From Baby to Big Kid: Month 2
You are heading into month two with your little one. Browse the information and links below to see what your little one is experiencing and learning during his or her second month.
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What It's Like for You
Things might feel as though they are beginning to settle into some new kind of “normal.” You are probably getting used to diapering, bathing, and feeding your baby, as well as coping with less sleep and less free time than you used to have. Your relationship with your partner may be shifting slightly, too, as you each begin to adjust to this new role of parent. As new dad, Javier, explains: My wife and I do what we call the “dinner dance"—one of us eats while the other stands up, holding and rocking Oliver (2 months), and then we switch. He seems to be especially cranky around dinnertime so that’s how we’ve been handling it. Boy, has life changed. We’re still figuring it out.
What It's Like for Baby
I just love that red ribbon you are dangling in front of me! I like to watch how it bounces and shivers. It makes me laugh. I like to hear your voice telling me about the ribbon—what it looks like and how it moves. When I move my arms and legs, you bring the ribbon closer so I can feel it. It’s slippery and smooth. It feels nice. When you smile and laugh with me, it makes me feel so good because it lets me know I am fun to be with!
Uh oh! All of a sudden, that shaking ribbon and the bright color and the sounds and voices talking isn’t feeling so good. It’s making me dizzy and tired and I need a break. I frown and kick my feet but you just shake the ribbon harder. Then I turn my head and close my eyes. You stop moving the ribbon and start talking in a soft voice. Oh good, I knew you would understand. You pick me up to comfort me. I feel better. I can’t wait to play with you again when I have more energy.
What Your Baby Is Learning
- That he is loved and important as you take the time to interact with him and delight in his discoveries.
- That he can trust you to read and respond to his signals.
- That he is a good communicator. When you respond to his efforts to communicate through his facial expressions, sounds and gestures, it lets him know that is he is good at telling you what he needs. This encourages him to keep on communicating with you.
- That he can use his body to communicate his thoughts and feelings, like showing his desire to feel the ribbon and showing that he needs a break.
What to Expect From Your Baby's Development
As you review the chart, keep in mind that development is not a race and that every child grows at her own pace and in her own way. Your child may develop skills faster or slower than indicated below and still be on track. If you have questions or concerns, talk with your child’s health care provider or other trusted professional.
Your Toddler’s Development From 1 to 3 Months
|What Your Baby Can Do||What You Can Do to Connect With Your Baby|
Your baby is getting to know you and the other people who love and care for her.
|I recognize your faces, voices, and smells almost from birth.||
Your baby is learning how to “tell” you what his needs and wants are.
Your baby is learning a lot by listening.
Your baby is beginning to use her body to make things happen.
Your baby is interested in the world around him.
Your baby grows to love books when you start reading to her early.
You and your baby are becoming closer and closer everyday.
Right from the beginning, you are teaching him who he is by how you care for him.
Did You Know...
Two-month-old babies carry on “conversations” with their parents? You may notice that when you say something to your baby, she will coo or move her arms. When you repeat her cooing sounds, your baby smiles and you smile back. At 2 months, babies start to “wait their turn” in conversations and pay attention to another person—showing that they are learning some important relationship-building skills.
What the Research Means for You:
Delight in talking with your baby. This is how she learns language. But it’s also important to stop talking sometimes—to give your baby a chance to respond. She may gurgle or coo, kick her feet, catch your eye, or move her hands. Then it’s back to you: You may copy her gestures, repeat her sounds or make a new sound back. Having “conversations” like these lets your baby know that you are interested in what she has to say. This makes her want to keep on communicating and connecting with you. Talking—and listening—are two important ways that you build a strong relationship with your baby and help her learn from the start.
Spotlight on: Playing With Your Baby
Playing…with a tiny baby?! How do you do that with a 2-month-old?
Actually, as babies enter the second month of life, they become noticeably more interested in the world around them. While they don’t “play” in the way that we often think of—pushing trains around a track or feeding a baby doll—they are eager to explore the objects and interact with the people they see every day. At this age, play is not just about toys, it’s about interaction—anything from singing a song to your baby as you change his diaper, to cooing and smiling back-and-forth with him. Loving and playful experiences like these help your baby learn.
Parents may find themselves confused about their babies’ responses as they play. It’s not uncommon to wonder: We were having so much fun a minute ago, and now he’s crying. What happened? It’s likely that your baby reached his stimulation threshold and was telling you he needed a break. Babies have their own individual ways of responding to stimulation—light, sound, touch, activity. Some can take in a lot of stimulation before they top out and become distressed. Other babies get overwhelmed very quickly by what may seem to be just a small amount of stimulation (like brightening the lights in the room). There’s no right or wrong way to be. A baby’s ability to manage stimulation is part of his in-born nature—part of who he is.
Some common “I need a break” signals include:
- Turns head away
- Back arches back
- Closes eyes/falls asleep
- Fussing and/or crying, making “fussy” sounds, or even hiccupping
When you see these kinds of signals, try giving your baby a rest for awhile. Put aside her toys and try rocking and singing quietly to her. If that’s still too much, just hold her. And keep in mind that even eye contact can be very stimulating for young babies, so just snuggling her against your chest may feel best to her. It’s all about trial and error.
