Adult Crisis: (813)272-2958Children Crisis: (813)272-2882Outpatient: (813)272-2244

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

  • Nose Holds Clues to Baby's First Cold

    When a baby starts sniffling and sneezing, the type of bacteria in their nose may predict how long the cold will last, a new study finds. More...

  • Opioids Exact Another Toll on Newborns: Smaller Heads

    Infants born addicted to opioids may be more likely to have smaller heads that might hinder their development, new research suggests. More...

  • Scans, Ultrasound Spot Zika Brain Defects

    Ultrasounds and MRIs during pregnancy and after birth can detect most Zika-related brain abnormalities in infants, researchers report. More...

  • Cost of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: $23,000 Annually Per Case

    About 630,000 babies worldwide are born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) each year. They'll need care averaging $23,000 annually, new research suggests. More...

  • Old-Fashioned Play Beats Digital Toys for Kids, Pediatricians Say

    If you're shopping for toys this holiday season, make sure some simple, old-fashioned items are on your list, pediatricians say. More...

  • 45 More
    • What's Best for Babies With Recurring Ear Infections

      Infant ear infections can be a source of frustration for parents and babies alike. But there are steps to lessen them and, when they do occur, "less is more" is a better way to treat them. More...

    • Early Language Skills Tied to Higher IQ Decades Later

      How quickly children pick up language skills may help predict their IQ in middle age, a new Danish study suggests. More...

    • Cleaning Your Baby's Pacifier By Sucking On It May Do Baby Good

      Sucking your baby's pacifier to clean it may help protect your child against allergies, new research suggests. More...

    • Many Infants With Milk Allergy Seem to Outgrow It

      Milk allergy affects more than half of American infants who have food allergies in their first year of life, a new study finds. More...

    • Tracking Preemies' Head Size May Yield IQ Clues

      Head-size measurements can help screen for long-term IQ problems in very premature or very low birth weight babies, researchers say. More...

    • Breast Milk, Formula Affect Baby's 'Microbiome' in Different Ways

      Breast milk and infant formula both encourage the growth of similar types of bacteria in a baby's digestive system, but the bacteria from the two forms of food work differently, researchers report. More...

    • Your 6-Month-Old Isn't Sleeping Through the Night? Relax

      If your 6-month-old still wakes up at 2 a.m., a new study suggests you don't lose any additional sleep worrying about it. More...

    • Health Tip: Prevent Temper Tantrums

      Temper tantrums are a way of getting attention and expressing displeasure among younger kids who can't express their needs or control their emotions, the U.S. National Library of Medicine says. More...

    • Bringing Baby in a Lyft, Uber? Child Car Seats Are Rarely Included

      There are wide variations between states when it comes to child restraint rules for ride-share services such as Lyft and Uber, researchers report. More...

    • A Baby's Laugh Is Truly Monkey Business

      Babies laugh just like monkeys, researchers report. More...

    • Health Tip: Ease Separation Anxiety

      It is common and perfectly natural for a young child to feel some separation anxiety when a guardian isn't nearby, Harvard Medical School experts say. More...

    • Navigating New Parent Nerves

      A newborn can bring a sense of fulfillment to your life Ö and an equal amount of stress over everything from baby's health to your own parenting skills. More...

    • Soft Furniture No Cushion Against Falls for Young Kids

      But new research finds that falls from beds and sofas pose a greater risk to children than many parents believe. More...

    • Antibiotics During Infancy May Up Childhood Obesity Risk

      Babies who are prescribed antibiotics before they're 2 years old may be more likely to become obese children, new research suggests. More...

    • Family Leave Boosts Breastfeeding Rates, But Mostly for Affluent Moms

      Paid leave for new mothers may increase breastfeeding rates, but mainly among women with higher incomes, a new study contends. More...

    • Breastfeeding May Shield Baby From Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

      In the report, Finnish researchers say that breastfeeding appears to protect babies from dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria. More...

    • Experts Sound Warning About 'Baby Boxes'

      Cardboard baby boxes are gaining fans, but are they as safe as cribs and bassinets? More...

    • Breast Milk May Boost Preemies' Brain Development

      Breastfeeding premature babies could boost their brain development, new research suggests. More...

    • Number of Infants Born With Syphilis Reaches 20-Year High: CDC

      The number of newborns suffering from syphilis has nearly tripled in recent years, U.S. health officials reported Tuesday. More...

