Introduction to Infancy

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 age. To learn more about what do you mean by infancy, let us define infancy and get an insight into the infancy period. 


What is Infancy Stage?

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

Characteristics of infancy, even though generalized 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 fetus. 

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 fetus 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 fetus is 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.

Certain Common Characteristics are- 

  • 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. 


Infant Growth and Development 

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.

Early Period-  

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 that is the infancy stage. The infancy period is full of social development milestones. 


Infant Development

0-2 Months 

3-6 Months

6-9 Months

9-12Months

Physical Development

While lying they are able to lift and turn their heads.

Vision is improved, able to track objects.

Neck muscles are developed and they are able to sit with support with head up.

Sit steadily for longer periods without support. May start crawling, can even attempt walking by holding an adult’s hand.

Infants can now be able to stand alone without support and may even take few steps on their own. 

Cognitive Development

The infants in this stage are just crying a lot and other times they are observing with not much notable difference or even understanding at this point.

The infants now try to act in a way that they find it relaxing or soothing like sucking on their thumb. Despite several attempts at trying them to stop, they do it because they enjoy it. 

They are now being adapted to an attitude of expectancy, they see bottles they expect to be fed, so a sense of predictability understanding is being developed. And if they like being fed they will repeat trying to converse they are hungry for pleasure. 

Intentional means-end behaviour is often displayed at this stage by the infants and they try to experiment for their desired result in different ways. So they begin to understand they can express hunger or pain by different means and can gain attention from their mother or father. 

Language Development

They are alert to voices around them and only might communicate via crying for hunger and pain. 

Crying reduces and they now coo and make certain vowel sounds like ‘oo’ or ‘aah’. 

They can now babble, laugh and even blow bubbles with excitement. 

They imitate the sounds they hear and try saying ma or papa, or dada. Anything they hear more, even ‘no’ or ‘yes’ they try to speak. 

Sensory Development

They can hear even at the fetal stage but as infants, their hearing ability matures and they identify and prefer human voices. 

Sense of smell, taste and touch strengthens, they even enjoy the sweet taste. Vision also improves and the infants at this stage are able to track objects.

Colour vision and contrast develop and are able to differentiate and identify different colours. 

Senses are now mature and can very distinctively identify and recognize what is it they enjoy or dislike. Like the smell of flowers, the taste of icecreams and mangoes, etc. 

Social Development 

In the beginning, they make faces and are able to recognise others. 

They smile a lot and even play peek-a-boo, they are playful and kick their legs in the air in a jovial state. 

They imitate the moods of the ones who are near them. They recognize the emotions and moods of their parents or siblings and behave accordingly. 

Able to interact with others and with themselves. They try to understand their own needs like when they need food or to go out, or the need to poop or pee and they can converse it clearly. 


Dos and Dont’s For the Infants


Dos- 

  • Accept help from others like a family member or a nanny if you can afford one. Do not succumb to the pressure of others of doing 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.


Don’t-

  • 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 the 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. 


Conclusion

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. 

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What is an Infant’s Age?

Ans. 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 Organization) 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?

Ans. 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?

Ans. 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?

Ans. 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 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.