Shaken Baby Syndrome

A large number of child deaths are reported in South Africa each year. A lot of deaths relate to neglect, abuse or murder. Despite this, there's a knowledge gap in relation to understanding the issue....

Amniotic fluid problems

The importance of amniotic fluid Amniotic fluid is essential for pregnancy and foetal development. Amniotic fluid is a watery substances residing inside a casing called the amniotic membrane or sac. ...

Choosing a pre-school

Becoming a parent is a momentous; life-changing event filled with hopes, expectations and naturally some fears. Parents often learn and grow alongside their children, as they face the challenges of pa...

Newborn reflexes

Although newborn babies are physically helpless and vulnerable at birth, they have a number of amazing innate abilities or reflexes. Reflexes are involuntary movements or actions, designed to protect ...


Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast that can lead to infection. The word “mastitis” is derived from the Greek word “mastos” meaning “breasts”, while the suffix “-itis” denotes “inflammation”. Ma...

Pelvic floor exercises

Although your new baby will probably bring you immense emotional satisfaction, physically you may feel uncomfortable and strange in your own skin. After 9 months of pregnancy and hormonal changes, you...


Babies cry because they need to communicate something and most parents, especially new moms, find it distressing to see or hear an unhappy baby. In time, you will learn to recognize the various causes...

Antenatal Classes

Antenatal classes are informative sessions provided to prepare expecting parents for the birth of their child and the early days of being a parent.Most antenatal classes are run by Midwives and occasi...


The Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 was launched on the 11 May 2011. It is a global declaration of war against road crashes and fatalities. According to Mr Sibusiso Ndebele, MP Minister of ...

  • Shaken Baby Syndrome

    Tuesday, 21 July 2015 16:28
  • Amniotic fluid problems

    Thursday, 14 May 2015 12:54
  • Choosing a pre-school

    Friday, 10 April 2015 17:50
  • Newborn reflexes

    Tuesday, 03 March 2015 15:49
  • Mastitis

    Tuesday, 03 March 2015 15:41
  • Pelvic floor exercises

    Wednesday, 11 February 2015 17:20
  • Colic

    Wednesday, 11 February 2015 17:11
  • Antenatal Classes

    Monday, 03 June 2013 09:34
  • Strap-in-the-Future

    Thursday, 30 June 2011 13:52

Growth and Development

In the very beginning it may seem that all your baby does is eat-sleep-cry and fill his nappy! By the end of the first month you will notice he is far more alert and responsive. You will notice that this little being has some amazing skills and a distinct, unique personality too. Gradually, you will notice that the reflexive movements are lessening and his movements are smoother and more coordinated. You become aware of him listening to you speak, watching you as you hold him and feed him, and possibly looking deep into your eyes and rewarding you with a heart-melting smile.


Physical growth How newborns grow


Babies are born with some extra fluid, so it is perfectly normal for a newborn to drop a few grams in weight when that fluid is lost in the first few days of life. A healthy newborn is expected to lose 7% to 10% of the birth weight, but should regain that weight by about 2 weeks after birth. During their first month, most newborns continue to gain weight at an average rate of 200g a week. They generally grow in height about 2 to 4 cm during the first month. Many newborns go through a period of rapid growth when they are 7 to 10 days old and again at 3 and 6 weeks.

(More on growth spurts and cycles)


During the first weeks your baby’s body will gradually uncurl from the foetal position, his limbs will stretch and his back may occasionally arch. His legs and feet may still have a bow-legged appearance which will correct itself only over the next 6 months or so.



Much of your baby’s activity in his first few weeks is reflexive. He responds naturally to stimuli like light or touch in certain ways — if you put your finger in your newborn’s hand, for example, the baby will probably automatically take hold of it. If you lightly touch around the baby’s mouth, he will likely make a sucking motion. He doesn’t think about his movements. Babies are born with many of these automatic responses. Some stay for a few months; many disappear in a few weeks.


Babies typically display rooting, sucking, startle, grasp, and tonic neck reflexes soon after birth.


The rooting and sucking reflexes help a newborn to feed. Rooting prompts him to automatically turn in the direction of a food source, be it breast or a bottle. You may be able to evoke this response if you gently stroke your newborn’s cheek near the mouth with your hand. He will turn in that direction, mouth open, ready to suck. When an object, such as a breast or a bottle nipple, is placed in his mouth, he will reflexively begin to suck.


A baby is also born with a startle response called the Moro reflex. An infant who is startled (for example, by a loud noise) or moved abruptly may respond by throwing his arms and legs out wide and then curling them in again. Your baby may also show a grasp reflex by taking hold of your finger when you place it in his palm. If you touch the sole of his foot, it will flex and the toes will curl. A baby will also likely show the tonic neck reflex, or fencer’s pose. This is when a newborn’s head is turned to one side and the infant automatically straightens the arm on that side of the body while bending the opposite arm.


