Human Development and Family Studies
Colorado State University Cooperative Extension


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In many families today, both mothers and fathers have jobs. There also are many single-parent families where a mother or father has to work and needs someone else to take care of the children. When parents are away from home, they need someone they can trust to take care of their babies. That someone might be you!

Taking care of someone's baby is an important job. If you know about infants, you will know how to take care of them. You also will be more prepared to do your best work. You will know what the baby needs when he or she cries, and you will know what new changes to look for the next time you are asked to be a caregiver.


For the first few months after babies are born, they are called newborns. Newborns do not look like the pictures of infants that you see in magazines. Their skin is often red and splotchy, and their heads are bumpy and much too big for the rest of their bodies. Newborns spend most of their time sleeping and eating.

Newborn babies' stomachs hold only a small amount of food at one time. This means they get hungry about every three to four hours. Since newborns sleep an average of 14 to 16 hours each day, they spend most of their waking hours eating. They drink a tremendous amount of milk in a day, and it keeps their tiny bodies healthy, warm, and growing. If you were to drink only milk like a newborn, you would have to force down 10 to 20 quarts each day just to provide enough food to keep your larger body healthy, warm, and growing.

Drinking this much liquid creates problems for newborns. Their kidneys cannot keep up with all the milk, so newborns always seem to have wet diapers. And you always seem to be changing them! This is normal when babies are young and will change as they get older.

Let's look at two different babies that are typical examples of a newborn's behavior. Willy slept about 17 hours a day and ate every chance she got – about every two hours. When Willy was awake, she was groggy and cranky. She cried a lot and did not seem to want to be held.

Nicholas slept in longer stretches. He slept for about five hours and ate less often than Willy. When Nicholas was awake, he was AWAKE, and he drank as much milk as his little stomach could possibly hold. He often wanted to be held and would cuddle with his caregiver, crying only when he was hungry or wet.

During the first month, these two newborns were different when considering their eating and sleeping habits. Even their personalities were different. Nicholas was cheerful and cuddly, and Willy fussy and shy. However, as newborns, they also had many characteristics in common.
Both Nicholas and Willy could focus their eyes when they were only a few days old. They used their eyes to follow bright moving objects that were dangled in front of them by their parents. They also could tell the difference between milk and water. They showed their preference for milk
by sucking harder and longer on a nipple that tasted of it.

As Nicholas and Willy grew, they began to use new muscles at about the same time. When placed on their stomachs, they could both lift their heads up for a few moments. When given a finger or rattle, they were able to grasp it and hold onto it for a short time.

Both Nicholas and Willy are normal babies. The fact that they do some things, like eating and sleeping, differently also is normal. No two babies are alike. Some grow faster, some talk and walk sooner, and some make friends more easily than others. These varieties in development are
called individual differences. As you read this book, Willy and Nicholas will help you recognize individual differences and help you learn how babies grow and develop.


From 1 month to 18 months, babies are called infants. Infants are tiny human beings, full of awareness, but just beginning the physical, intellectual, emotional, and social growth necessary to become an adult.

Most people who study children agree that babies get some of their physical and intellectual characteristics from their parents. If a baby's parents are smart, chances are the baby also will be smart. If a baby's hair, skin, and eye color are brown, one or both of the parents probably had brown hair, skin, and eyes, too.

Some believe that parts of a baby's personality also come from their parents. A shy baby might have shy parents, and an active, curious baby might have a parent who can never sit still! These traits are all said to be part of the baby's heredity. They are inherited.

Most experts agree that how and where children live – or their environment – also influences personality. Children grow up differently according to the experiences they have in their families and in their worlds. A baby who grows up in a huge family with lots of brothers and sisters will be different from a baby who grows up as an only child. An infant who is never cuddled and loved, or who is abused, will grow up differently from one who is loved a lot.

