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Your Child's Development: Newborn

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD

From the moment babies are born, they begin responding to the world around them. Their reactions — being calmed by a mother's embrace or startled by a loud sound — are examples of normal infant development.

Doctors use these milestones to tell whether a baby is developing as expected. There's a wide range of what's considered normal, so some babies gain skills earlier or later than others. Babies who were born prematurely reach milestones later. Always talk with your doctor about your baby's progress.

Here's what your newborn might do:

Communication and Language Skills

  • turns his or head head toward a parent's voice or other sounds 
  • cries to communicate a need (to be held or fed, to have a diaper changed, or to sleep)
  • stops crying when the need is met (your baby is picked up, fed, or changed; or goes to sleep)

Movement and Physical Development

  • moves in response to sights and sounds
  • rooting reflex: turns toward breast or bottle and sucks when a nipple is placed in the mouth
  • Moro reflex (startle response): when startled, throws out arms and legs, then curls them back in
  • fencer's pose (tonic neck reflex): when head is turned to one side, straightens the arm on that side while bending the opposite arm
  • grasp reflex: holds a finger placed in the palm; toes curl when touched on the sole of the foot

Social and Emotional Development

  • soothed by a parent's voice and touch
  • has periods of alertness

Cognitive Skills (Thinking and Learning)

  • looks at faces when quiet and alert
  • follows faces

When to Talk to Your Doctor

Every child develops at his or her own pace, but if there's something that concerns you, tell your doctor. Also, tell the doctor if your baby:

  • doesn't suck well at the breast or on a nipple
  • has an arm or leg that seems weaker than the other
  • is extremely irritable or difficult to soothe
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: June 2016