Baby's Sleep Is Erratic

      New parents can relax: Research suggests it's normal for infants' sleep patterns to vary widely. More...

    • COVID Can Harm the Infant Heart

      "Most children with COVID-19 are either asymptomatic or have mild symptoms, but our case shows the potential for reversible myocardial injury in infants with COVID-19," Sharma said in a journal news release. "Testing for COVID-19 in children presenting with signs and symptoms of heart failure is very important as we learn more about the impact of this virus." More...

    • More Kids Injured by Tiny Magnets After Sales Ban Was Lifted: Study

      Small, powerful magnets in toys like Buckyballs building sets and jewelry kits are causing an alarming number of serious pediatric injuries in the United States, new research warns. More...

    • Antibiotics Before Age 2 May Up Odds for Obesity, Allergies

      The drugs' effect on the "microbiome" -- trillions of helpful microbes living in the human body -- might play a role in a baby's future health, Mayo Clinic researchers said. More...

    • Breastfed Babies May Grow Into Better-Adjusted Teens: Study

      The results showed that kids who were breastfed for three months or more developed fewer behavioral difficulties than those who weren't breastfed. They were also less likely to have social and emotional problems, such as anxiety, struggles forming friendships, or difficulties with concentration. More...

    • Newborn Brain Bleeds Resolve by Age 2

      Here's some good news for new moms: Babies born with asymptomatic brain bleeds have normal brain development by the time they reach the age of 2, researchers report. More...

    • Newborn Brains Don't Process Emotions Like Adults

      Brain scans of newborns found that the area of the brain that experiences emotions isn't connected in a mature way to areas that process visual or auditory stimuli, researchers say. More...

    • Fewer Painful Procedures Could Help Preemies' Brain Development: Study

      Giving fewer needle sticks to premature newborns in the intensive care unit may improve growth of a key brain area, a new study suggests. More...

    • Nurses Can Make the Difference for New Moms' Breastfeeding

      One key to breastfeeding success? Having enough hospital nurses to ensure that new moms get top-notch care. More...

    • An Expert's Guide to Safe Sleeping for Your Baby

      To keep your baby safe while sleeping, experts recommend practicing the "ABCs" of sleep. Babies should sleep alone, on their back and in a crib. That's the best way to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). More...

    • Newborns of Moms With COVID-19 Face Little Infection Risk: Study

      In some reassuring news on the coronavirus front, a new study finds that pregnant women with COVID-19 rarely infect their newborn. More...

    • Most Newborns of COVID-19-Infected Moms Fare Well

      Babies born to mothers with COVID-19 only rarely suffer from effects of the virus, a new study suggests. More...

    • For Kids With Hearing Issues, Early Intervention Crucial to School Readiness

      When babies with hearing impairments get help very early in life, they are more likely to be "kindergarten-ready" when the time comes, a new study finds. More...

    • Sleep Builds the Brain in the Early Years, Then Maintains It

      For the very young, sleep builds and strengthens the brain, but it quickly switches to maintenance and repair before a child turns 3, new research shows. More...

    • Could Antibiotics Make Breast Milk Less Healthy for Babies?

      Mom's breast milk can be altered by antibiotics in ways that might harm an infant's health, according to a new study. More...

    • Study Questions Need to Wait Days to Give Baby New Foods

      Current guidelines on introducing solid foods to babies may hamper efforts to prevent food allergies, researchers say. More...

    • With Safety Steps, Moms Unlikely to Pass COVID-19 to Newborns: Study

      Mothers are unlikely to pass COVID-19 to their newborns if they follow recommended precautions, a small study suggests. More...

    • Lupus Drug Prevents Low Heartbeat in High-Risk Newborns: Study

      The condition -- known as congenital heart block (CHB) -- results in a dangerously low heart rate. More...

    • Exposure to Iodine in the NICU May Affect Infant Thyroid Function

      Exposure to iodine in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) may increase a baby's risk for loss of thyroid function, a new study suggests. More...

    • Zika May Have Damaged More Infants' Brains Than Expected

      It's a virus some might not even remember, but babies born to mothers infected with Zika who appeared normal at birth still experienced neurological or developmental problems, new research suggests. More...

    • COVID-19 Typically Mild for Babies: Study

      Most babies with COVID-19 have mild illness, with fever being the main symptom, according to a small study. More...

Share This

Resources