Here are more facts that you need to know about infants:

  • A 1-day-old baby can tell the difference between a woman's voice and a man's voice. He or she will almost always turn toward the woman's voice. Even at 1 month, babies can recognize faces and expressions. If you make faces at 3-week-old babies, they will make faces back at you!
  • When infants are only 1 month old, they can tell their mothers' faces from others.
  • Babies cry a lot, but they cry for a reason. Crying is a baby's language and a way to tell you what they need. If you respond right away to crying, you will teach them to trust you, and they will feel safe and secure. Babies will learn that they can tell you something, and you will understand and take care of it! Babies also will learn to have confidence in themselves.
  • Even young babies are curious about their worlds and interested in making friends. Sometimes they would rather look at a picture than eat. Sometimes they would rather be playing with another baby instead of taking a nap.
  • Infants grow and gain muscle control from head to toe. A baby's arm and leg muscles develop before finger and toe muscles. Babies grow from up to down and from in to out.
  • A baby's growth is continuous and orderly. Infants grow all the time even though we cannot always see it. Most babies learn to walk after learning to crawl and stand. Infants learn to speak after learning to babble or “oooh” and “aaahh.” Each baby learns these skills at a different time, but usually in the same order.
  • Babies probably can hear you talking while still inside their mothers' wombs. In a hospital experiment, a doctor placed a small microphone into a pregnant woman's uterus half an hour before she delivered her baby. The microphone made a recording of what could be heard inside the mother's body. It recorded the conversation between the doctor and the mother. Their exact words could not be understood, but the differences in the tones and rhythms of their voices could be clearly heard. One voice was definitely male and the other one female. The mother's heart beat and the music that was playing in the hospital room also could be heard inside her body.


Babies grow and change a lot in the first 18 months. They grow bigger and learn to use their muscles to walk, climb, and carry. They grow smarter and learn to use their brains to talk, remember, and think. They grow more aware of the people around them. They learn who the people are, what they do, and how they feel. Infants learn about emotions and what it feels like to be happy, sad, scared, and angry. Babies also grow socially. They learn how to make sounds and noises and to “talk.” They learn to make friends, play, and love.

Infants develop in four ways:

  • physically
  • intellectually
  • emotionally
  • socially

We can think of this development as a pie with four slices. If an infant is missing a slice of pie, his or her development and growth will be incomplete.

A baby grows as a whole human being. It is a mistake to focus on only one part of an infant's growth. If you learn only about an infant's physical growth, you begin to believe that an 18-month-old is no more aware or emotional than a 3-month-old. Babies' abilities to walk, speak,
laugh, and play increase side-by-side. As their muscles grow, so do their emotions. As their capacity to think and remember grows, so does their need for companionship and friendship.

The chart in this section shows how average babies grow and develop in each of these areas from 1 day to 18 months. Remember this is only a guide. Some babies walk at 9 months, and others do not walk until 15 months. One baby might “talk” when it is 6 months, and others will only babble.

Nicholas and Willy grew and developed at different rates. Willy walked long before Nicholas did. When they were together, she could walk over to Nicholas, bop him on the head with a soft ball, and walk away before he could catch her! Nicholas, however, could do something that Willy could not – he could say, “Momma!” What do you think happened when Nicholas cried “Momma?” Both babies were 12 months at the time. Check the chart [Table 1: How Babies Grow and Develop] to see what might have happened next!

How you can help:

All babies are alike in some ways. They all have certain needs that must be taken care of in order for them to live. These basic needs are to be warm, to have food, to be changed when their diapers are wet, and to be loved. If you are taking care of an infant, you can meet every one of these needs! Take this quiz to see how much you have learned about infants.

TRUE OR FALSE – “If I'm crying, let me cry for a while so I won't grow up to be a spoiled child.”

The answer is FALSE. Today, we believe that a baby cannot be spoiled.

Remember that one of the most important things a baby can learn during the infancy stage is trust. If all of the babies' needs are met right away and if they are loved and cuddled whenever they want to be, they will feel safe and secure. Babies will trust you and believe that they are worthwhile and effective people. Here are ways you can help babies learn to trust.

  • Rock babies and hold them close so they will feel loved and secure. Talk and sing to them.
  • Set some time aside to play with the baby. Make this a fun time and do not worry about what the baby is learning.
  • Be careful not to tire babies. Let them set the pace. When babies grow restless or fussy, they probably are telling you they are tired and have had enough play.
  • Read the *Good Times with Stories and Books* section.

TRUE OR FALSE – “If I'm crying at bedtime, put me to bed with juice or something sweet in my bottle. It's good for me!”

The answer is FALSE. New baby teeth can decay easily. The most badly decayed teeth in babies are seen in infants who are put to sleep with a bottle, especially a bottle of sweetened liquid or milk. If an infant must have a bottle in order to sleep, fill it with plain water. Do not add any sweetener.

