Baby Development and Milestones: Your 1-Month-Old
The first year of a newborn's life is one of the fastest in human development; it’s no wonder that when you have a baby, you often hear people say ‘they grow so quickly!’ or ‘time goes so fast!’ The best thing you can do is enjoy and marvel at your baby's month-by-month development.
When a baby is born, he already has some amazing abilities though he has a long way to go in terms of development.
A newborn without complications has the instincts to breathe, tightly hold fingers, and can even smell his own mother and know her from any other person. Incredibly, some babies even suck their thumbs when still in the womb!
Despite the fact that a baby is born with all of these incredible skills, for the first month of your baby’s life, it can seem that all he does is lots of eating, sleeping, crying, and of course, peeing and pooping.
At this age, babies have very little control of their muscles and instead rely mainly on reflex actions, such as sucking, yawning, sneezing and crying.
As a baby progresses through his first month of life, he begins to discover that he has control of his body. Discovering his hands is a big moment. It gets even more exciting when your baby realises he can use his hands to squeeze things like your finger, or to suck on for comfort when he is hungry!
Crawling, walking, running, and even dancing will happen sooner than you think. But the road to these skills starts when your baby discovers his own body, and begins to interact with the world around him.
Speaking of motor skills, your 1 month old baby should be able to kick when on his back, grasp your finger, follow your movements with his eyes, and might even be able to raise his head when on his tummy.
It may seem that not much is going on in terms of development, however, all his senses are getting better.
- Sight: A newborn can open his eyes and see almost immediately after being born. Though his eyes are not yet able to focus on things that are farther away than one metre, he can focus perfectly on your face when you hold him in your arms – which is the distance from your breast to your eyes. Don’t be alarmed if he appears cross-eyed at times. This is normal in an infant this young.
- Hearing: A newborn can hear from around 28 weeks of pregnancy. From inside your womb, he listens to the sounds of your body and voice, and noises from the outside world. Studies have found that newborns react more strongly to the higher pitch of a female voice than to a deeper male voice.
- Smell: A baby’s nose is sensitive. Your 1 month old newborn can tell the difference between your smell, and that of another person.
- Taste: Your baby is a breastmilk connoisseur! His well-developed sense of taste (babies have more taste buds than adults) is finely tuned towards the delicious taste of your breastmilk.
- Touch: Everyone needs the human touch to promote feelings of well being and happiness. Baby massage is a great way to bond with your baby, and he will find the touch of your hands comforting and soothing, just as an adult would! Gentle massage also helps with baby development, specifically your newborn’s muscles.
Another important part of your 1 month old baby’s physical development includes his reflexes.
Newborn babies are born with a number of reflexes, which are vital for survival. These include the rooting reflex which enables your baby to find your breast when his cheek is placed nearby; the sucking and swallowing reflexes that allow your baby to drink, and the gagging reflex that prevents him from taking too much liquid.
There’s also the very cute grasp reflex, which is when your little one tightly holds on to your finger when placed on his palm, and the moro reflex, responsible for making your baby startle at loud noises.
To read about the full range of newborn reflexes, please click here.
- Work towards helping your 1 month old baby’s sensory development. Activities include talking and singing to your baby so his sense of hearing develops, as well as cuddling him often to stimulate touch. Breastfeeding on demand, meanwhile, nurtures baby’s sense of taste and makes him feel secure and loved. Dads, try to make the pitch of your voice higher when you interact with your baby, as this will help him bond with you better.
- Don’t go crazy with the colourful toys just yet. When your baby is this young, they prefer looking at images, toys or mobiles in high-contrast colours: black, white and red, for example. These also help him strengthen his vision.
- Gently massage your baby’s hands, legs, back, and tummy to strengthen his muscles. A gentle tummy massage in a clockwise direction helps your baby to pass wind, releasing any discomfort he may have.
- When a baby is put down on his tummy, he will automatically turn his head to help him breathe; he won’t just lie with his head face down. This is known as the labyrinthine reflex. So tummy time is essential. A few minutes two to three times a day is enough. Always do this when you are around; never leave your baby alone on his tummy.
When to see a doctor:
If your baby:
- Is in visible discomfort if you gently turn his head from side to side
- Does not respond to loud noises
- Has persistent trouble moving his eyes, or remains cross-eyed
- Has stiffness or floppiness in his body
Cognitive development is the construction of thought processes, including remembering, problem-solving and decision-making. Too advanced for a one-month-old baby? Not at all!
Beginning immediately, babies soak up information about this new world and the people in it. Your baby is constantly watching you, listening to what you say, and observing his surroundings. All this stimulates his cognitive development.
- Cognitive development in babies depends on various antenatal and postnatal factors such as the mother’s health during pregnancy, the gestational age of the baby at delivery (for example, a baby born at 38 weeks may reach milestones slower than a baby born at 40 weeks), complications at the time of birth, illness during early years, as well as genetics and environmental factors.
- At this young age, it is difficult to assess cognitive development, but there are many things you can do to give your little one’s brain a good “headstart”.
- Show your 1 month old baby picture books with bright, contrasting colours. He’ll enjoy gazing at the pictures and hearing your voice, both which will stimulate cognition.
