People prefer to use the term babies which is a more common term, as infants is a more formal or specialised synonym when they are very young and it is stage post the newborn stage. Infant, the term is a Latin derivative word from “infans”, meaning 'unable to speak' or 'speechless'. Infants in the infancy stage are as the name suggests do not possess the ability to speak and the birth giver has the responsibility to take care through the infancy period. To learn more about what you mean by infancy, let us define infancy and get an insight into the infancy period.
When a baby is born, for the first two months they can be referred to as a newborn. During this period as they are new entrants to the physical world, they totally rely on their mother for food and nutrition and during this period all they do is sleep, eat, poop and cry. The period after this is called the infancy period. From the ages of two months to one year, the baby is in the infancy stage and can be referred to as an infant. The first sign of infancy life stage development can be seen from the beginning of the infancy period. The baby is referred to as an infant even when it is in the newborn stage as the terms are described to be synonymous with each other.
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Characteristics of infancy, even though generalised, can also be very specific to each infants’ growth and development depending on their birth. Before birth, when they are still in their mother’s womb, they are referred to as a foetus.
A normal infant is the one where they are conceived by normal pregnancy and the female has experienced a very safe period during all the trimesters. The labour and delivery too when are normal, the infant is said to be a normal infant. Their characteristics and developmental stage are also normal and natural, unlike the infants who are prematurely born.
When the foetus is not confined to the normal duration of 36 weeks or 9 months of pregnancy and due to some unprecedented circumstances that can be related to the mother or the foetus being born before this period. Such newborns are called premature babies and they are put in an incubation set up in the hospital till they reach their normal infancy life-stage development.
They have a distinctive appearance with a large head and arms and legs relatively short.
The infants have narrower shoulders and hips.
They have a slightly protruding abdomen.
Downy, unpigmented hair called lanugo is found in many newborns on many areas of their body except feet and palm. But within a few weeks after birth, this usually disappears.
They may have a head full of hair to almost no hair.
The navel is formed after a few weeks when the stub of the umbilical cord that still remains dries and falls off.
Infancy life-stage development is very crucial as this initial period truly determines their health in all ways physical ability, immunity, physiologically, intellectual and even psychological development. The growth during the infancy period is astoundingly rapid and the baby may even appear anew each day as they tend to learn new things and grasp quickly.
In his or her early days and weeks the infant spends their time experiencing different states of sleeping like deep sleep, light sleep, drowsy and even quiet alert sleeping patterns, they are always on an active alert mode and crying which is a very common response to things they experience but are unable to express due to their inability to speak yet. They sleep about 16 hours every day, but this pattern of sleep is also constantly changing and may last for a few hours to sometimes a few minutes, the changes during this period is quite unpredictable.
In the period after these initial reactions and responses, the growth and development occur in many ways like cognitively, the language ability changes, they become physically able such as fine motor skills and gross motor skills are developed. And social skills are also developed by the end of the first year, which is the infancy stage.
The infancy period is full of social development milestones.
It is very important to ensure complete safety during the infancy stage for the proper growth and development of the infant. The key safety tips related to infants that everyone should ensure are
Keep the household cleaners, cosmetics, medicines, and even some plants present in your home away from infants in drawer and cupboard safety latches they contain poison. Keep the national poison control number -- 1-800-222-1222 -- near the phone.
The infants should not be allowed to crawl or walk around in the kitchen when others are cooking, though they can be placed near the kitchen in a highchair, playpen, or crib.
Drinking or carrying anything hot while you holding an infant can be dangerous because infants can burn them as they start waving their arms and grabbing for objects at 3 to 5 months.
Never leave an infant alone with siblings or pets because even older siblings may not be ready to handle an emergency if it occurs and pets, because pets may appear to be gentle and loving but they can react unexpectedly to an infant's cries or grabs or may lie too close to the infant, thereby smothering the baby..
Never leave an infant at a place from where the child can fall off due to wiggle or rollover.
For the first 5 months of life, place your infant on their back to go to sleep as it reduces the risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The risk of SIDS decreases as the nervous system matures and the baby can roll over by himself.
You can take a course or learn from your doctor how to handle a choking emergency in an infant.
Try not to leave small objects within the reach of an infant because infants tend to reach out to the items placed around them and put everything they can get their hands on into their mouth.
During a car ride, always remember to place your infant in a proper car seat even if you are riding for a very short distance. Use a car seat that faces backward until the infant is at least 1 year and then you can safely switch to a forward-facing car seat.
The middle of the back seat is the safest place for the infant's car seat.
Be very careful while you are driving. Whenever you need to tend to the infant, park your car on the side before trying to help the child.
Use gates on stairways, and block off rooms that are not "childproof." Remember, infants may learn to crawl or scoot as early as 6 months.
You should consult your doctor if the infant does not look good, that is, they are behaving different from normal or cannot be consoled by the usual methods of holding, rocking, and cuddling, or if the growth of the infant does not seem normal, or if the infant is losing developmental milestones or if you are generally concerned at any time, then go with your instinct.
