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Stillbirth

The death of a baby is a traumatic experience and one that hospital staff may find it difficult to deal with. They are geared up to deal with the joy of birth and not the tragedy of death. At the same time, doctors and nurses may be consumed with the aftermath of the delivery or in trying to save a baby’s life. They have little time for the mother and father, leaving both in a state of uncertainty:

“The delivery was awful and he was rushed off to the NICU [neonatal intensive care unit] the moment he was born. I remember they were all fussing around, giving me stitches and cleaning me up, but nobody mentioned the baby. I just assumed he was dead; at first I couldn’t believe it. I felt numb, and then I started crying. Nobody said anything to me and my husband went off to find someone who would tell him what was going on. Then they came to take me back to my room and I said, in tears, ‘I’m not going, I’m not going to the ward to see those mothers and babies.’ ‘Why not?’ they asked. ‘Because my baby’s dead!’ I bawled. At that there was a flurry, and someone came to say he wasn’t dead at all! He was in intensive care but they were sure he’d be all right, and I could go back and look at him later. It was, in fact, touch and go, but they didn’t say so at the time.”

If a woman is kept uninformed and uninvolved, the consequences can be quite tragic:

“It was obvious that something was wrong as soon as he was born. He was taken to the NICU immediately. There was some confusion over what different doctors said about whether he would live or not and that was hard, because I didn’t know whether there was hope. Meanwhile I was in the regular maternity ward with mothers and babies. I wasn’t with him when they disconnected the life-support system and let him die-there was no point in doing anything. If I had been more involved and helped by them, I think I would have chosen to be with him and to have held him when he died.”

There are probably many women who would have very similar feelings and reactions. Until very recently parents were not encouraged even to see their baby, who was whisked away as soon as it was confirmed that the baby was dead. Today, hospital staffs are increasingly aware that many parents want to see their baby, accept its death and have time to grieve. This applies even if the baby is born with a congenital abnormality. The imaginings of someone who has given birth to a baby with physical abnormalities are likely to be much worse than the reality; again, seeing, being with and holding the child can help parents accept the situation:

“They said the baby was deformed and [so] I didn’t want to see her. But my husband did, and he said, really it’s all right, she’s quite beautiful, you can look. They had wrapped her up so that her face and arms and tiny feet showed. She was very beautiful, and her face had a peaceful expression that made me immediately feel much better about her death.”

A mother whose baby has died can ask not to go to the postnatal ward, but to be given a room of her own or perhaps go to the general gynecological ward. Hormones can be given to suppress the milk supply, though this is less typical now because the drugs can have side effects. The mother may continue to produce milk for some days, to her great distress. The mother whose baby has died will have all the usual hormonal and emotional changes following a birth, but no baby; she is in a kind of emotional limbo, neither a mother nor not a mother.

If the baby has died because of some lack of intervention or action by medical staff, parents usually take out their anger on the hospital. This can make the situation worse immediately after the baby has died: “They should have figured out he was in distress. I can’t forgive them.” Anger is a normal part of the grieving process; being able to blame someone can help the situation seem more bearable for the parents in the short term. Most stillbirth or neonatal deaths, however, could not have been prevented, and blaming the hospital will not bring back a baby who has died.

How the hospital staff deals with a tragedy can make an enormous difference to the experience. If you have worries, it can help to talk to your team in advance about what you would like to happen in the event of the baby’s death, even if this sounds as if you are being unnecessarily morbid:

“I told them that if the baby was dead I didn’t want them to whisk her away. I would like to see and hold the baby right then and deal with my emotions then and there. They brushed this aside and said of course nothing will go wrong. In fact, my baby was born perfectly healthy. But I felt it was important for me to say what I wanted in case the unthinkable happened, so we knew where we stood and I wouldn’t be faced with half-truths or well-meaning attempts to protect me from reality.”

