Hesperian Health Guides
Birth to 3 months old
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The activities in this chapter are divided into 2 parts: for babies from birth to 3 months old and for babies 4 to 6 months old. These are the ages when babies can begin to work on the skills described here. But remember that it can take months for a baby to learn a new skill. So you may want to work on a few skills at a time. And remember that each baby will learn at her own pace. In the first 3 months of life, a baby can learn to:
- recognize familiar voices and sounds
- make noises other than crying
- discover her hands and feet
- lift her head
- tell the difference between smells
- touch and hold objects
- enjoy different kinds of touch
- help calm herself down
- 1 To help your baby learn to trust people and her surroundings
- 2 To encourage your baby to respond to people and to sounds
- 3 To help your baby become aware of her hands and legs, and to use her hands to hold objects
- 4 To help your baby develop control of her head
- 5 To help your baby explore objects through taste and smell
- 6 To help your baby feel different kinds of touch
- 7 To help your baby get ready to roll over
To help your baby learn to trust people and her surroundings
A baby who can see soon learns that certain sounds, touches, and smells come from different people or objects. This helps her make sense of the world, feel secure in it, and want to explore it. But sounds, touches, and smells can frighten a blind baby because they seem to come from nowhere. She needs extra help to understand and feel secure in her surroundings.
You can help her understand where sounds and things that feel different come from. Help her know that learning about them can be fun.
Since your baby may not see what is about to happen, she needs you to let her know what will happen next. For example:
To encourage your baby to respond to people and to sounds
Keep your baby near you when she is awake. Speak to her often to let her know you are near. She will learn to recognize your voice and respond to it.
Encourage family members to talk with her about what they are doing. If the same person always does the same activity — like giving the baby a bath — she will begin to recognize members of the family by what they do.
Encourage your baby to smile by talking to her. She may smile again if you blow softly on her belly or play with her toes.
her to use her voice.
When your baby begins to make sounds, play with her by putting her hands on your mouth and throat while you repeat the sounds. This also helps her learn where sounds come from.
To help your baby become aware of her hands and legs,
and to use her hands to hold objects
When feeding your baby, gently push upward on your baby’s arm so that she puts her hand on your breast. This helps her get ready to hold objects. Feeding is also a good time to talk or sing to your baby.
|Try tying a toy that makes noise -
like a small bell, seed pod, or
bracelet - on her wrist or ankle.
She will try to find the sound with
her other hand and play with it.
|Put your baby on her side |
with a cloth behind her back
for support. She will
naturally bring her hands
together to play.
|Remember, since small objects can choke a baby, you should stop her if she tries to put small toys or objects all the way into her mouth.|
Give her things to hold that will feel different from each other when she touches them, like a piece of smooth, silky cloth and a rough cloth. You can also encourage her to pull on objects like a strong string of beads or a knotted cord. If you pull back slightly, she may pull harder.
Try giving her a gentle massage all over, using vegetable oil or just your hands. Start with her chest and move outward to her hands. Then move back to her bottom and down her legs.
After she gets used to your massage, try using cloths with different textures to gently rub her body. Afterward, encourage her to touch different parts of her body - for example, to touch her hand to her legs.
Touch her hands and feet when you play together. Pat them or blow lightly on them and name them.
To help your baby develop control of her head
A baby’s neck muscles grow strong when she lies on her stomach and lifts her head. A baby who can see will lift her head up to look at things, but a baby who cannot see will need other reasons to lift her head. Many babies may not like to lie on their stomachs. Your child may be more willing to do this if you:
Place your baby on your chest. If her face is near your face, she will want to lift her head when she hears your voice, or she will want to touch your face. You can also hold your arms around her and rock back and forth.
Put your baby over your knees, while supporting her with your hand. Rock her by moving your knees. This is an easy way to hold your child and encourages her to lift her head and strengthens her neck muscles. It also helps her prepare to crawl.
Let your baby feel a noisy toy, then shake it about 15 centimeters (6 inches) above her head. She will often lift her head to pay attention to the sound.
To help your baby explore objects through taste and smell
Babies first learn about the world by tasting and exploring objects with their mouths. This is especially important for children who cannot see well because they must learn a lot through their other senses. Everything the baby plays with should be clean, and big enough so the baby will not choke.
To help your baby feel different kinds of touch
Play a game by dipping parts of his body in water, naming each part.
Encourage her to touch things with an interesting feel and a strong but pleasant smell - like fruits, vegetables, or flowers.
To help your baby get ready to roll over
A baby who can see learns to roll over as she reaches for things. If your baby cannot see, you may have to help her learn to roll over. As her head, neck, and shoulders get strong, you will notice your baby holding her head up and turning when she hears sounds. Now she can prepare for rolling over.