Translated by Mélanie Poulain
The infant under the age of 3 months old
The newborn limbs (arms, legs) have high muscle tone, whereas back has low one; neither head or back don’t hold up. The baby is not yet able to hold things, nor grasp some. Innate reflexes disappear around 3 months of age: like grasping (fingers curl around the adult ones; same kind of reflex for feet) or like walking reflex if baby held in a standing position.
During this period, the baby essentially communicates physiological needs by cries and tonic reactions: they are physically expressed. Consequently, cries can have different meanings, which parents must understand and read. The baby tone varies between hypertonia when in a state of tension relating to a vital need (being hungry for instance), and relaxation when needs being met.
In certain situations, massages can be used for easing baby abdominal pains, constipation, gas, colic. Simply start with putting hands on the baby belly to soothe the baby, show your presence, engage with, also relax and bring warmth. Then, massage baby belly with one hand alternatively from the bottom of the chest towards the legs. Then, squeeze knees and slowly push them together several times towards the abdomen. Massage can also be done in the clockwise twist around the bellybutton.
When baby is crying for a physical reason we often find out solution to answer it. When cries have an emotional cause, it is also important to have a good listening and a right response.
To achieve this, being relaxed yourself is necessary and as long as possible trying to engage with the baby looking each other in the eyes and putting hands on the baby body to make physical contact. When you are sure that the baby has fully communicated his/her message and feels you get it, use rocking, walking, caresses to comfort your baby, which will help being reorganized. A baby who feels heard will sleep more deeply afterwards and will feel safe.
It’s a skilled baby: sensory skills are already multiple at birth, and keep on progressively developing. For instance, the baby recognizes the mother face at 2 days of age, as well as her voice sound. Before 3 months of age, eye-tracking will acquire fluidity, which will allow to interact differently with others and to discover environment.
If smiling when sated, this smile is a satisfaction, well-being smile, it will become the way the baby uses his/her body to communicate at about 2 months of age. Afterwards, smiling will be a response to adult smile.
The infant at 3 to 6 months of age
Towards 3 months of age, trunk muscle structure tones up, back becomes more tonic and head holds up. This allows upper limbs be free and an object be grabbed voluntarily towards the 5 months of age (the baby can grab with both hands, in a undifferentiated way). The reflexes disappear gradually, and the baby motricity is more harmonious. He/she can sit on his/her own with support of the hands and can roll over near 6 months of age.
At this age, placing the baby on his/her tummy on a daily basis allows to develop strength to hold the head up (increasing axial tonus), and to enrich vision of objects. Thus mobility will be encouraged. But leaving the baby in a position that he/she can’t leave on his/her own could have an over-stimulation effect, while short moments are enough as for instance, during the baby change.
Smile becomes a communication mean. The baby observes more and more environment, own body, and more particularly hands. Furthermore, baby puts objects in mouth as the favorite way of exploring them so as to find out their characteristics / how they feel like.
The infant at 6 months to 1 year of age
The infant discovers and becomes aware of his/her whole body, feet, etc.
Motor skills are used to get mobile as first rolling over and later bottom-shuffling (like commando-crawl) near 9 months of age. Acquisition of crawling (all fours position) comes next, which allows higher speed in moving around. But postural change depends on every child. Certain use very different way to explore surroundings (for instance, like tripod sit: sitting leaning forward on his hands for support), others will never use crawling and move directly to pulling up, standing, and walking.
Walking achievement is generally made between 12 and 18 months (very variable according to the children): it allows exploring space and environment in a different way. The child starts to cruise (moving around upright while holding on to furniture), experimenting balance which is at first difficult to hold. Then, walking and balance are getting better and better.
Leaving your baby as often as possible barefoot or with anti-skid socks when learning to walk has benefits: you make your baby discover various sensations of direct contact with the floor (carpet, stone floor, parquet) and develop ankle and foot muscle structure. Therefore, be careful regarding shoes too heavy or ankle boots.
The infant can release voluntarily an object from 7 months of age, and the movement is gradually going to perfect. Besides, he/she can pick up items with thumb and index from 9 months of age, which allows to be more and more precise in manipulations, and to grab smaller objects.
At about 8 months of age, the baby understands the concept of object permanence – in other words, he/she understands that an object or a person exists even after it's hidden from view or out of sight. This is strongly connected to the separation anxiety, which begins to manifest at this period. Indeed he/she understands that his/her mom can leave, and the child starts crying when around strangers.
Regarding language, the baby first uses syllables (ba, ba, etc) and then joins them. Towards 9 months of age, syllables are repeated (dada, mama, etc.). At approximately 12 months of age, "dad" and "mom" are used in an appropriate way and symbolic gestures appear (for instance, "goodbye" of the hand). The baby begins to use a meaningful global language, through words-sentences, for instance "fallen scratches". Besides, simple sentences are understandable.
Towards 12 months of age, the child likes playing with blocks (building games); he/she plays to show and then make objects disappear, to observe and then to hide. It allows him/her to replay mother presence / absence, to work out this absence, and to understand that they will be together once again later.
Babywearing information according to baby age
Skin is the primary sense organ in the baby sensory experience and touch is favorite communication mean with others. Babywearing can make the baby feel reassured and secure. Tonic information is shared between the baby and the adult (the baby tonus fits to the adult one; so, any adult body tension or contraction will be transposed to the baby who will likely reacts by tears or by same reactions of tension). Using a sling is recommended because it allows better physiological position maintaining baby’s spine in a curve, and offers skin-to-skin benefits, which newborns need.
Babywearing recommendations before 3 months of age:
Before 3 months of age, the infant needs to feel well maintained. It is important to support the baby’s head, putting one hand behind neck, and bottom with the other hand. This will avoid the baby puts him(her)self in tension as he/she has no head control yet. Babywearing offers the baby being maintained from head to bottom. The “cradle” hold is typically used: it reminds the foetal, reassuring and pleasant position for the infant; as well as the “tummy to tummy" position which facilitates the baby digestion. It helps easing colic and gets spine and limbs relaxed. The forearm is slid under the infant body.
Babywearing recommendations before 3 and 10 months of age:
At this age, the baby can be front-outward carried, he/she is worn facing out: baby back is positioned against the body carrier.
Nevertheless, under 6 months of age, this position is not the most suitable to the baby physiology (hanging legs, firmly packed spine, etc.). The baby cannot snuggle up in case of fear, the fragile and vital baby body parts are exposed to shocks; relaxing and falling asleep quietly in this position is harder. Besides, he/she is exposed to numerous stimulations, especially visual and emotional, which cannot be regulated by him(her)self.
Babywearing recommendations from 10 months of age:
Babywearing position will be chosen according to the child weight: it could be front-outward carry position as described previously or back carry or hip carry position.
In another page, more babywearing benefits will be detailed....