Accept help from others like a family member or a nanny if you can afford one. Do not succumb to the pressure of others to do all of it on your own and go at your own pace.
Always clean your hands before holding the baby and politely ask others who come near your baby to do the same.
Try to bond with your infant by talking to them, playing music, any activity that you participate in enthusiastically, it will strengthen your bond.
When holding, always provide support in the neck till they learn to do it on their own.
Mothers must keep the infant close to their body to provide comfort and soothe when necessary.
The mother-child relationship and connection are such that even proximity can do wonders, so try to stay near the infant as much as possible.
Whenever travelling, see that the infant is well-fastened and protected from all possible dangers.
Learn all the basics of bathing, cleansing, changing diapers, feeding and burping needs.
Do not leave the baby crying, even if it is normal for the baby at the infancy stage to do so, try to swaddle gently.
Do not underestimate the power of immunization and vaccination, do not go for it, without proper research and any allergic reaction to the vaccine must be noted and informed.
Do not throw the baby in the air with the intention of playing when the infant is not developed enough to hold themselves steadily.
Do not shake your baby in frustration or while playing.
Do not drive fast with an infant, or even when in a stroller, they must be well protected, any rough motion can have serious consequences.
Do not force-feed the infant when they are not willing to complete the bottle’s milk and take it as a sign of satiating hunger.
Do not indulge in any negative patterns like fighting, frustration, anger as they can sense the energy in the room and their moods also change accordingly.
Do not smoke near the baby, they must be only exposed to clean and fresh air.
The development phase of an infant is very important and must be efficiently observed for the various landmarks or milestones during their development. This not only gives happiness but also helps track the growth and development of the infant. The major milestones observed during the growth and development of the infant are:
Infants start smiling typically after 6 weeks of birth
After 6 weeks of birth, infants also start making vocal sounds.
Infants babble a lot by the end of 6 months.
By the end of 6 months, infants also learn to sit and crawl
By the end of 12 months, infants start speaking their first words.
By the end of 12 months, infants even start standing with support.
By this time infants also start to walk a little bit.
The infancy stage is so crucial and one of the most important and even quick stages of developments. Often parents say infants develop so fast they must cherish the moments and enjoy the process. They are learning something new every day that also changes the perception of the parents and they too start noticing things in a new manner. Infants must be cared for with love, nutrition and attention and should not be limited to anything that restricts their growth.
1. What is an infant’s age?
The age of an infant can be two months to one year from birth. Sometimes even within the first two months, the baby instead of being referred to as a newborn can be called an infant. The terms baby, infant and newborn are often used interchangeably around the world. The WHO (World Health Organisation) defines the infant the same way as a neonate, that is a newborn who is under 28 days old.
2. How to behave with infants?
Infants are in a very vulnerable stage of development and very sensitive to any sort of environment they are exposed to. There should be no exposure to others at an early stage without maintaining proper hygienic conditions. Since the infants’ immune system is also only developing, anyone without cleansing and maintaining proper hygiene should stay far from the infant. The caregiver should not leave them alone in this period with others and must have uninterrupted watch over them. The behaviour should be proper and only happy energy must be maintained.
3. Are infants attached to their mothers?
Mothers are the ones who are in immediate contact with the infants. The infants can sense the energy of their mothers and can totally feel when they are happy or sad and based on that their moods also change and affect greatly on their physiological and psychological development. Nowadays, postpartum depression is experienced by new mothers and it can be very hard to maintain a nurturing environment. And one consequence of that is the mothers feel disconnected from the baby. Therefore, the environment and the surroundings should be calm and a happy place for both the mother and the baby. It is the family’s and partners or husbands role to take care of both of them and all emotional burden should not be just carried by the mother.
4. Does shudder syndrome start in the infancy stage?
Yes, the shudder syndrome is common in infants and it is also referred to as infants shudder syndrome. This begins in the infancy stage when benign, nonepileptic events start with shuddering attacks. This is a clinical condition syndrome and the symptoms seen are rapid trembling and this can be seen as shivering also especially in heads, trunks and shoulders. And the opening of the mouth with noisy stridulous inspiration and slight eye deviations is also observed during these attacks. This commonly does not last more than mere seconds however if these mycolic jerks last more than a normal period immediate attention should be tended by a professional or an experienced paediatrician.
5. What are the primitive reflexes involved during the physical development of an infant?
The physical development of an infant involves a number of primitive reflexes. For the infants that are newborn to 2 months old include primitive reflexes like toes fan outward when the sole of the foot is stroked (Babinski reflex), extends the arm, and then bends and pulls them towards the body along with a brief cry (startle reflex), infant closes hand and "grips" your finger, extending of legs when the sole of the foot is touched, turning head in search of nipple when cheek is touched, sucking when nipple touches lips, infant flexes the toes and forefoot, takes brisk steps when both feet are placed on a surface and the body is supported (stepping and walking), infant extends their left arm when gazing to the left, while keeping their right arm and leg flex inward.