Make a Payment
Skip 
Navigation Link

Child Development & Parenting: Infants (0-2)

Infancy Introduction

Child Development & Parenting: Infants (0-2)

This topic center covers parenting and child development of infant children (ages 0-2). For a complete review of the theories of child development upon which this article is based, please visit our Child and Adolescent Development topic center. For coverage of child development and parenting topics applicable to preschool children (early childhood aged 3 to 7 please visit our Early Childhood Parenting and Child Development topic center. For information on parenting and child development of middle childhood children (ages 8 to 11), please visit our Middle Childhood Parenting and Development center and Child Development Theory: Middle Childhood center. For information on parenting adolescents (ages 12-24), please visit our Adolescence Child Development and Parenting and Child Development Theory: Adolescence topic center.

 

This center is the second in a series concern...More

Fast Facts: Learn! Fast!

What physical development takes place in infants?

  • Physical development occurs in several important ways, including children growing in size and weight, but also becoming better able to move themselves around and to manipulate objects, and having senses that become more refined over time.
  • Babies can feel and respond to pain and touch from birth, and this is an important first connection between infants and caregivers.
  • Babies can hear at birth, and doctors can test infants for hearing problems right after birth. As infants grow, their mental ability to process and use information they hear improves.
  • Unlike their abilities to smell or hear, babies are not able to see as well as adults do. However by age 2-3 months they have the ability to see a full range of colors and can focus on objects just like adults.
  • Infants need to learn how to move and to use their bodies to perform various tasks, a process better known as motor development.
  • One way babies learn to use their bodies is by learning to achieve large physical tasks, or gross motor skills, such as crawling and walking.
  • Fine motor skills develop alongside gross motor skills. Beyond just learning how to use and manipulate their bodies in large movements, babies are learning how to use their hands and how to coordinate smaller movements with their senses, such as sight.
  • Babies grow at an amazing rate in the first months and years of life as they rapidly reproduce cells and grow in length and weight.
  • In the first 2 years, babies grow to almost half their adult height and can quadruple their birth weight, and their bodily proportions also change.

For more information

What cognitive development takes place in infants?

  • Babies are not only growing physically during the first 2 years of life, but also cognitively (mentally).
  • Every day while they interact with and learn about their environment they are creating new connections and pathways between nerve cells both within their brains, and between their brains and bodies.
  • A major development during this period (usually around 8-12 months) is that of object permanence, the understanding that something still exists even if it can't be seen.
  • As infants' brains continue to develop, infants also develop the ability to communicate; to comprehend and produce spoken language.
  • Babies learn language by taking in information through their senses of hearing and sight as they learn to process the meanings behind those sights and sounds.
  • Babies' and young children's language development is strongly influenced by the language they hear spoken around them and to them.
  • Research has shown that young children are better able to learn multiple languages or languages other than their family's primary language because their growing brains enable them to learn a wide variety of meanings, words, and language structures.

For more information

What emotional/social development takes place in infants?

  • Babies can feel interest, distress, disgust, and happiness from birth, and can communicate these through facial expressions and body posture.
  • Infants begin showing a spontaneous "social smile" around age 2 to 3 months, and begin to laugh spontaneously around age 4 months.
  • Between ages 2 and 6 months, infants express other feelings such as anger, sadness, surprise, and fear.
  • Between ages 5 and 6 months, babies begin to exhibit stranger anxiety where they do not like it when other people hold or play with them, and will show this discomfort visibly.
  • Around age 12 months, babies become aware of not only other peoples' expressions but also their actual emotional states, especially distress.
  • Between the ages of 13 and 18 months, separation anxiety may subside as object permanence develops, and they understand their caretaker isn't gone even when they can't see them.
  • By age 2, toddlers can show a wide range of emotions and are becoming better at regulating and coping with their emotions.
  • Another important aspect of emotional development, temperament, has to do with babies' general emotional and social state.
  • Temperament refers to babies' innate personality; the general pattern of how babies will react to and interact with their environment which is present from birth.
  • Closely related to infants' emotional development is their social development; it's through relationships with caregivers and other people that children learn how to apply and use their emotions, expressions, and emotional understanding.

For more information

What sexuality and body awareness takes place in infants?