Women-and men-who have experienced a baby’s death are often told by doctors, hospital staff, relatives and friends to “forget about this experience-you’ll have another baby soon.” This is very distressing for the parents, who need to acknowledge the death and mourn the loss of their baby before going on to another pregnancy. Some hospitals will help the parents by encouraging them to see and hold the baby, perhaps taking a photograph they can keep, and discussing what sort of funeral arrangements should be made. Hospitals usually arrange for a cremation or burial free of charge, but some parents find they hastily go along with such arrangements and later are distressed because they did not attend a ceremony and because the baby is buried with others or in an unmarked grave.

You will also need to register the baby’s birth or death. You can ask that the baby’s name be recorded so that he or she can be acknowledged as your child, a real individual, and not just “a baby.” If you feel the hospital is not paying attention to your wishes, be firm and ask for what you want. Taking action in this positive way may help you feel a lot better about the experience when you look back on it and help you in the natural process of grieving. (See Further Reading, starting on page 165, for helpful books.)

Siblings, Kids ‘r Kids

I was eight months pregnant with my first baby and sitting in the front seat of our car when my 7-year-old stepson called over my shoulder and asked the heartbreaking question. “What if my brother or sister and me fight all the time?” As a stickler for rules, I wanted to tell him that fighting wouldn’t be tolerated in our family and that everyone must get along! Thankfully, I paused a second, and in that small amount of time, my own childhood and relationship with my brother flooded my memory.

Sibling to be Our relationship was anything but perfect. I am sure some would have considered us downright rotten. In one second the sounds of fighting and name-calling rang through my ears, as did the shrill voice of my mother yelling, calling us by the wrong names in her frustration. I heard doors slam, felt kicks and punches land on arms and legs and saw my brother sitting proudly in the recliner clutching every phone cord in the house. When all else failed, I would call my mom at work to tattle. My brother had a clever way of preventing any further trouble: he unplugged all of the phones in the house. A smile spread over my face as my son awaited a reassuring answer. He was still an only child and the worry in his face of getting this relationship right was apparent. I told him brothers and sisters fight all the time and that it is part of growing up. I assured him he and his younger sibling would get into loads of trouble together, would be sent to their rooms left and right and would probably drive me crazy in the process. I watched as the look of concern turned to one of disbelief. I could tell he was shocked at my admission that fighting was a natural part of sibling relationships and that the idea didn’t upset me.

I further eased his mind by walking him down my own memory lane. I even taught him some of my old tricks to getting out of trouble – a choice I will probably regret in the future!

By the time my husband finished his errand and returned to the car, my son’s face was bright as can be. The stories spilled out of him as he recounted tales of my childhood sibling rivalry. He was thrilled to tell Daddy how I used to tattle on Uncle Jimmy and call him names when Grandma wasn’t looking. He also told Daddy that he and his brother or sister are going to fight, but that he was going to try his best not to.

My husband just looked over at me questioningly. I could tell he had no idea how this subject came to be. I just smiled back at him, letting him know that it was all right. He doesn’t need to start thinking about the sibling rivalry that will turn us gray – not just yet, anyway. With baby still on the way, I think we have a few years before we have to talk about it again.

Reactions of the Rest of the Family

As expectant parents, you perhaps thought that the baby soon to be born would be all yours, alone. Not quite so, as you probably found out. If you have other children, they share proprietorship with you; they are, after all, of the same generation as their new sibling. When they all get older, you may have the feeling, as some parents do, that it’s “them against us.” Your own two sets of parents, and perhaps your grandparents as well, have a vested interest in your child, they are his ancestors. They probably feel qualified and perhaps duty-bound, to advise you about every aspect of your baby. Many other people will also speak to you about “our baby” and offer advice. Anyone that knows you and cares for you felt like a participant throughout the pregnancy and will continue to do so during the rearing of your child, including aunts, uncles, and cousins; old and new friends; neighbors; colleagues of work; and probably the checkout clerk at the supermarket and the teller at the bank. You even share your baby with your pet, whose function in life now is to be the companion and protector of the child.

