After 40 weeks of cravings, nausea, endless doctor's appointments, and weight gain, you finally get to see the fruits of your labor—literally! It's hard not to fall in love with every little thing your brand-new baby does; even a sneeze calls for a video camera. But your baby has way more work to do than just being adorable. Her body is growing and her mind is developing at hyperspeed to start forming her personality, habits, likes, and dislikes. During your first month together, you'll have tons of questions for your pediatrician, your mom, and anyone else who can offer up advice, but it helps if you start with the right foundation. Know what to expect and help your little one progress during that first month.
Turns to Sounds. You'll probably be cursing UPS men and loud visitors, because both can wake your one-month-old up from a quiet nap. Of course, when your newborn is awake, sounds are one of the things that totally engage her. It's a great time to play with her.
- Grab a bell, buzzer, or musical toy. You can practice her hearing skills by making a sound on one side of head to see if she turns toward it. Then, move to the other side of her head and repeat the exercise. She should be able to turn her head again to see where the sound is coming from. Cute!
- Play music with your little one in the room. A 2008 study by Duke University Medical Center found that newborns could perceive rhythm, beats, and music even within the first month of life—you might find out your little one was born to be a rocker or a rapper!
Follows Objects with Her Eyes. Your newborn isn't very interested in all of those rattles and cute toys you bought her just yet. Instead, playtime for a one-month-old means visual stimulation. While a pastel palette might be gorgeous for the nursery, your baby's eyes are more suited to checking out high contrast patterns, like a checkerboard.
- Excite your baby's senses by mixing it up. "Offer baby objects with various textures, sounds, and colors," Dr. Johnson-Hooper suggests. She also notes that you can try moving objects from one side of baby to other to help her track them with her developing eyes.
- Print off high contrast patterns from the Internet, and cut them into flash cards. When your babe is acting fussy, you can show her the interesting visuals and it'll help stimulate her eyes and stop the tears.
Checks Out Faces. You can probably spend hours staring into your new baby's cherubic face. Luckily, she feels the same way about you! Babies are naturally attracted to human faces, so don't be alarmed if it seems like she has a bit of a staring problem.
- Sit with your knees bent, and prop your little one with her back against your knees so you can get plenty of face time. That way, you're sitting face-to-face and your baby gets the chance to check out her favorite person.
- Stay within range. In the first weeks after birth, you baby's sight is limited to about 12 inches from her face. By the end of the first month, she'll be able to focus on stuff about three feet away so she'll be able to see your face clearly even if you're at arm's length.
Gives Hunger Cues. No surprise here: babies eat—a lot. Simply put, their tiny tummies can't hold a lot of food, which means they snack on small amounts frequently through the day. At one month old, your tot should be eating 6 to 12 times per day, or every two to three hours. Four to six ounces is the norm, but as long as your babe is having wet and dirty diapers, seems active when awake, and is growing steadily, you don't need to worry about exact amounts.
- Pay attention to the hunger cues. Some little ones "root" or search for the nipple with their mouths, others cry out, and some grunt. Test for hunger by touching your finger to her cheek; a hungry baby turns to the finger. Waiting until your baby is starving to offer up the goods could cause gulping, which adds up to painful gas in the belly—ouch!
Raises Head. OK, your baby isn't exactly ready to run a marathon just yet. It might seem like she doesn't do much, when in fact her body is developing at a rapid rate, making her capable of new skills every day. Pediatrician Dr. Tisa Johnson-Hooper notes that a healthy one-month-old "raises [her] head slightly off bed when lying on stomach, and holds [her] head up momentarily when supported."
- Promote motor activity by starting tummy time. Lay a blankie on the floor and place your baby on her stomach. Get down on the floor as well and encourage her to lift her head. It won't go very far but it can help strengthen those important neck muscles.
- Lay your baby on your chest when she's alert. It'll give you more face time, so she'll probably try to raise her head up to look you in the eye. Plus, it's a perfect way to bond!
Communicates with a Purpose.
When she's not crying, your tiny tot's the strong and silent type. That's because wailing away is her main mode of communication with you. Unfortunately, most parents don't speak "crying-ese," which means you'll be playing the guessing game as you try to figure out what your baby wants when she cries. Unless the cause is obvious, try checking the basics. Babies generally cry when they're hungry, tired, or uncomfortable.
- Listen carefully to your baby's cries. In that first month, you'll probably learn to discern the difference between an "I'm hungry" cry and a "that hurt!" cry. The intensity and volume of the sobs will alter depending on what she wants. If your baby cries inconsolably, talk to your pediatrician. Colic and digestive issues can both cause near-constant fussing.
- If your baby's screams ever escalate to a point where you become frustrated and upset, place her safely in her crib and walk away. She'll be fine for a few seconds, and you need a time-out. Never, ever shake or handle a crying baby roughly. As little as five seconds of shaking could lead to permanent brain damage and even death.
The first month at home with your brand-new baby puts you on a crazy rollercoaster of emotions. From being completely blissed-out as your baby sleeps in her crib to being totally confused and frustrated as she wails in the night, it's all part of the gig. The best part is that you have tons of time to learn as you go, and your little one is the perfect partner to help you figure it all out.