Here are more ways you can help a baby grow and develop physically.

  • A baby uses an average of six to eight diapers every day. Learn how to change diapers and how to clean the baby after each change.
  • When babies are able to sit up by themselves, they learn to grasp and throw things. You can play the “pick-up-what-I-throw” game for a while, and then give yourself a rest by tying a few toys to a bounce chair, highchair, or playpen. This game is important for babies. It helps them learn about size, shape, and how it feels to throw.
  • Never toss a baby in the air. Never hit or shake a baby, even in fun. Shaking can injure a baby's eyes and brain. Hitting and other rough treatment can break little bones and hurt insides. If you feel like shaking a baby because you are mad – stop immediately. Babies do not understand physical punishment. Lay the baby down gently and turn up the radio or TV for a while until you stop feeling hassled and can be gentle and loving again.
  • Sometimes babies get sick. About 80 percent of them are troubled by colic. Colic is a term for the hard, persistent crying that often starts in the first month and usually disappears by the time the baby is 3 months old. The fussiness usually occurs in the evening, and there is not much anyone can do to help the infant, except be patient. Infants tend to swallow air. If air bubbles are not brought up by burping, they may pass into the intestine causing “tummy pains,” which make babies draw up their legs and cry. Try to soothe the baby by walking, burping, rocking, cuddling, or speaking softly to him or her. Be sure you learn how to “burp” or “bubble” a baby before accepting total responsibility as an infant caregiver.
  • Read *Good Times at Bathtime*, *Good Times with Health and Safety*,
    and *Good Times with Toys*.

TRUE OR FALSE – “I like to know what's going on around me. I feel attached to my family, and to you – my caregiver. I want to be like you!”

That's TRUE. Self concept, or how people feel about themselves, begins during infancy. Because babies are emotionally attached to parents, caregivers, and other familiar and important people in their lives, they want to be like those people. They imitate them! If you are a warm, friendly, loving caregiver, chances are they will like you and want to be like you. Here are ways you can help babies become social human beings.

  • Smile back at babies each time they smile at you. Smiling will encourage them to make friends and to smile more often.
  • Provide a variety of toys for infants and allow them to choose their own toys. Boys can play with dolls, and girls can play with trucks and blocks.
  • Learn what babies cries mean. Your response to their “language” will help babies feel good about themselves. Crying is an infant's way of “talking”, and it will “say” four basically different things:a. “I'm bored and want attention. Please hold and talk to me as we cuddle.”
    b. “I'm tired and want to be rocked or soothed so I can relax and go to sleep.”
    c. “I'm hungry and want to be fed.”
    d. “I'm uncomfortable. Something is too cold, too hot, my diapers need to be changed, or I feel a gas pain inside. Help!”
  • Teasing is not fun for a baby. Sometimes caregivers poke or tickle a baby thinking that it is great fun. The baby usually starts out laughing, but soon starts to cry. No one likes to be teased or tickled with no way to say, “Please stop, I don't like this.” Babies can feel quite tortured by the experience and develop a mistrust of those who continue to tease them.
  • *Good Times with Music and Rhythm* and *Good Times with Play* give examples of social development.

TRUE OR FALSE – “I want to explore and see, hear, smell, taste, and feel new things! Let me try new things over and over until I get it right – even if it seems like I'm struggling.”

That's TRUE. Babies in the infant stage learn through action. Babies experience the world by using their mind and five senses. For example: the first time infants taste ice cream, they may cry when they swallow because it is cold! They discover the sweet taste though, and learn to melt smaller bites in their mouth before swallowing. They learn to eat ice cream without our help!

Babies sometimes reach for a ball, but push it away. They have not learned how to pick up the ball. If a caregiver picks up the ball and hands it to them, they will not learn how to get it for themselves. If a caregiver gives the ball to them when they cry, they will learn to cry when they want the ball instead of learning to crawl, grasp, and pick it up for themselves. Letting babies explore and learn on their own will stimulate them and help them grow smarter.