Preparing Your Children for the New Baby

Ideally, you’d tell your toddler or preschooler that you are expecting a baby only a short time before your due date, because with his or her undeveloped concept of time, six months or more is too long to wait. However, you don’t want the child to hear from someone else, so you’ll probably share it about the time you’re telling everyone. For a young child, try to tie the coming birth with something other than a specific date: “about the time of your own birthday” or “when the leaves on the trees are getting green.” Older children who can handle the time lag can be told earlier, and a teenager can be told very soon after you know for sure yourself. Being first to know, even before Grandma, will give this older child the adult status that builds self esteem. Just don’t tell a child of any age until you’re ready for the whole world to now. That kind of secret is impossible to keep.

The ages of your children will also determine to a large extent how you answer the questions about reproduction which will inevitably follow your announcement. The most important thing to remember is to give a child only the amount of information he or she actually asks for and can handle. A toddler, for example, probably wants only to know and can take in no more than that “the baby is growing in a special place inside mommy and will come out when it’s big enough.” A bright preschooler or school age child is likely to insist on knowing all the details of the baby’s life “in there.” If you have a pre-teen or a teenager, your pregnancy gives you the golden opportunity to pass on something of your value system as you candidly discuss human sexuality, reproduction, and family life. With children of any age, use the correct terminology for body parts and functions. Any shyness or embarrassment you may feel about speaking frankly will wear off with repetition, and you will be doing your child a favor, because he or she won’t have to relearn the words. You may find it helpful to draw upon the vast number of excellent books available for parents and children on the subject of reproduction [and for little kids, what it’s like to have a baby brother or sister], many of which are designed to be read together. Your librarian or bookstore clerk can lead you to the best of what’s available. Be willing to answer questions whenever they’re asked. With young children, don’t be surprised to if you must repeat your answers several times.

Preparing for the Birth of Your Baby

As you enter the last three months of pregnancy, you may find yourself thinking more and more about the upcoming birth. Your large size and your baby’s movements are constant reminders that you will become a mother soon.

You may find yourself wanting to slow down a bit, preferring quiet evenings at home, slow walks, midday rests with your feet up, and a generally slower pace to your life. The twenty-four hour a day job of making a baby becomes tiring toward the end of pregnancy. When you add to that a job, child care, a social life, and the fact that you might be sleeping more lightly than usual, it is not surprising that you may want to simplify your life and take it easier from now until after your baby is born.

As you slow down and contemplate the upcoming birth and baby, you may be surprised to learn that your body has not slowed down at all. It is working at full speed, preparing for the birth. The baby is growing very rapidly, from about two to three pounds at the end of the twenty-eighth week to about six and a half to nine pounds at the end of the fortieth week. Many changes take place in your body to support such rapid growth. In this chapter we will examine these changes and the birth process itself. We will describe the newborn baby, what she looks like, what she can do, and her immediate care. In addition, we will discuss the first few weeks after birth-the immediate care of the mother and the emotional adjustments to new parenthood.

The Third Trimester

All your baby’s systems were formed in the first trimester. The organs and skeleton took shape and your baby took on a tiny but complete human form. During the second trimester, your baby began to move noticeably, gained the ability to see and hear, and began reacting to outside stimuli-that is, sounds outside your body, light and dark, and your eating and activity patterns. Your baby began turning somersaults, sucked his thumb, hiccupped perceptibly, and generally made you aware of his presence. The third trimester [the last three months od pregnancy] might be best thought of as a time when the final touches are put on your baby in his journey toward life outside your body.

Nutritional Requirements

As your baby grows in size her nutritional requirements increase. For example, she requires about one third more protein in these last months of pregnancy because every cell in the human body has protein as a primary ingredient and with each passing day she has more cells. In addition, because the bones are growing and becoming strong, the need for calcium, which is important to bone strength, increase by about two thirds during the last three months of pregnancy. The baby’s absorption of iron also dramatically increases.

As you can see, with these increased nutritional requirements, it is very desirable that you eat well o supply your baby’s nutritional needs as well as your own. It’s a good idea to reassess your nutritional intake during this last trimester, to see if you are getting the recommended foods in each of the food groups.