  • While many people believe that sexual development does not become an important issue until puberty and adolescence, children actually begin showing sexual behavior and interest in their sexual functioning from infancy.
  • Babies are continually exploring their own bodies in order to learn about them.
  • They want to understand what they look like and how parts work and this will include investigating their genitals or walking around naked.
  • Because such behavior is a normal and natural development of their sexual, gender, and personal identity, caregivers should avoid chastising young children or labeling these kinds of exploratory actions as "bad" or "dirty."
  • Instead, caregivers should set and enforce proper limits on such behavior, allowing toddlers and young children to explore themselves at home in private and discouraging them from doing these behaviors in public.
  • Distracting children, and guiding them towards more socially appropriate behavior are good ways to get children to refocus without shaming them in the process.

For more information

How can I successfully parent my infant?

  • Coming home from the hospital for the first time with a tiny person who depends entirely on you for all his needs can be a daunting prospect and it's normal to feel a mixture of excitement, joy, and love along with some anxiety, fear, and a little trepidation.
  • It's important to support the baby\'s head and neck in order to stabilize the entire body, and holding infants securely also communicates unconditional love that helps to form the parent-child bond.
  • Parents and caregivers should facilitate movement and growth by giving babies safe environments to play and to explore on their own.
  • Infants need food and water to survive, to grow, and to thrive.
  • Babies take in nutrients and fluids, and their bodies break them down, keep what they need, and get rid of the waste products through urination and fecal elimination. Preparation is the key to smooth diaper changes for everyone involved.
  • Caregivers can help their baby learn how to sleep in more adult-like patterns and how to soothe themselves to sleep. While some babies easily adapt to more mature sleep cycles, other babies may take much more effort and patience to do so.
  • Babies need to be bathed regularly and there are different ways to wash babies, according to their age, motor abilities, and preferences.
  • Babies cry because they're hungry, tired, sick, hot, cold, in pain, bored, over stimulated, want affection, or are uncomfortable in some way and parents can often learn to differentiate their baby's cries.
  • At a normal well-baby visit, parents should expect doctors to measure and weigh the baby and to discuss the baby's feeding and elimination, sleep habits, growth, development, and general well-being.
  • Another important factor in maintaining infant health is building up their immune system, or their ability to fight off serious infections, through immunizations.
  • Common baby medical concerns include teething, colic, coughs and colds, fever, and diarrhea and vomiting
  • Babies need to be loved and nurtured from birth to create a trusting bond between them and the adults who care for them, and to help create trust and interest in the world at large, which enables them to grow and to learn.
  • Another way to help babies begin to learn social skills, stay safe, and begin to learn values and morals is to provide appropriate discipline from birth.
  • Caregivers need to provide their babies with a safe environment in which to live and to grow.

For more information

How can I keep my infant safe?

  • Caregivers can help babies to safely explore their world by attending to and fixing aspects of babies' environments that may be dangerous for them.
  • Caregivers need to baby-proof not only a baby's primary home, but also the car that the baby will be transported in, and the community of other homes and environments that the baby may visit and explore.
  • Caregivers can ensure a good night's sleep for their babies and themselves by following these tips to create a safe sleeping space for infants and toddlers.
  • Caregivers can follow some simple guidelines to keep diaper changing safe.
  • With a few precautionary measures, the family kitchen can be the center of a rich and busy family life.
  • The bathroom can become a safe and pleasant place for bath time and other baby fun times if important precautions are observed.
  • There are several things that caregivers can do to reduce the possibility that their children will be harmed in a fire-related situation.
  • If a family is looking to bring a pet into the home (and no pet is presently in the home), they should consider waiting until their child is at least five years old.
  • Concerned parents can also think about ways to make car outings occur as safely as possible.
  • Backyard play areas and other segments of the home property need to be monitored and outfitted for safety.
  • A solid emergency plan should be developed for handling worst-case scenarios, should they ever come to pass.

For more information

How can I stimulate my infant and enrich their life?

  • It is important to think about infant stimulation or enrichment (activities that arouse or stimulate your baby's sense of sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell).
  • This stimulation can help foster physical, social, emotional, brain, and nervous system development.
  • You don't have to worry excessively about making sure your baby masters a rigid set of exercises or activities in the first months of life, but by being aware of the different areas of child development, you can help enrich your child's experiences and growth.
  • The foremost way you provide encouragement to children is through showing them love and nurturing.
  • Another way you can show your baby love and affection is through providing them with toys, songs and games as learning tools.
  • From birth, you can help your baby to develop physically by giving him or her activities that help build upper body and neck strength.
  • To help very young infants develop language and other cognitive skills, you can talk to your baby.
  • Between ages six to twelve months, you can continue to encourage physical growth and motor skill development through interactive games and activities.
  • For more social and emotional development, you can play light chasing and surprising games by crawling around the living room or other space.
  • Another way to help build sociability is to expose babies to new social situations.
  • By twelve months, toddlers are generally beginning to master walking on their own and caregivers can begin to build on that skill.
  • By 18-24 months, children often enjoy simple pretend play.