- Talk and sing to your little one often. Hearing your voice calms him down and tells him you are right there.
- Give him toys that make gentle sounds to stimulate his brain and sense of hearing.
When to see a doctor:
If your baby:
- Receives a blow to his head, especially his “soft spot” or fontanelle
Emotional and Social Development
Newborns don’t cry because they are bored, but because they have a need to be fulfilled (hungry, wet, overtired, too warm or cold, etc). It is very important you do not ignore your newborns cries, or leave them in distress for long periods of time.
Crying is the way your baby communicates, and he needs your help with it. Ignoring him can harm his emotional development. If you are having trouble calming your baby, seek out tips here. Mums and dads, you should know that your baby is emotionally attuned to you. So, if you’re happy, he can sense it and if you’re stressed or anxious, he will be upset too.
- Communicate with your 1 month old baby in a slow, gentle voice. This will calm and reassure him of your presence and love.
- Never let your 1 month old baby “cry it out”. He needs your touch to settle and soothe. Depriving him of this may harm his emotional development, and later, regulation.
When to see a doctor:
If your baby:
- Rarely settles when you carry, touch or talk to him.
Speech and Language Development
An interesting thing about baby development is that the foundations for speech and language begin when a baby first develops his hearing. This can be as early as when he is in your womb!
While your 1 month old newborn won’t start to talk words for a few more months yet, his first “baby talk” is non-verbal and happens soon after birth. Your baby grimaces, cries, and squirms to express a range of emotions and physical needs, from fear and hunger to frustration and sensory overload. He may even coo, gurgle or laugh when you speak lovingly or sing to him!
- Even though your baby might not be speaking yet, talk a lot to him. This will engage him in a “conversation” of sorts. In a few months, he might just start responding to you, but the foundation is laid right at the beginning.
- Music is a great way to communicate and bond with your baby, whether it’s singing, or playing soft, gentle music.
When to see a doctor:
If your child:
- Is not responding to your voice, there might be a need to assess his hearing capabilities.
Health and Nutrition
At this age, all your baby needs to grow and thrive is your breastmilk – nothing else. Your breastmilk contains the perfect mix of vitamins, minerals, fats and other nutrients to boost your little one’s mental and physical growth, and is tailor-made to his needs. It even contains antibodies that protect him against illness. Throwing up a bit, or possetting after a feed is normal at this age.
From the time your baby is born until he is around two weeks old, some weight loss is normal. But after that, your little one’s weight will slowly stabilise. At 1 month old, your newborn could weigh anywhere between 3.2 to 5.7kg, and is around 19 to 23 inches long. To read more about newborn weight loss and gain, click here.
By now, your baby’s umbilical stump would have dried up and fallen off, leaving a perfectly cute kissable belly button in its place. Did you know that some parents turn their baby’s dried up stump into art?
Your baby’s fontanelle (the soft spot on his head) is still open and vulnerable, so care must be taken when touching baby’s head, or when giving him a bath. His neck is still not sturdy, so remember to support his head by placing a hand on the neck when carrying him.
Mummy, you must be feeling rather sleep-deprived as your little one’s sleep schedule is non-existent. Don’t worry – it does slowly get better. Do try to sleep whenever your baby sleeps, even if it’s just for 30 minutes.
In terms of vaccinations, your newborn should get his second dose of the Hepatitis B vaccination this month (the first is given at birth). Do speak to your doctor about it, as well as other immunisations to follow.
- At 1 month old, your baby’s immunity is still developing. So it’s best to not allow other people to kiss your little one’s face or hands. If carrying him, they should wash their hands well, first.
- It’s best to breastfeed your baby on demand, remembering to empty each breast during a nursing session. You could use a breastfeeding bracelet to remind you of which side baby last fed from.
- Your baby is still too young to understand the difference between day at night. But you can create a semblance of it by drawing the curtains and turning down the lights in the evening if he’s sleeping. This will help him gradually understand that we sleep at night and stay awake during daytime.
- Ensure safe sleep always to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Swaddle your baby and place him on his back to sleep, never on his tummy. His cot or crib should be free of pillows, blankets and stuffed toys. You can control his body temperature with appropriate sleep-clothes and air-conditioning.
When to see a doctor:
If your baby:
- Is rapidly losing weight
- Seems to be vomiting a lot of liquid after every feed
- Has a sunken fontanelle
- Appears listless
- Still has jaundice
- Has even a slightly raised temperature
- Has discharge from their genitals
It is important to remember that while your baby is growing and changing quickly, there are emotional and physical stresses also being felt by you, the parents.
New mothers often feel pressure to look and feel a certain way, and expect parenthood to come naturally. Rest assured that for most people, adjusting to becoming a parent and the changes to your body, emotions, and the course of your life, can take time.
If you have feelings of unhappiness or are having trouble relating to your baby or your partner, you could be suffering from post-natal depression (PND).
You can always reach out to your doctor for advice.
Lastly, remember that baby development is different for every child. Every baby is unique, and reaching a developmental milestone faster or slower than average is not a guarantee of how the baby’s future development will be.