Prenatal Screening

The majority of mothers over the age of 35 who become pregnant can expect a normal pregnancy and a healthy baby. However, older mothers are at greater risk of developing complications. For that reason, an older mother is screened to detect these at an early stage. Older mothers are also at higher risk of having a baby with disabilities, so most are eager to take advantage of the screening tests available.
There can hardly be a mother who has not worried at some time in her pregnancy whether her baby will be normal, and this may be particularly true for the older mother. Fortunately, a number of screening tests are now offered to women at higher risk of having a baby with severe problems. These tests can be very important in easing the parents’ worries. In cases where an abnormality is shown, the screening enables them to decide whether or not to proceed with a pregnancy. However, it is important to remember that not all abnormalities can be detected in pregnancy and that accidents at birth can also lead to disabilities. The tests eliminate certain problems but do not guarantee the “perfect baby.”

How the Baby Develops

A human embryo is more or less completely formed by the end of the twelfth week of pregnancy. After this time it simply has to grow in size and its organs have to mature to make it capable of living outside the womb. All the major developments take place in the early weeks of pregnancy, which is why it is especially important to look after yourself before you even know you are pregnant. The baby’s spinal column, for example, begins to form in the fifth week of pregnancy. You are likely at this stage to realize that your period is late, but have not had the pregnancy confirmed. In the sixth week arm and leg buds are formed. In the seventh week the beginnings of the fingers and toes are visible and dramatic changes are occurring to the head and face. In the ninth week the nose and mouth take shape. By the eleventh week the genitals are formed, and all the internal organs are functioning.
Abnormalities in a baby are usually caused by genetic problems or by an environmental influence, such as poor diet, the use of drugs in early pregnancy or by hazards in the workplace, such as toxic chemicals or radiation. Genetic problems fall into two categories: those caused by either or both parents carrying a faulty gene, or those that occur when the sperm or egg are formed. In the second case, the formation involves an extra chromosome or part of a chromosome being included in the fertilized egg.

Pregnant at Last

Women who have spent some time considering pregnancy in general want to make sure they are in the best health and have done everything possible to ensure they have a healthy child. Older women in particular may be anxious to do everything they can to offset the possible risks involved in being an older mother. You can take practical steps in advance to prepare yourself for the healthiest possible pregnancy.

It’s important to check that you are immune to rubella (German measles) before you start trying to conceive. Catching this disease, particularly in the first months of pregnancy, causes severe disabilities in the child or a miscarriage. If you are not immune, you can be vaccinated against rubella before you conceive. It is also a good idea to check whether you may be carrying a sexually transmitted disease. Hard-to-diagnose infections such as Chlamydia, Gardnerella and Mycoplasmas may be implicated in miscarriage and premature delivery. Blood tests for viruses such as cytomegalovirus, which can cause abnormalities in the baby, may also be worthwhile.

Stopping Contraception

If you have been relying on an IUD, you will need to have it removed by a doctor before you conceive. As soon as an IUD is removed, you can get pregnant. If you get pregnant by chance with an IUD in place, it does carry risks for mother and baby. You are more likely to have an ectopic pregnancy-a pregnancy that occurs outside the womb, usually in the Fallopian tubes-and there is a high risk of miscarriage. As many as 60% of such pregnancies end before term. The miscarriages are more likely to occur in the second three months of pregnancy. IUDs are usually removed while you have a period, because the cervix is slightly dilated then and this aids removal.

If you have been taking the Pill, stop taking it two or three months before you wish to conceive. You can use a barrier method, such as the condom or diaphragm, or natural family planning (rhythm method) during this time. (But be aware you are unlikely to use natural family planning effectively if you have not spent some time learning the technique and observing your menstrual cycle.) Studies have shown that women who took the Pill inadvertently in early pregnancy have only a very slight extra risk of having an abnormal pregnancy or a child with disabilities. Those who conceive as soon as they stop taking the Pill face no extra risk.

