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.
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.
Dos and Dont’s For the Infants
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.
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.
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.