Newborn Milestones | The first four weeks

Posted on July 25th, 2016

Your baby will change significantly in the first four weeks after birth. These are the important and exciting milestones you can expect. By Xanet van Vuuren

Newborn milestones

Here are some of the exciting milestones you can expect your newborn to reach over the next four weeks. Remember that babies develop at different rates, so don’t be alarmed if your baby doesn’t reach the milestones below at the precise times given.

Week 1

The first week will be fairly uneventful. Your baby will sleep a great deal and you’ll try to establish how and when she needs to be fed.

  • Your baby was born with a rooting and sucking reflex. The rooting reflex helps her get ready to suck. If you stroke the corner of her mouth, she’ll turn her head and open her mouth in the direction of the touch to find your breast or the bottle. Her sucking reflex began during the 32nd week of pregnancy and was fully developed around the 36th week.
  • Your baby will lose some weight before she leaves the hospital and she may weigh less than when she was born. This is because babies have a lot of extra fluid at birth and only lose it a couple of days after. But by the end of this week she will regain all the weight she lost during the first few days.

Physical development

Your newborn spends most of her time sleeping. She’ll wake up to feed about every three to four hours, and then go back to sleep until her next feed. But when she’s awake her movements will be jerky and uncoordinated. This will soon change over the next two weeks.

Hearing

Your baby can distinguish between sounds and voices and will turn her head in the direction of the noise when something startles her.

Vision

  • Her eyesight is still fuzzy, but she can see your face clearly when you hold her close. Put aside some time each day to gaze into your little one’s eyes.
  • You’ll notice that your baby’s eye colour is blue or grey at birth. This could change when she’s between six and nine months old. Paediatrician De Dewald Buitendag explains: “Dark-skinned babies are almost always born with dark eyes, which tend to stay dark. Fair-skinned babies usually are born with dark blue or slate-grey eyes that change colour as they get older.”

Week 2

Social and emotional development

Your little one can stay awake for longer periods of time. She communicates with you by crying when she’s hungry, cold, wet or lonely, and she’ll stop crying once these needs are met. She can also distinguish between your voice and that of a stranger.

Physical development

  • By the end of this week her movements will be slightly more fluid than they were when you brought her home. She’ll spend a lot of time stretching out and drawing her arms and legs in while she’s awake.
  • If you hold her upright with feet touching a hard surface, she’ll attempt to make a walking movement.

 Vision

  • Newborns are sensitive to bright light, so their pupils remain constricted to limit the light coming into their eyes. Their pupils only begin to enlarge after about two weeks when they start seeing shades of light and dark.
  • Babies have a ‘quiet alert time’, when they’re awake and aware taking in the surrounding world. This is the best time to interact and play with your little one.
  • Your baby’s ability to see and recognise patterns has improved significantly over the last two weeks, so give her black and white images, bold lines, and shapes to look at.

Week 3

Social and emotional development

  • If you’ve come to understand your baby’s cries over the last two weeks, you’ll notice that she has different cries for hunger, boredom, and overtiredness. It will take trial and error to tell your baby’s cries apart but, once you do, you can respond to her needs and perhaps even cut down on her daily crying time.
  • Around 15-20% of newborns have prolonged, inconsolable crying fits that can last up to three hours. Usually this is a sign of colic and can start at around three weeks of age, peak at six weeks, and stop suddenly after about three months.

Physical development

  • Your baby is starting to gain control over her body. Her arm and leg movements are less jerky and she may lift her head briefly when you put her down.
  • She can also grab your finger or an object if placed inside her palm. This is called the ‘palmar reflex’, which has been around since she was born. It helps her grasp and feel various objects placed in her palms. She can’t pick up an object yet because her hand-eye coordination is not fully developed. This skill will be learned only at around six months.

Vision

Your baby is more interested in complex shapes than simple ones, and she’s able to track objects as they move. Move an object slowly in front of her eyes and notice how the eyes follow the movement.

Week 4

Your baby’s appearance

  • Your baby may develop a facial rash towards the end of the third or fourth week. Her skin may look mottled or blotchy at times.
  • If she was born with lanugo (fine body hair) on her back and shoulders, you can expect it to disappear by the end of the week.

Language development

Your little one will start smiling at you from about six weeks. Coo and talk to your baby when you interact with her. She will comprehend and enjoy the sounds, and will attempt to coo herself in the weeks to follow.

Physical development

Your baby can grab objects if placed in her hand, but she doesn’t yet have the hand-eye coordination to reach for an object when passed in front of her. She also may be able to hold her head up briefly when it’s supported against your shoulder.

Vision

  • Your baby can maintain eye contact for longer periods and she can track moving objects with her eyes. She’s more attracted to black, white, and strong bright colours than pastel shades.
  • She also loves watching her reflection in a mirror. Place a baby-safe mirror in the cot beside her so she can watch herself.

 

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Our experienced editors work with trained journalists and qualified experts to compile accurate, insightful and helpful information about pregnancy, birth, early childhood development and parenting. Our content is reviewed regularly by our panel of advisors, which include medical doctors and healthcare professionals.