All the same, it is a good precaution to make sure that your body is free of all drugs before you get pregnant. It also helps to date the pregnancy if you have had one or two normal menstrual cycles before you conceive because this allows for good pregnancy care.

There is, however, some evidence that women who conceive while using spermicides, whether on their own or in combination with the diaphragm, cap or condom, run a slightly higher risk of a miscarriage (and, incidentally, also a greater chance of having a girl). It is obviously better to conceive when there are no traces of spermicide in the vagina. If you intend to try to conceive, it may be a good idea to ask your doctor to do a cervical smear and perhaps to take a swab to check that you do not have any vaginal infection, such as thrush, before you get pregnant. This will usually be done at your first prenatal appointment when you are pregnant anyway, but some women prefer not to have a vaginal examination in early pregnancy, especially if they have had a miscarriage or threatened miscarriage in the past. It also makes sense to clear up any infection before rather than after a pregnancy has begun.

Pair of Twins

When I found out I was expecting twins, family and friends were overjoyed. This was my first pregnancy, so I was fearful of the responsibilities of being a new parent, let alone raising two at once!

Pair of Twins The gifts started pouring in. We received matching cribs, matching blankets, matching clothes, and even a dual breast pump. The babies were referred to as “Baby A” and “Baby B.” The day they were born, it was difficult for folks to tell them apart. I, on the other hand, felt differently. These two baby girls had distinct features, different preemie health issues, different feeding preferences, different sleeping habits, and noticeably different dispositions.

My girls are fraternal twins. They look nothing alike, and they have opposite personality traits. At the age of 9, they have really come into their own as individuals. Despite the efforts of our social circle to lump them together as “the twins,” their cute, matching outfits did not influence the development of their unique personalities and interests.

We did not give them “twinny” names with alliteration or rhyme. Zoe & Skylar have grown into two very different little girls. Zoe is very much left-brained and logical, with minimal sense of humor. She is a math genius and computer whiz. Skylar is my right-brain dominant child who consumes her time with arts and crafts, and has an artistic perspective of everyday objects. She is brilliant with jokes, and sees things in her surroundings that most people would not notice.

Zoe is a “fashion plate” at school, adopting the latest clothing trends. Skylar has a very unique sense of style, not succumbing to the mainstream fashion influences. Zoe is a typical kid, craving junk food at every juncture. I could leave Skylar alone in a grocery store, and she would choose balanced meals. Zoe will be mischievous and cunning, and Skylar will serve as the “tattle-tale” to ensure that justice is served. Zoe hides her feelings and will rarely cry, even when hurt. Skylar cries and laughs openly and faithfully pours out her daily emotions in her diary.

There are some strategies for ensuring that twins’ individual needs are met to nurture them as two separate developing human beings:

(1) Do not put them in the same classroom at school. Most public schools have a policy against twins being placed in the same class. If not, it is wise to request this separation to encourage different social circles and individual academic achievement.

(2) Spend one-on-one time with each twin. Take notice of different learning styles and preferences for reinforcing and rewarding good behavior.

(3) When age-appropriate, allow for each twin to choose personal expressions: clothes, extra-curricular activities, room décor, etc. (4) Allow for unique birthday celebrations: choice of cake, different friends invited, party activity planning by both children.

Common sense approaches to raising siblings apply to raising multiples, yet are even more important to employ. All children are distinctive souls with their own purpose and destiny. All devoted parents recognize this in their children. Twins and multiples just need extra attention to their discrete needs.

Not Having Children

For all those who have delayed parenthood comes a moment of truth, a realization they have not made the decision to have a child and will therefore remain childless. Candace is 43. She says the timing has never been quite right for her to have a baby, although she has not ruled out the possibility altogether. “You have to be a realist and not a romantic about children. It’s easy to fantasize about having a baby … I’m not sure it’s right for me at the moment.”

The woman who at 43 has still not decided to have a baby will probably join the increasing numbers of women who are choosing never to have children. Recent statistics have shown a definite increase in the number of women choosing to remain childless. In I982, 4.9% of all women of childbearing age were voluntarily childless. By I995, the percentage had increased to 6.6%. (National Center for Health Statistics, I995) Although there is a shift towards later childbearing, statistics show that this increase in childlessness is likely to continue among younger women.