For more information


News Articles

  • Window Blinds: A Silent Killer in Your Home

    Decades after the danger was first recognized, young children are still being injured or even killed by the cords in window blinds. More...

  • Health Tip: Starting a Tooth Brushing Routine Early

    Tooth brushing should begin in infancy to instill lifelong habits and protect teeth throughout adulthood. More...

  • When a Preemie Goes Home, Dad Stresses Out

    When parents bring a premature baby home from the hospital, it's the dads who feel the most stress, a new study finds. More...

  • State Newborn Screening Policies Cut Infant Cardiac Deaths

    Implementation of state newborn screening policies for critical congenital heart disease is associated with a decrease in infant cardiac deaths, according to a study published in the Dec. 5 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. More...

  • Lock Eyes With Your Baby, Synchronize Brain Waves?

    Gazing at your baby may do more than strengthen that bond with your newborn More...

  • 45 More
    • Newborns in Pain Might Not Show It

      Just because your newborn isn't a crybaby doesn't mean he doesn't feel pain, new research suggests. More...

    • Health Tip: Childproof Your Home

      Childproofing a home is important even after your little one reaches toddlerhood. More...

    • Practice Variation in Treatment for Bronchiolitis in Infants

      For infants with bronchiolitis, the use of evidence-based supportive therapies varies by hospital site, according to a study published online Nov. 28 in Pediatrics. More...

    • Health Tip: How to Clean a Breast Pump

      Women who use a breast pump should make sure the device is well cleaned to prevent contamination. More...

    • Babies Start Connecting Words Early On

      Babies apparently have a better understanding of adults' language than you might think. More...

    • Health Tip: Infant Medication Advice For New Moms

      A new mom has enough stress on her hands without worrying about giving medication to her newborn. More...

    • How to Spot the Virus That Puts Some Babies in the Hospital

      Is your baby's stuffy nose and cough just a cold or something more serious? More...

    • Prolonged Breast-Feeding May Guard Against Teen Eczema

      Encouraging new mothers to stick with breast-feeding may halve the already small risk that infants will develop eczema when they hit their teens More...

    • Vaccination Coverage High for Children Aged 19 to 35 Months

      Vaccination coverage has remained above 90 percent for many vaccinations among young children, and progress is being made toward immunization information systems program goals, according to two studies published online Nov. 2 in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. More...

    • U.S. Preemie Birth Rates Rise 2 Years in a Row

      WEDNESDAY, Nov. 1, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- After nearly a decade of decline, the preterm birth rate in the United States has risen for the second year in a row, the March of Dimes reports. More...

    • Delayed Cord Clamping Not Beneficial for Preterm Infants

      Delayed cord clamping does not result in lower incidence of death or major morbidity in preterm infants at 36 weeks, according to a study published online Oct. 29 in the New England Journal of Medicine to coincide with the Vermont Oxford Network 2017 Annual Quality Congress, held Oct. 26 to 30 in Chicago. More...

    • Even Partial Breast-Feeding for First Few Months Lowers SIDS Risk

      TUESDAY, Oct. 31, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- New research confirms that breast-feeding for two to four months of a newborn's life can significantly reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). More...

    • Health Tip: Sleep Train Your Baby

      Suggestions for success More...

    • ACAAI: Doctors Not Adhering to New Peanut Guidelines

      Many pediatricians are not adhering to revised guidelines for peanut allergies that recommend early introduction to high-risk infants, according to a study presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Annual Scientific Meeting, being held Oct. 26 to 30 in Boston. More...

    • Hypothermia May Help Newborns With Encephalopathy

      Hypothermia treatment initiated at six to 24 hours after birth for newborns with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy may reduce death or disability, but there is uncertainty about its effectiveness, according to a study published online Oct. 24 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. More...

    • Ob/Gyns Warn Against 'Vaginal Seeding' Trend for Newborns

      Transferring microbes from the mom to her infant born via C-section comes with infection risk. More...

    • Kids, Don't Touch the Toys at the Doctor's Office

      Pediatricians' group updates infection-prevention guidelines for medical offices. More...

