I have had it said to me that babies are all the same. I disagree with this they are all individual human beings with their own unique appearance and personality. They do, however, generally have similar physical needs and development that is good to have some knowledge about.

Stages of Infant Development


Newborns sleep a lot; on average 16.5 hrs per day and the rest of the time is mainly spent feeding and getting cuddles. This little person is taking in a lot about their environment and is learning about him or herself, for example they have to learn that their hand is actually attached to them and all the things they can do with it.


Their eyesight isn’t that great at birth, they can only see about 20-30cm and see things in black and white. So it will take awhile before they appreciate it if you have painted up a nursery room in bright colours. Observe to see that they are following objects that are close to them. They have adult vision at three months and their eye colour can change. Their hair colour can also change, so your grey/blue-eyed baby with blonde hair may become a burette with brown eyes.


Hearing is often better than yours; as it hasn’t been damaged by loud noise. Signs that they can hear are turning their heads towards noise and getting a fright with a loud bang.

Gaining Weight

Babies are putting weight on, doubling their weight at 6 months and tripling by a year, consider an adult trying to do that! They have little stomachs; an average size baby’s stomach (3.5kg) at birth only holds 20-30mls. Thus they need to feed often, including during the night.
Some babies will sleep through the night by 6 weeks (for 6-8hrs) but not many!


With breastfeeding it will take time to feel confident, it is a skill and it takes you and the baby time to learn how to do this. If you are having problems Plunket Karitane centres, La Leche League or a Lactation consultant’s ph 0800 4 Lactation, can help.


Babies normally cry on average 1-4 hrs in total each day. At the start it can feel like guess work working out why they are crying. This is how babies communicate that they want something. It is hard for parents to listen to their baby cry. With time you get to know your baby and start to work out what they may want. If unsure work down a list, could they be hungry, tired, wet/dirty, bored or want a cuddle?

If they cry a lot it may be due to colic, if you are concerned always have them checked by a health professional in case it is related to a health problem. From 2-3 months they will start responding to you more with smiles and baby noises (coos, squeals and laughs).

Physical Development

In the first month three months they are learning to hold their head up, this is an important part in the process of learning to walk. They may even start doing baby push-ups from 3 months onwards. This is why it is important to have an awake tummy time on the floor. From around 5 months of age they learn to roll over, but sometimes they can do this from 3 months of age, so never think it is safe to leave your baby on a high surface, because you never know when they may learn to roll. A mayor reason for admissions of children to hospital is falls. A baby falling off a table is like you falling off the roof of your house.


There are a hundred and one books written on babies. I try to avoid any books that read like instruction manuals. There is helpful information in the Well Child Tamariki Ora Health book, and this is free from your LMC (Lead Maternity Carer) or Plunket nurse. Also www.babycentre.com has a lot of information. BabyCenter is an online resource for expectant and new parents, filled with parenting information. You can have emails sent to you from this site each week with guidelines re your child development.

There will be conflicting advice re the care of your baby, but remember to trust yourself. You are the parent and you know this baby better than anyone else. A health professional may know more about health concerns, but you know more about your own baby as you look after him or her more than anyone else. Everyone has an opinion on parenting, your opinion is more important than anyone else’s when it comes to your child.

Let your child also teach you, you will learn from them and talk to other new parents about any helpful hints they have.

About the Author

Article by Helen Pulford (Midwife and Childbirth Educator) owner of:

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Birth Resources provides information but it is not a substitute for professional midwifery or medical care. You should always seek the advice of your midwife, doctor or health professional for any concerns you may have regarding your health.

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