Aside from those who decide not to have children, there are those who want children very much and are unable to have them.

Tremendous advances have been made in infertility treatment over the past two decades. Of the nearly 5 million American couples who report difficulty or delays in achieving a live birth, I.3 million will receive medical advice or treatment for infertility. According to the American Medical Association Encyclopedia of Medicine (I989), professional treatment aids approximately half the women who seek help for fertility problems.

For those who have, for whatever reason, postponed having a baby into their mid- to late 30s, infertility can be a devastating blow. “I know it’s covered in the papers and I knew it was a risk, but I still didn’t think it would ever happen to me,” says Gina, 37. “After six months of trying I went to the doctor and he said, ‘Give it time. You’re not as fertile as you were. If you haven’t conceived in another six months we’ll do something.’ I hadn’t, so back to the doctor. He referred us to a clinic, but the first available appointment was three months away. Meanwhile, nothing happened. We had tests. They went on for months; each test had to be done only at the most fertile time of the month, so that took months to arrange. In the end they discovered I had blocked tubes, probably as a result of an appendicitis operation I had when I was a teenager. The discovery that there really was something wrong was appalling. I felt I only had about three years left.” Gina conceived two years later on her second attempt at IVF (in-vitro fertilization).

Many women find infertility is a terrible irony after years of using contraception. “I was on the Pill for I2 years. Then I discovered I had never ovulated to begin with. Those pregnancy scares I had when I’d taken chances before I went on the Pill, all those years of swallowing hormones-it all seemed so pointless. I was really angry and distressed.”

Rachel had always wanted children, but didn’t marry until she was 36. “We tried for a baby immediately. Nothing happened. After about nine months we started to do temperature charts. They seemed to show I was ovulating, and so then there was the awful business of trying to time sex for the most fertile time in my cycle. Those temperature charts started to dominate our sex lifePaul said he couldn’t stand being told when to perform. He thought I was being neurotic. Once he found out it wasn’t his sperm that were at fault, he lost interest in the whole process. I was devastated-if I didn’t have children, what else was there to look forward to?”

Those who remain childless, whether by choice or not, often find themselves put under considerable pressure by others. Questions such as, “So, when are you going to have a baby?” or

“Don’t you think it’s selfish not to have children?” are heard frequently. Some women do feel pressured into having a child by the outside world. “I had been putting it off and putting it off, and I’m not sure I really wanted a child. But then I thought, this is something almost everybody does. Will I feel I’ve missed something?” Pressure is put on women to have children by family and friends and, notoriously, by parents wanting grandchildren.

“My mother went on and on about having a grandchild and finally I said, ‘My career is important to me. If I have a baby, will you take care of it while I go back to work?’ She agreed-and it has worked out really well for us.” Others are not so lucky or do not give in to parental pressures. This can create a lot of stress in family relationships. “My mother complained about it so much, how unhappy I was making her, that she couldn’t see the point in life if she didn’t have grandchildren, that I started avoiding her.

New Sibling to the Family

Some women experience morning sickness. Others suffer drastic ups and downs in hormone levels. I had neither. Instead, I was the pregnant woman who worried about anything and everything for 10 whole months. There was one particular worry that ran through my brain over and over like a hamster on a treadmill: How was my seven-year-old stepson going to handle the change?

New Sibling My stepson was an only child, and while a baby brother or sister was always top on his Christmas and birthday wish lists, we weren’t really sure how he would react when his wish came true. At seven years old, an only child gets used to having the full attention of both his parents. We spent hours in the early days of my pregnancy discussing how we could help make a smooth transition and how we could involve our big boy in every aspect of welcoming baby into the family, starting with breaking the news.

