What’s going on for baby?

Newborns are adjusting to being in the world outside the womb and finding out if they can trust that world to meet their needs for food, comfort, sleep and company.

When they are responded to quickly and warmly, a baby learns to trust their world and the people in it. This sense of security helps to develop their curiosity, which leads on to further exploration and learning as they grow.

A newborn will sleep for short periods, and isn’t yet aware of the difference between day and night. They may have an unsettled period between late afternoon and early evening. This could be due to overtiredness, too much stimulation or colic.

Their vision is developing, with a new baby seeing most clearly between 20 and 40 centimetres away. This is the approximate distance between a mum’s face and baby’s when they’re at the breast. They’re likely to gaze at faces, which is one way they learn about their whānau.

How can parents and whānau help?

  • Build baby’s trust, respond to them straight away, so they learn that someone will come and help them when they’re distressed.
  • Understand that they can’t spoil their baby by giving them their time and attention.
  • Make baby’s world warm and calm and use gentle voices and gentle touch.
  • Rock them and hold them close. Try carrying them in a baby sling to keep them near while having ‘hands free’.
  • Sing lullabies and use soft lighting to help to keep them calm.
  • Spend time holding baby, making eye contact, smiling, talking and singing face-to-face.
  • Notice what baby does when responded to in this way — they may try to copy sounds and mouth movements.
  • Try to plan, so early evening isn’t too time pressured.
  • Make night-time feeds quiet and with minimal light, so baby learns that when it’s dark, it’s not play time.
  • If possible, rest when baby sleeps and remember this period doesn’t last forever.

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