    • CDC Updates Zika Guidance for Infant Care

      The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated its interim guidance for U.S. health care providers caring for infants with possible congenital Zika virus infection, according to a report published online Oct. 19 in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. More...

    • Higher Doses of Vitamin D May Boost Preemies' Bone Health

      Doubling amount given also improved their growth. More...

    • Health Tip: Avoid Baby Sleep Positioners

      Keep cribs free of objects and toys More...

    • Helping Preemies Avoid Unnecessary Antibiotics

      3 factors predicted when infant was at low risk of serious infection called sepsis. More...

    • Protecting Preemies From Stress Might Improve Later Mental Health

      Babies born at 2.2 pounds or less normally face higher risk of adult psychological issues. More...

    • 'Sleep Positioners' a Danger to Baby: FDA

      Infants should always be put to sleep on their back on a firm, bare surface. More...

    • Clinical Exome Sequencing Useful for Critically Ill Infants

      Clinical exome sequencing is an effective diagnostic tool for infants suspected of having monogenic disorders, according to a study published online Oct. 2 in JAMA Pediatrics. More...

    • Tdap Given in Pregnancy Protects Infants From Pertussis

      Tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid, and acellular pertussis vaccination during the third trimester of pregnancy is effective for preventing pertussis in infants in the first months of life, according to a study published online Sept. 28 in Clinical Infectious Diseases. More...

    • Whooping Cough Shot Works, But Many Moms-to-Be Skip It: CDC

      Timely vaccination can prevent three-quarters of cases in newborns. More...

    • Health Tip: Breast-feeding May Help Teeth

      For both mother and child More...

    • Heart-Lung Fitness Challenged in Early Full-Term Babies

      Researchers found those born at 37-38 weeks had higher risk of poorer cardiorespiratory fitness later in life. More...

    • Health Tip: Is Your Baby Teething?

      Recognizing signs and symptoms More...

    • Pediatricians Increasingly Aligned With Breastfeeding Guidelines

      Pediatricians' recommendations and practices regarding breastfeeding became more closely aligned with American Academy of Pediatrics policy from 1995 to 2014, according to a study published online Sept. 18 in Pediatrics. More...

    • Health Tip: Design a Non-Toxic Nursery

      Make your baby's space safe More...

    • Parents Getting Better at Using Car Seats Safely

      But older kids often miss out on booster seats. More...

    • Vision Problems Common in Babies Infected With Zika

      Impairments range in severity, two studies found. More...

    • 'Modest at Best' Discriminatory Ability for CBC Test in Infants

      Complete blood cell count parameters at commonly used or optimal thresholds do not offer high accuracy in identifying invasive bacterial infections in febrile infants (≤60 days of age), according to a study published online Sept. 11 in JAMA Pediatrics. More...

    • Does General Anesthesia Affect Babies' Brains?

      Small study finds reduction in white matter among children operated on as infants. More...

    • Health Tip: Avoid Juice Before Age 1

      Offer fresh fruit as a healthier choice More...

    • Race/Ethnicity Shown to Factor Into Quality of Care in NICU

      Race and ethnicity may be factors in the quality of care a premature baby receives in a neonatal intensive care unit, according to a study published online Aug. 28 in Pediatrics. More...

    • Hep B Vaccine Should Be Given Sooner: Pediatricians Group

      Shot should come within 24 hours of delivery, and not at first checkup. More...

    • Some Newborns Don't Get Heart Defect, Hearing Loss Tests

      Such screens are critical to early intervention efforts, CDC officials say. More...

    • Anti-Vaccine Info in Pregnancy May Delay Infant Immunization

      Pregnancy is an important time for educating about infant immunization, according to a study published online Aug. 18 in Pediatrics. More...

    • Too Many Babies Still Placed on Stomach to Sleep: Study

      Pediatric experts recommend infants always sleep on their backs to avoid SIDS. More...

    • Anti-Vaccine Family Members, Friends Spur Many Moms to Delay Baby's Shots

      Study found even if pregnant women later hear better info from docs, they may still wait on immunizations. More...

    • Increase in Survival Without Severe Disability for Preemies

      During the past two decades, survival and survival without severe or moderate neuromotor or sensory disabilities have increased among preterm infants, according to a study published online Aug. 17 in The BMJ. More...

    • Parents of Preemies End Up Just Fine: Study

      When kids are grown, quality of life is the same as for parents of babies born full-term. More...

Share This

Resources