When we finally decided to share the news of a new sibling, we crafted the moment and imagined his reaction. We brought him into the guest room and told him we needed his help; we wanted to paint the room but couldn’t decide on a color. He wanted orange, his favorite color du jour. We explained it depended who lived in the room. He furrowed his brow, as we scripted he would. “Who’s gonna live in our guest room?” he asked, again, as predicted. We led him through the rest of the conversation until he finally came to the right conclusion. “I’m getting a baby brother or sister!” he screamed. He screamed; I cried. It was all going so perfectly. We tried to lengthen the moment, but as with any seven year old, his attention span was minimal. After a few jumps up and down and hugs all around, he asked if he could go back to his cartoons. No, he didn’t have any questions, he said. “O.K.” Why did I ever worry?

We must have made the offer to answer questions a million times during the next six months. I worried I would have to explain where babies come from, and I did. I was relieved to learn that a simple explanation of love, decisions and doctors was enough to satisfy his curiosity. Whew! Of course, I worried I would have to go into more detail when baby came. Thank goodness, I did not.

I worried right up until the moment I went into labor. Fortunately our son was in school when it happened. I always feared I would go into labor in the middle of the night, and our son would have lasting resentment at being whisked off to a relative’s home in his sleep. I worried again after the baby was born, and my husband left to surprise the new brother at school.

I took a deep breath when our boy walked through the hospital door. His face lit up, and he ran to hug me. He hovered over his baby sister. He was in awe of every aspect of her smallness. He watched sweetly as I fed and burped her, and he held her so gently, it was as if his arms had been waiting for her forever. His voice immediately changed into a singsong replica of his own, cooing and talking away. “I love you, baby sister,” he said. It was at that moment, I knew I would never worry again.

Newborn Cognitive Development

Although they may seem unknowing and unreceptive babies are actually active learners. It was once believed that until a child was able to talk they were unable to form complex ideas and thoughts; however scientists have found that this is not true. From the first week of a child’s life they are taking in their surroundings and learning from them. The first twelve months may be the most active period of cognitive development in a child’s life. There are so many different things that changes and advancements that are going on in the first year. Here are some of the milestones in the babies first year of cognitive development the process by which babies develop the abilities to learn and remember.
Newborns, babies 0 to 3 months can see clearly within 13 inches and can focus on and follow moving objects. Newborns can see every color and distinguish hue and brightness; they can also hear and distinguish the pitch and volume of sound. They can taste sweet, sour, salty and bitter flavors. Newborns respond to stimuli such as touching and strong odors. If you notice that your newborn begins sucking at the sight of your nipple or at the feeling of your chest on its face then your newborn has learned to anticipate events such as breastfeeding.

Newborn Cognitive Development Babies 3 to 6 months old can recognize different people by sight or voice and react to and mimic the facial expressions of others. They can also respond to familiar sounds like the sound of the car starting or water running. By six months of age many infants will begin reaching for objects quickly without jerkiness and may be able to feed themselves a cracker or similar food. At this age most infants begin babbling with active vocalization that starts to sound increasingly speech-like syllables. Babies 6 to 9 months can figure out the difference between animate and inanimate objects and they can understand that inanimate objects must be moved by someone or another external force. During the seventh month of age, many children begin to learn the implications of familiar acts. As they approach the eighth month of age many will be able to recall a past event or action of their own.

Infants from 9 to 12 months of age start to understand that objects exist even when they cannot see them. They are learning to follow simple instructions and can anticipate a reward when they do the right thing and expect discipline when they do the wrong thing. A baby’s movements become more controlled and deliberate, by 10 months most babies can stand although they may need some support. By nine months of age, most infants have begun vocalizing to toys, people, and animals in sentence-like syllables. You may notice your child beginning to listen carefully to the conversations of other people and hear them imitate sounds they hear in these conversations. The first word-like sounds made by babies are usually of the consonant sounds p, b, m, t, and d.

The development that happens during the first year is very important and delightful to witness as your child conquers each new milestone to becoming a full grown human being. Keep in mind that all children are different and the age that your child starts to develop each new skill will vary with each child, and it is rare that there is a major problem if your child should experience a delay in development of a certain milestone.