Although you may think of your baby as totally defenceless, he actually has several protective reflexes too. If his face were to be covered by a cloth, he’ll shake his head from side to side and flail his arms to push it away so he can breathe and see. If an object were to come straight towards him, he would turn has head and try to squirm away.


Encouraging your baby’s movements

As your baby grows and gains more control over his movements, the above reflexes will become less noticeable, less jerky, and more purposeful. Give your infant enough space to stretch and move his arms and legs, as these movements help strengthen and tone muscles. It’s also important to give your newborn a chance to turn and lift his head. When you do this, make sure to support the head and neck while holding him.



A word on milestones: Becoming a parent means that the term ‘milestone’ will inevitably become a commonly used word in your vocabulary. Quite simply, milestones give parents (and clinic nurses, paediatricians, occupational therapists, etc) a way to assess whether children are developing as expected. After all, we know in general the average age at which the average child will be able to accomplish all of the skills involved in growing up – everything from smiling and cooing to rolling, sitting, talking, toilet training, and learning to tie shoes. As you watch your own child develop, however, it is important to keep in mind that every child is different and that milestones only serve as a rough estimate. Your baby may be early on some, and late on others. If at any time you do have concerns or if your baby doesn’t do things such as respond to sounds, look at faces, or begin to lift his head during the first month of life, be sure to discuss it with your clinic nurse or paediatrician.


In general, newborns:

Can see faces. During the first days and weeks of life, babies can focus on objects 15 to 20 cm away. At the end of the first month, most will be able to briefly focus their attention on objects as far away as 1 metre and they will also start to track, or follow, moving objects. At birth your baby’s vision is monocular, i.e. her eyes work independently of one another and she sees 2 images, at a distance of 20-30 cm away. Newborns are only able to attend to stripes, patterns, reds, yellows and the human face. Gradually, these images merge as your baby develops binocular vision, she can focus clearly and see at a distance between 25-30 cm. Between 4-6 weeks, your baby usually develops sustained eye contact and will thoroughly enjoy looking at yours, and your various facial expressions (CASRC, 2008; Child development, 1997-2010, Leary, 1990).


Can suck their thumbs. Those of you who happened to catch a glimpse on ultrasound will already know that babies suck their thumbs (and fingers and hands) even before they are born. And despite some old wives’ tales that are still out there, there is no harm in allowing them to do so after they are born. Sucking can release endorphins, which enable the baby to soothe itself. (More on pacifiers and thumb sucking.)

Can recognise certain smells. If you’ve always thought it was coincidence that a baby begins to stir and act hungry when his mother walks into the room, think again. Even a newborn can recognise the smell of his mother’s breast milk.

Can hear. If you watch your newborn closely, you should be able to determine if he reacts to sound – whether he turns his head towards the sound of a voice or reacts when there’s a sudden noise in the room. And by the end of the first month, most babies will recognise the sound of a familiar voice. While it is important to let your baby’s doctor know if your baby doesn’t seem to react to noise, do keep in mind that the phrase ‘sleeps like a baby’ exists for a reason. Even if a newborn sleeps right through impressively loud noises, his hearing is likely to be fine as long as he responds to noise at other times.

Can move their heads. Most babies, by the time they reach a month old, are able to turn or even lift their heads. Some babies are particularly skilled at this particular milestone, and are even able to do so at birth. That said, it is important to remember that you always need to support a newborn’s head carefully, since it will be many months before he can do it on his own.

Begin to smile. The first smile you see may well be while your baby is sleeping, but between a month and 6 weeks you will find yourself rewarded with smiles specifically directed at you.



Milestones reached between a month and 6 weeks



  • Brings hands within range of eyes and mouth.
  • Moves head from side to side when lying on his stomach.
  • Keeps hands in tight fists.
  • Strong reflexive movements.



  • Prefers human face to all other patterns.
  • Eyes begin to follow; may still appear squint.
  • Prefer high contrast patterns.



  • Recognise some sounds.
  • Begin to turn towards familiar voices and sounds.


Smell and touch:

  • Recognises smell of own mother.
  • Prefers sweet smells over bitter or acidic.
  • Prefers soft to coarse sensations.
  • Dislikes rough or abrupt handling.


How to interact with your baby:

·       Use your baby’s sleep time to rest, so when she is awake and alert you can make the most of your time together.

·         Talking and singing to your baby encourages language development. Lullabies introduce   

  your child to the sound system of language.

·         Respond to your child’s crying because it gives her a sense of security.

·         Spend time face-to-face with your baby; this is mutually enjoyable (CASRC, 2008).