Growth & Development Of A Baby During The Period Of Infancy

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Infancy is the period of time between birth and two years of age. During this time, extraordinary growth and development occur following a cephalocaudal pattern (or top down) and a proximodistal pattern (center of body to extremities). A baby can see before it speaks, move its arms before its fingers, etc. An infant’s height increased by approximately 40 percent by the age of 1. By the age of 2, a child is nearly one-fifth of the its weight and half its height as they will be as an adult. Infants require a great deal of sleep, with the average in this period of 12.8 hours a day. The sleep an infant gets can have an impact of their cognitive functions later in life, such as improved executive function (good sleep) or language delays (poor sleep).

Proper nutrition during this period is also imperative for infant development. Breast feeding an infant exclusively during the first six months of life provides many benefits to both the infant and the mother including appropriate weight gain for the infant and a reduction in ovarian cancer for the mother. However, both breast feeding and bottle feeding are appropriate options for the baby. As the infant gets older, appropriate amounts of fruits and vegetables are important for development as well as limiting junk food.

Motor skills development is thought to follow the dynamic systems theory in this the infant assembles skills based on perceptions and actions. For example, if an infant wants a toy, he needs to learn how to reach for that toy to grasp it. An infant is born with reflexes, which are required for them to adapt to their environment before they learn anything, such as the rooting reflex and sucking reflex for eating. Some of these reflexes are specific to this age, some are permanent throughout their life, such as blinking of the eyes. Gross motor skills are the next major skill that an infant develops. These involve the large muscle groups and are skills such as holding their head up, sitting, standing, and pulling themselves up on furniture. The first year of life, the motor skills help the infant provide themselves independence, while the second year is key to honing in the skills they have learned. Fine motors skills develop secondary to gross motor skills. These include activities such as grasping a spoon and picking up food off of their high-chair tray.

Infant senses are not developed during the prenatal period. Visual acuity in the infant that is comparable to an adult, occurs by about 6 months of age. A fetus can hear in the womb, but is unable to distinguish loudness and pitch which is developed during infancy. Other senses are present, such as taste and smell, but preferences are developed throughout infancy.

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Jean Piaget’s theory on cognitive development is one that is widely used. This theory stresses that children develop their own information about their surroundings, instead of information just being given to them. The first stage of Piaget’s theory is the sensorimotor stage. This stage involves infants using their senses to coordinate with their motor skills they are developing. There is some research that has been completed that states that Piaget’s theories may need to be modified. For example, Elizabeth Spelke endorses a core knowledge approach, in which she believes that infants are born with some innate knowledge system in order for them to navigate the world in which they are born into.

Language development begins during this stage also and all infants follow a similar pattern. The first sounds from birth is babbling, crying and cooing which are all forms of language. First words are usually spoken by about 13 months with children usually speaking two word sentences by about two years. Language skills can be influenced both by biological and environmental considerations in the infant.

An infant displays emotion very early in life. The first six months of their life you can see surprise, joy, anger, sadness, and fear. Later in infancy, you will also see jealousy, empathy, embarrassment, pride, shame and guilt. The later developed emotions are emotions that require thought, which is why they don’t develop until after the age of 1. Crying can indicate three different emotions in an infant – basic cry – typically related to hunger, anger cry and pain cry. A baby’s smile can also mean different things – such as a reflexive smile or a social smile. Fear is an emotion that is seen early in a baby’s life. One that is often talked about is “stranger danger” or separation protest.

There are three classifications of temperaments of a child that were proposed by Chess and Thomas. These include an easy child, difficult child, and slow-to-warm up child. These temperaments can be influenced by biology, gender, culture and parenting styles. The remaining personality traits that are developed in the period include trust, developing sense of self and independence. Erik Erickson first stage of development occurs within the first year of life with his trust vs mistrust theory. The concept of trust vs mistrust is seen throughout the development of a person and is not limited to this age group. The second year of life Erickson’s theory of autonomy vs shame and doubt. As an infant develops his skills, they need to be able to do this independently or feelings of shame and doubt develop. The development of autonomy during infancy and the toddler years can lead to greater autonomy during the adolescent years.

Social interactions occur with infants as early as 2 months of age, when they learn to recognize facial expressions of their caregivers. They show interest in other infants as early as 6 month of age, but this interest increases greatly as they reach their 2nd birthday. Locomotion plays a big part in this interaction allowing the child to independently explore their surrounding and others that may be around them. Attachment theories are widely available. Freud believes attachment is based on oral fulfillment, or typically the mother who feeds them. Harlow said that attachment is based on the comfort provided based on his experiment with wire monkeys. Erikson’s theory goes back to the trust vs mistrust theory which was talked about earlier.

As a new baby is brought into a family, the dynamic of the household changes. There is a rebalancing of social, parental and career responsibilities. The freedom that was once had prior to the baby is no longer there. Parents need to decide if a parent stays home to take care of the child or if the child is placed into a daycare setting. Parental leave allows a parent to stay home with their child for a period of time after their birth, but then requires them to be place in some type of child care setting. Unfortunately, the quality of child care varies greatly. Typically, the higher the quality, also the higher the price tag. A parent needs to be an advocate for their child and monitor the quality of care they are receiving, no matter the location they are at. There has been shown to be little effect on the children who are placed in child care instead of being cared for by a full-time parent.

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