Baby 0-12 Months
The term infant is derived from the Latin word in-fans, which means unable to speak. The term neonate refers to an infant that is less than a month old.
Some newborn babies have fine, downy body hair called lanugo. It may be particularly noticeable on the back, shoulders, forehead, ears and face of premature infants. Lanugo disappears within a few weeks. Infants may be born with full heads of hair; others, particularly Caucasian infants, may have very fine hair or may even be bald. Amongst fair-skinned parents, this fine hair may appear to be blond. The scalp may also be temporarily bruised or swollen, especially in hairless newborns, and the area around the eyes may be puffy.
Newborn's digestive tracts, which of course have never been used prior to birth, are filled with a greenish-black, sticky material called meconium. This has the function of standing in for fecal material and allows the intestines to develop to the point where they can process milk immediately on birth. This material is passed by the child in the first few days.
Immediately after birth, a newborn's skin is often grayish to dusky blue in color. As soon as the newborn begins to breathe, usually within a minute or two, the skin's color returns to its normal tone. Newborns are wet, covered in streaks of blood, and coated with a white substance known as vernix caseosa, which is hypothesised to act as an antibacterial barrier. The newborn may also have Mongolian spots, various other birthmarks, or peeling skin, particularly on the wrists, hands, ankles, and feet.
The umbilical cord of a newborn is bluish-white in color. After birth, the umbilical cord is normally cut, leaving a 3-5 cm stub. The umbilical stub will dry out, shrivel, darken, and spontaneously fall off within about 3 weeks. Occasionally, hospitals may apply triple dye to the umbilical stub to prevent infection, which may temporarily color the stub and surrounding skin purple.
Newborns lose many of the above physical characteristics quickly. Thus prototypical older babies look very different. While older babies are considered "cute", newborns can be "unattractive" by the same criteria and first time parents may need to be educated in this regard.
Newborns can feel all different sensations, but respond most enthusiastically to soft stroking, cuddling and caressing. Gentle rocking back and forth often calms a crying infant, as do massages and warm baths. Newborns may comfort themselves by sucking their thumb, or a pacifier. The need to suckle is instinctive (see suction in biology) and allows newborns to feed.
Newborn infants have unremarkable vision, being able to focus on objects only about 45 cm directly in front of their face. While this may not be much, it is all that is needed for the infant to look at the mother’s eyes or areola when breastfeeding. Depth perception does not develop until the infant is mobile. Generally, a newborn cries when wanting to feed. When a newborn is not sleeping, or feeding, or crying, he or she may spend a lot of time staring at random objects. Usually anything that is shiny, has sharp contrasting colors, or has complex patterns will catch an infant's eye. However, the newborn has a preference for looking at other human faces above all else.
While still inside the mother, the infant could hear many internal noises, such as the mother's heartbeat, as well as many external noises including human voices, music and most other sounds. Therefore, although a newborn's ears may have some catarrh and fluid, he or she can hear sound from before birth. Newborns usually respond to a female voice over a male voice. This may explain why people will unknowingly raise the pitch of their voice when talking to newborns (this voice change is called motherese). The sound of other human voices, especially the mother's, can have a calming or soothing effect on the newborn. Conversely, loud or sudden noises will startle and scare a newborn. Newborns have been shown to prefer sounds that were a regular feature of their prenatal environment, for example, the theme tune of a television programme that their mother watched regularly.
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