    • Milk Straight From Breast Best for Baby's Weight

      Breast milk from the bottle may not have as many benefits for a baby's weight as feeding straight from the breast, a new study suggests. More...

    • Parents Fret Over Fussy Eaters - but What Works?

      The nightly dinner battles many parents have with picky toddlers can be exhausting. Now, research suggests that either pressuring or rewarding kids to eat healthier may backfire. More...

    • Heart Defects, Sleep Apnea a Deadly Mix for Infants

      Infants who are born with heart defects are four times more likely to die in the hospital if they also have sleep apnea, new research indicates. More...

    • Health Tip: Prevent Diaper Rash

      It's every parent's nightmare -- diaper rash that causes itchy bumps, scaly skin and lots of discomfort for your baby. More...

    • Infant Walkers Still Injuring Thousands of Babies

      Despite decades of warnings about the hazards of baby walkers, thousands of toddlers still end up in hospital emergency rooms with walker-related injuries, new research shows. More...

    • Talking to Baby Might Boost Middle School Success

      Time spent reading to toddlers or having "conversations" with them helps boost their intelligence and thinking skills, even a decade later, new research shows. More...

    • Health Tip: Promote Play for Your Child

      Playtime is important to any child, especially one that is under pressure and stressed, the American Academy of Pediatrics says. More...

    • Pediatricians Make Change to Child Car Seat Guidelines

      Kids should ride in rear-facing car safety seats until they reach the highest height and weight their seat can hold, a leading pediatricians' group now says. More...

    • Newborns' Immune Systems Ramp Up After Birth

      A baby's immune system kicks into high gear immediately after birth, a new study finds. More...

    • Is a Health Secret Hiding in Your Infant's Diapers?

      Could baby poop hold the key to a healthy gut? More...

    • Health Tip: Your Toddler Can Be a Vegetarian

      A well-planned vegetarian diet is healthy for an infant or toddler, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says. More...

    • Are High-Tech Baby Monitors Worth It? Or Even Safe?

      That wearable oxygen monitor you bought for your baby could be feeding you bad information, researchers report More...

    • Good News, Bad News in U.S. Breastfeeding Report

      Most new mothers in the United States start out breastfeeding, but many stop sooner than recommended, a new federal government report says. More...

    • Health Woes Hit 1 in 7 Babies Exposed to Zika in U.S. Territories

      About 14 percent of babies born in U.S. territories to women infected with Zika have health problems that may be related to the virus, federal officials reported Tuesday. More...

    • To Combat Childhood Obesity, Start at Birth … or Even Before

      Efforts to prevent childhood obesity probably should begin at birth to have any hope of success, according to new results from a pair of clinical trials. More...

    • Breast-Feeding Suffers in Homes With Smokers: Study

      New mothers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home stop breast-feeding sooner than those in smoke-free households, researchers report. More...

    • Homeless Babies Face Lasting Health Risks

      Homelessness in infancy poses long-term harms, including greater risk for poor health and development later in childhood, a new study finds. More...

    • Health Tip: When Small Children Play Near Water

      Anyone -- especially a young child -- can drown in only a few inches of water. More...

    • Why Choo-Choo is Better for Baby's Language Skills Than Train

      Baby talk may sound silly, but it speeds infants' language development, a new study suggests. More...

    • Drinking While Breast-Feeding May Dampen Child's Brain Development

      Sorry, new moms, although you've already waited at least nine months, it's not time for a glass of wine just yet: New research suggests it might be best for baby's brain to wait until you've stopped breast-feeding. More...

    • Are You Car Seat Savvy?

      You know that wearing seat belts and putting kids in appropriate car seats can save lives, but are you doing all you can to make your car a safe environment for little ones? More...

    • Food Allergies Less Severe in Infants: Study

      A severe allergic reaction to food is much less serious in infants than in toddlers and older children, a new study concludes. More...

    • Many Young Kids Not Screened for Developmental Delays

      Doctors are supposed to screen young children to see if they're learning basic skills. But only 17 percent of kids get this critical testing in some places in the United States, a new study finds. More...

    • Health Tip: Recognizing Hearing Loss in Infants

      If an infant has hearing loss, it can affect the child's ability to develop speech, language and social skills, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. More...

    • Want Good Sleep for Baby? Food May Be Key

      If there's one thing frazzled new parents crave, it's that their baby sleeps well. More...

    • A-C-T to Prevent Hot Car Tragedies

      Every nine days, a child dies in a hot car in the United States, but a safety expert says such tragedies can easily be prevented. More...

Resources