Babies grow and develop at a very rapid rate during the first year of
life. They grow physically, mentally, emotionally and socially. However,
through this portfolio, I intend to discuss the physical growth and
development patterns of the infant through their first year.
To begin with, development refers to the baby’s increased skill in
using various body parts. When dealing with the development of a child
there are three basic developmental rules.
First Developmental Rule:
This rule states that babies develop in the head region first, then
the trunk, and lastly in the legs and feet. Therefore, it is said that
babies develop in a head-to-toe direction or cephalocaudally. For example,
a baby can hold up their head before they can grasp an object with their
hand. Also, they can feed themself before they can walk. Second
The second rule explains that children develop from the midline, or
centre of the body, outward toward the fingers and toes. This stage or
rule is the one which affects the development of motor skills. Motor
skills are the child’s ability to control movement. There are two basic
classifications of motor skills, gross motor skills and fine motor skills.
Gross motor skills are those which involve the large muscles. Whereas,
fine motor skills are those involving the smaller muscle groups. For
example, a child can grasp a big ball in their arms before they can catch a
baseball in their hands. The fine skills of hands and feet are the last to
develop. Third Developmental Rule:
Finally, this rule reveals that, as the brain develops, a child
responds to more and more sights and sounds in their environment.
Furthermore, they learn to respond to much finer details.
The Baby’s Body
In this section, you will find specific break-downs of the baby’s body
parts. I decided to do this to show how the baby grows and develops in
each area of their body. Also, you will see how these developing body
parts affect the developing motor skills of the child. The following areas
will be discussed, their size and weight, the head, brain, eyes, ears, arms
and hands and finally, the legs and feet and the trunk.
Size and Weight
The average baby is 20 inches long at birth, or 50.8cm. However, not
all babies are born the same length, generally, lengths vary from 18-21.5
inches or 45.7-54.6 centimetres.
The average baby weighs 7.5 pounds at birth, or 3.4 kilograms.
Typically, the range is from 5.75-10 pounds or from 2.6-4.5 kilograms.
A general rule is that a baby increases in height by 50% and triples
its birth weight in the first year. Clearly, this is a very rapid growth
rate, however, the rate of growth slows down considerably after infancy.
The head of a newborn baby is very large compared to the rest of their
body. For example, compared to the baby’s total length of about 20 inches,
the length of the head measures approximately 5 inches…which equals
one-fourth of the total length.
There are four pieces of bone that make up the skull. These pieces
are flexible. This is so that they can move slightly while the baby is
being forced down the birth canal. The four skull bones will no join until
the baby is about 18 months old. The area between the “pieces”, at the top
of the baby’s head is called the fontanel, or the “soft spot”. The
flexibility of the skull gives the baby protection form concussion caused
by bumps or falls. I remember being warned when my little sister was born,
not to touch her head because of this “soft spot”. However, through my
research, I found out that you cannot hurt a baby by touching the head
gently. The Brain
Even though the brain is large at birth, it’s development is
incomplete. The part of the brain controlling posture and balance develops
rapidly during the baby’s first year of life. Eyes
Babies are able to see at birth. Primarily, they notice movement.
Also, research shows that newborn babies are best able to see an object
that is between 5 and 18 inches away. Also, newborns are extremely
sensitive to bright lights. Therefore, a baby may open his or her eyes in
a dimly lighted room more comfortably then in a brightly light room. Ears
Babies have very good hearing. They often startle easily and will cry
when they hear loud noises. I remember when my little sister was born, she
liked to have songs sung to her and she would quite down when music
started. It has been proven that babies must be able to hear in order to
develop language normally. Arms and Hands
At birth, a baby has virtually no control of their arms and hands.
The baby automatically grips objects tightly, for example, a pencil or a
finger. Most babies are not able to open their hands freely until they
reach 3 months old.
Babies first grasp objects in the palm of the hand with a whole-hand
movement. It takes many months before they can pick up an object with the
thumb and forefinger. This example proves the third developmental
rule…gross and fine motor skills. Legs and Feet
Legs and feet are the most helpless of the baby’s body parts. To begin
with, the legs are drawn up in the prenatal position. Legs also make
automatic creeping or swimming motions. The legs and feet are the last
body parts to be controlled by the infant. For example, a baby sits alone
and grasps objects with his or her hands long before learning to walk.
Again this is a demonstration of the first rule of development…the baby
develops in a head-to- toe direction. Trunk
The main part of the body is called the trunk. The trunk will double
and redouble in size several times before a baby reaches adulthood. In
newborns, the control of the trunk must wait until the brain matures.
After about 3 months, control of the head and spine begins. By 5 months,
the baby can usually sit up with some help and by 14 months, most babies
The entire process of growth and development is called maturation.
Most of the development and growth described throughout this project
happens as the baby increases in age. Physical maturation cannot be taught
to a child. A baby cannot be taught to sit or to stand before muscles
develop. These skills are relevant only after the baby’s muscles have
matured. Nature has set a general time for each child’s muscles to mature,
making it possible for children to accomplish skills. In a chart, on page
6, I have summarized skills that are generally accomplished at certain ages
through a baby’s developing months. Also on a chart on page 9, the
physical components of growth, involving large muscle control, small muscle
control, seeing, eating, sleeping, and hearing are summarized.
The First Year
What can a 3-month-old baby do?
At 3 months, a baby is alert and responding to the world.
* When put on her tummy, she can hold her chest and head up
for 10 seconds.
* She tries to swipe at toys hung over the crib.
* She turns her head toward an interesting sound or listens to
* Loves to stare at people’s faces.
* She coos and gurgles
* Height-23.5 inches *Weight-12.5 pounds
What can a 6-month-old baby do?
At 6 months, she is developing control over her body.
* She can sit with support and may sit alone for short periods
* She can roll over
* She will hold out her arms to be lifted up or reach and grab
* She can hold her own bottle and toys.
* She laughs out loud, babbles, “calls” for help and screams
* Height-26 inches*Weight-16 pounds
What can a 9-month-old baby do?
At 9 months, she is exploring her environment.
* She can sit unassisted, crawl, pull to a stand and side-step
* She can use her fingers to point, poke, and grasp small
* She feeds herself finger foods
* She knows her name and responds to simple commands
* She uses “jargon”-babbling a pattern as if she were speaking
a foreign language.
* Height-27.5 inches*Weight-19 pounds
What can a 12-month-old baby do?
At 1 year, she is striving for independence.
* She stands and may walk by herself.
* She climbs up and down stairs and out of the crib or play-
* She prefers using one hand over the other and can drop and
* She fears strange people and places.
* She remembers events, expresses affection, shows emotions,
uses trial and error to solve a problem.
* Height-29.5 inches*Weight-22 pounds