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by Pramod Narula, M.D.


   My wife and I just brought home our first child.  Can you offer any guidance about our first year with our son?

    The phrase, "They grow up so quickly," may be a cliché, but there's a good reason for that. Each day of the first year of your child's life will bring new skills, joys and challenges as your baby grows from a crying newborn to a toddler crawling toward your outstretched arms.

   You may not be able to notice the drastic changes taking place in your newborn while he or she sleeps, but your baby is developing at a phenomenal rate. You can expect your newborn to:

—Focus his eyes on objects 10-12 inches away from his face. 

—Turn his head when lying down at one or two months old and lift his head 45 degrees by the end of the second month.

    At 3 to 4 months of age, peek-a-boo is likely to be one of your baby's favorite games as he becomes more interactive with his environment. He can also:

—Lift his head and shoulders and look around while lying on his stomach. (Babies should be on their stomachs only when awake and being supervised. They should be put to sleep on their backs).

—Turn from his back to his side.

—Prop up on his elbows, holding his head and chest up.

   The climax of your baby's first growth spurt usually hits around 4 months.  Approximately one-half of the weight gained in the first year occurs by this time.  Babies 4 to 6 months of age can:

—Start eating strained or pureed foods, such as oatmeal.

—Sit with support. (Sitting without support usually comes around 6 to 9 months).

   Teething may begin around this time or you could wait a year to see his first pearly white. There is no standard time at which babies begin teething.

    The average rate of growth for a baby between 4 and 7 months old is about one to one and a quarter pounds a month. As certain bones grow stronger, their length increases an average of two inches during this time as well.

   At 6 to 8 months of age, your baby may be ready to:

—Begin crawling.

—Try to stand with your help for short periods of time.

—Pull to a sitting position and spring up and down.

—Turn over completely.

—Scoot backward.

   About a month before your child can experience the joys of smashing his first birthday cake, he will likely be pulling up on furniture, and — if feeling adventurous — may try to walk from there. In general, the first steps take place around or after the first birthday, when babies have tripled their weight and have grown approximately 10 additional inches.

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