Here are other ways you can help stimulate infants so they will grow

  • Dress in bright colors. Wear a flower in your hair, jewelry (be sure it cannot come off), or a shiny belt buckle. Hold your face and toys about 8 inches from the baby's eyes. Let the baby look at you and touch you. This will help develop the baby's sense of sight and touch.
  • Talk softly and sing. The baby will develop a sense of sound and awareness of language.
  • Hold babies while you feed or play with them. Wear soft clothes and give them furry, fuzzy toys to play with. Wear light perfume or cologne, and let the smell of the dog, the piece of fruit you are eating, and the musty book you are reading come into contact with the baby. This will help develop their senses of touch and smell.
  • With the parent's permission, go for a walk, and let the baby experience the sounds and smells of the outdoors.
  • Turn babies in their cribs, or prop them up on a couch so they can see all parts of a room. If the baby is older, safety-proof a room so the baby can explore.
  • *Read Good Times at Play* and *Good Times with Stories and Poems*.

This section tells you a little about infants, but you might have questions that are not answered here. Read library books and magazines about infants.

You will probably find there is more than one answer to each of your questions. All parents have their own way of caring for their children, and they may even care for each of their children differently. This article offers you a place to begin to learn about infants.



Here are some activities that will help you learn about infants. Remember that babies grow fast during infancy. Choose activities that fit each developmental stage. While you care for a baby, try some of these play activities.

1. Give him or her a soft ball and a wastebasket to play basketball.

2. Look at a colorful magazine.

3. Sing or dance to a record.

4. Read a story about animals.

5. “Talk” to the baby with a puppet. You can make one out of an old sock!

6. Find objects to stack, like plastic containers or small cardboard boxes.

7. While you are outside, tie a balloon loosely to the baby's wrist to blow in the wind.

There is a lot of information available about infancy. Check sources like public libraries, local book stores, special television and radio programs, magazines, parent groups or classes, doctors who specialize in caring for infants, and your local Cooperative Extension office.



Order these through your local Cooperative Extension office.

Cornell University, New York State, *Infants and Parents* by Phyllis Silverman.

Purdue University, *Child Development: Entering a Baby's World* by Sheila P. Allen.

Texas A & M University, *Is Your Baby Safe at Home?* series. Ask for: *Dealing with Poisons* (L-659), *Electricity and Burns* (L-660), *Falls* (L-661), *All Around the House* (L-662), *Shapes and Colors* (L-748), *Play and Play Materials* (L-924).

University of Wisconsin, Madison. *Communicating with Your Infant Through Play: Toys and Activities for the First Two Years* by Priscilla L. Roth.


Colorado State University, *Right From the Start*. Color, 55 minutes. A look at the relationship between parent and child that begins at birth. Moments after a child is born, a parent and child make important connections through touching, responding, and eye contact. The film illustrates the surprising capabilities of infants, and explains how to interpret a baby's signals. By PTST (Prime Time School Television).

*One Step at a Time*. 75 slides, 15 minutes. A slide program on infant feeding and nutrition, for use with accompanying cassette recording. Presented by the Gerber Learning Center. 1980.

The following two films are available to teachers of parenting classes. Cost involves return postage only. To order, state your first preference for a date on which to view the film. Also list three alternate viewing dates. Allow at least four weeks before your first requested date for shipping. Order from: Modern Talking Picture Service Proctor and Gamble, Professional Services Film Scheduling, 5000 Park Street, North, St. Petersburg, FL 33709.

*The First Two Weeks of Life*. Color, 20 minutes. Designed to introduce families to their newborns and reduce the anxiety parents feel about their first baby. This film shows the initial period of getting acquainted.


*The Parenting Experience*. Color, 20 minutes. “How-to” skills of infant care (bathing, feeding), and how to achieve emotional and physical closeness with a baby.

*Infant Care*, US Children's Bureau Publication No 8, Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402. $0.40 each.

*Your Child From One to Six*, U.S. Children's Bureau, Pamphlet No. 30, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402. $5.00 each.


*Children and Adults* by Joseph and Laurie Braga. Packed with games and activities that can help children become happy, confident people. Includes experiences for children from birth to 6 years old and addresses such subjects as Fun in the bathtub and How do you say no to a baby? Paperback, $7.95.

*Parents' Encyclopedia*. Answers many of the common questions that caregivers have, like: “Your infant is crying. Should you pick up, feed, or let him or her cry?” and “Your baby has a rash. How can you tell what it is and what to do?”

