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Child development

Birth-6 months | 6-12 Months | 12-18 Months | 18-24 Months | 24 Months And Beyond

Birth-6 months

Touchpoints, by T. Berry Brazelton, M.D.(Perseus Books 1992) emphasizes that a key element in your successful attachment to your baby is parental adjustment. He states that many parents may become overwhelmed by the change in their roles, compounded by the lack of regular sleep. He goes on to say that some mothers may also suffer from some depression as a result of hormonal rebalancing after labor and delivery.

Brazelton also stresses the importance of identifying your newborn's temperament. How your baby responds to stimuli around him, to hunger, discomfort, temperature changes, handling, and what seems to sooth him - all give you valuable insight into predictable future behaviors. The good doctor urges parents to watch and listen for your own baby's particular style, and to not compare these characteristics with another baby's.

The body proportions of newborns are much different from that of older children: the head is large and may represent 1/4 of the baby's stature, the chest is rounded with a prominent belly, and the arms and legs are short, making the midpoint of the newborn at the level of the belly button. The average newborn is 20" long, breathes 35-50 breaths a minute, his heart beats at a rate of 120-160 times a minute, he feeds on average at intervals of every two to five hours, and he poops three to five times a day. Life is busy.

By three months a baby can lift his head and chest from a firm surface. By four months, eyes and hands are beginning to work together and a baby will bring objects to his mouth for oral exploration. By four to five months he can sit with support, and by five to six months he begins purposely rolling over, first, stomach to back , and then reverse. Life is busier.


6-12 Months

Touchpoints, by T. Berry Brazelton, M.D. (Perseus Books 1992) states that, by this age, a child's style of dealing with the world is already in place, and that preference for using one hand over the other is pretty reliable. Tuning into your baby's eating, sleeping, and bowel routines, activity and intensity levels, moods, distractibility, and her response to changes in routine continue to provide you with clues to her personality.

Tooth eruption occurs at 5-9 months: first, the two lower central teeth erupt, followed by the two upper central teeth, then the upper canines followed by the lower canines.

During this stage is when all the movement usually begins. Between 6-9 months the baby gains the ability to grasp with his thumb and pointer finger. He can recognize the people that are important to him and separation anxiety begins to emerge. By 8-9 months of age, control of his back muscles occurs which allows him to sit without support. At eight months, he can stand steadily for a short time as long as his hands are held. By 9-10 months he will begin to creep or crawl and the average baby will have grasped the concept of object permanence. So it is in the first year of life that a baby moves from a position of dependency to one of relatively independent behavior.


12-18 Months

Touchpoints (Perseus Books 1992) offers valuable reassurance to every parent who contemplates buying a helmet for the baby as he soon as he starts to walk! Dr. Brazelton shares the fact that the skull is still flexible, the soft spot doesn't close and the bones of the skull don't cement until after a baby has achieved a safer balance and is walking well by 18 months. This pliable skull, then, is able to "give", protecting the brain from being bruised.

The rate of growth slows down during this time with a concomitant decrease in appetite. The average child will grow about 5". But the baby's locomotor skills are tremendous. At this stage, the baby will scribble on large sheets of paper, stack blocks and develop an overhand throw. He will move from sitting to standing without help, and he is ceaselessly active. By 15 months he may be walking alone, by 18 months he may run stiffly. An 18 month old is also capable of climbing stairs, one step at a time, by himself. By now, he will have a total of 14-16 teeth.


18-24 Months

In Touchpoints, (Perseus Books 1992) Dr. Brazelton posits that discipline, (as in teaching, not punishment), is the second most important thing that you can do for your child. Love comes first. Discipline teaches limits, and it is a "long-term project". He goes on to say that the inevitable temper tantrums reflect an inner struggle in your child, a struggle in your toddler's surge for independence. And, naturally, negativism manifests as part of this growing independence. Understanding that this behavior is universal to the age and stage should make it easier to handle.

This is definitely the "Runabout Age". Your toddler is able to move quickly from a safe environment into danger, so constant surveillance is necessary. This age and stage loves to imitate your actions, empty wastebaskets, drawers and shelves. He is very sociable and will begin to show various social emotions: affection, jealousy, sympathy, and anxiety. He can now go up and down stairs alone, putting both feet on one step at a time while holding onto the railing, so schedule some time to do this with him. He can kick and throw a ball, he will refer to himself by his own name, he can name familiar objects, he will be able to understand longer and harder sentences, and he can pick out his own belongings from others. He loves music and dance, and he's much more independent, trying to achieve his own sense of self- identity.


24 Months And Beyond

In Touchpoints, (Perseus Books 1992) Dr. Brazelton discusses the importance of parental flexibility in dealing with your toddler's increasing need for autonomy. He urges parents to constantly look for new ways to handle your resistant child, realizing that the ongoing negativism is driven by your child's drive for independence. And that "long-term project", called discipline, is still a work in progress. The good doctor states that learning to share is a major task at this age, and that this is the time to begin toilet training.

Refinement of all skills, motor, language, intellectual and social, continues to occur at warp speed. Your toddler now has good balance and coordination, is very active, and can ask questions, and will tell you clearly his likes and dislikes. He has a short attention span and tends to be impulsive. He is also very imaginative. He will tend to cling to the old and familiar rather than to try something new.

This is often the time when parents begin to think about having or are having another baby. Dr. Brazelton adds that no first child ever wants the invasion of a second child, and so it should be the parents who need to decide for themselves when they will be ready to handle another. Life before children is a dim memory but we wouldn't want it any other way.


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