*Supertot* by Jean Marzollo. Creative learning activities for infants and toddlers. $3.95.

*That New Baby: An Open Family Book for Parents and Children Together* by Sara Bennett Stein.

*The First Wondrous Year* by Rubin Chase.

*Whole Child/Whole Parent* by Polly Berrien Berends. Includes listings of direct mail toy catalogs, toy-making and play activity books, and nearly 500 books for children under 4. Paperback, $9.95.





 Physical  Can see, hear, feel, taste, and smell at birth. Uses reflexes.
 Intellectual  Cries to communicate. Limited interest in learning.
 Emotional  Startles at loud sounds. Quiet when content, crying when not.
 Social  Likes soft, high-pitched voices. Likes to look at faces.

 Physical  Focuses eyes. Eats every 3 to 4 hours.
 Intellectual  Follows light or objects with eyes.
 Emotional  Reacts to distress by crying.
 Social  Smiles.

 Physical  Holds head up.
 Intellectual  Recognizes mother or primary caregiver.
 Social  Coos and gurgles.

 Physical  Tries to grab with hands. Tries to roll over.
 Intellectual  Can use eyes and hands together.
 Emotional  Cries different ways for different reasons.
 Social  Laughs out loud.

 Physical  Sits with support. Teeth appear.
 Intellectual  Reaches for and grasps objects.
 Emotional  Shows signs of fear, anger or disgust. Laughs and chuckles.
 Social  Tries to talk to image in mirror

 Physical  Sits alone.
 Intellectual  Transfers objects for hand to hand. Puts objects in mouth.
 Social  Responds to name. Pats image in mirror.

 Physical  Creeps or crawls. Pulls self up.
 Intellectual  Can pick up small objects.
 Emotional  Seeks attention by yelling. May show shyness, fear of strangers.
 Social  Plays peek-a-boo.

 Physical  Eats three meals. Has tripled birth weight and grown about 10 in. Drinks from a cup. Stands and takes steps.
 Intellectual  Says 1 or 2 words. Points to desired objects. Imitates animals.
 Emotional  Shows controlled anger directed toward a person or a thing.
 Social  Waves good-bye. Plays pat-a-cake. Cooperates. Responds to adult more than to other infants.

 Physical  Walks alone with feet wide apart. Runs on toes. Walks sideways and backwards. tries to go up and down stairs.
 Intellectual  Uses 6 to 20 words. Short attention span. Can stack blocks on top of one another. Can hold pencil and scribble.
 Emotional  Unpredictable. Normal to be fearful, anxious, resentful. Self-centered.
 Social  Plays alone. Recognizes other children and tries to get attention. Copies others.

 Physical  Can throw objects. Walks up stairs with hand held.
 Intellectual  Drinks alone. Is curious. Says “NO.” Understands words.
 Emotional  Shows affection. Selfish. Cries when toys are taken away.
 Social  Tends to be rebellious. Points to objects and pictures named.



National Network for Child Care – NNCC. Part of CYFERNET, the National Extension Service Children Youth and Family Educational Research Network. Permission is granted to reproduce these materials in whole or in part for educational purposes only (not for profit beyond the cost of reproduction) provided that the author and Network receive acknowledgment and this notice is included:

Reprinted with permission from the National Network for Child Care –
NNCC. Lagoni, L. S., Martin, D. H., Maslin-Cole, C., Cook, A.,
MacIsaac, K., Parrill, G., Bigner, J., Coker, E., & Sheie, S. (1989).
Good times with infants. In *Good times with child care* (pp. 1-12).
Fort Collins, CO: Colorado State University Cooperative Extension.

Any additions or changes to these materials must be preapproved by the author.

Patricia A. Johnson, Ed. D.
Cooperative Extension
Department of Human Development and Family Studies
Gifford Building, Room 119
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO 80523
PHONE:: (970) 491-5889
FAX:: (970) 491-7975

Patricia A. Johnson, Ed. D.
Cooperative Extension
Department of Human Development and Family Studies
Gifford Building, Room 119
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO 80523
PHONE:: (970) 491-5889
FAX:: (970) 491-7975


FORMAT AVAILABLE:: Print – 253 pages
DOCUMENT REVIEW:: Level 2 – Colorado State University Cooperative Extension
ENTRY DATE:: May 1996

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