If your baby is falling asleep in order to rest from playing, let her snooze. You can also swaddle your baby to give her a break. The idea is to reduce the amount of stimulation—sights, sounds, touches, and movements—that she is experiencing. This gives her time to calm down and “re-group,” pull herself together. You’ll know your baby is ready to play again when she is calm and clear-eyed, when she meets your gaze, moves her arms or legs, turns toward you, or makes sounds to engage you.
Watching your baby to see how she reacts to, manages, and responds to stimulation gives you very useful information. You can begin to understand what and how much play your baby enjoys, how to recognize when she needs a break, and how to comfort her when she is distressed. Don’t worry if you don’t get it right immediately. Learning about your baby’s individual needs and temperament takes time. Eventually the two of you will get more “in sync.”
Below are some fun ways to interact with your baby in the early months:
- Offer interesting objects for your baby to look at. You will see that as you move an interesting object slowly from side to side, your baby will follow it with his eyes. This is called tracking and is one of the first ways that young babies explore the world while building their visual skills.
- Offer interesting objects to touch. You can bring the objects close so your baby can touch them and begin to learn about how different objects feel. This helps her learn through her senses. Exploring objects with eyes, and later hands and mouth, also helps babies discover how different objects work and what they do. This helps your baby become a good thinker and problem-solver.
- Place your baby so that he can kick or hit at a mobile or rattle. Over the next couple of weeks, he will connect the act of kicking with the sounds the mobile makes when struck. This helps him understand cause and effect. Your baby will also discover that making noise is just plain fun.
- Make everyday routines playful. For example, you can add a massage for your baby after baths or before bedtime. Being massaged helps her feel bonded to you and also develops body awareness—the understanding that she is a separate being from others. Share books together, either by reading them to your baby or just letting her gaze at the pictures. In the next few months you’ll start to see your baby take matters into her own hands—grabbing the book and gumming it—while you ask her how it tastes!
Let's Play: Activities That Nurture Bonding and Learning
Follow the Light
Lay your baby down on his back. Darken the room slightly and shine a flashlight on the ceiling above him. Wait until he has focused on the light and then move the beam gently, slowly back and forth, up and down. Stop if he begins to fuss. Games like this help babies practice focusing their visual attention on objects.
Head and Shoulders Above
Hold your baby with her head on your shoulder. Walk through the house, pointing out interesting objects and talking about them. Encourage your baby to move her head to look up at a mobile, or turn to look out a window. Games like this develop neck, shoulder, and trunk strength.
What's on Your Mind?
1. I have an 8-week-old. Her eating and sleeping habits are all over the map and everyone keeps telling me to “put her on a schedule.” What does that mean and how do I do it?
Many parents feel exhausted and puzzled by their newborn’s seemingly random sleeping, waking, eating, and pooping schedule. This unpredictability is normal. The first 3 to 4 months of a baby’s life are a transition period as they are learning to adapt to life outside the womb. Getting used to being awake during the day and sleeping at night takes time and help from you.
Babies usually don’t settle into a fairly consistent schedule until they’re about 4 to 6 months old. So the first few months of your child’s life is not the time to expect or to establish a rigid daily schedule.
What you can do is develop some routines around sleeping and eating. This will set the groundwork for establishing a schedule later on. For example, when you see that your baby is getting drowsy, you can sing her a lullaby and then put her down to sleep. Over a period of time, the lullaby will become your baby’s cue for sleeping.
You can also slowly work toward helping your child adapt to a more regular routine by looking for patterns in her behavior. One mother, who was trying to get her 10-week-old to take two or three longer naps a day instead of six or seven catnaps, noticed that her child got very sleepy during feedings. So she decided to slowly adjust the feeding times to happen when she wanted her baby to nap. She also started trying to keep her daughter awake a few minutes longer before each nap. This meant that her baby would be awake for longer periods during the day, take longer and fewer naps, and sleep for longer stretches during the night.
Many babies establish a fairly regular feeding schedule all on their own. If this isn’t happening for your baby, you might try to stretch out the time between feedings (beginning with just a few minutes) so that feeding times are longer and fewer. If you continue to do this at each feeding, your baby is likely to eat a little more each time and will be able to wait longer between meals. Once again, remember that babies are not ready for “schedules” until they are 4 to 6 months old so try to be patient with your hungry little caterpillar for the time being.
From “Your Child’s Behavior,” a column written by ZERO TO THREE in American Baby magazine.
2. My neighbor’s 2-month-old loves his mobile. He kicks his arms and legs and squeals with delight. I got the same mobile for my baby, and he hates it. He turns his head away and cries every time I turn it on. What does this mean?
Children have different levels of tolerance for stimulation. While some can handle lots of sound and movement all at once, others find it overwhelming. It sounds like your baby is telling you that this mobile is more than he can handle. One option is to put the mobile away for now and try it again later when your son is a bit older and his neurological system is more mature and stronger. Another is to help your son adjust to increasing amounts and kinds of stimulation by letting him look at the mobile without turning it on—no movement, no music. When he seems to be calm and enjoying that, try gently moving it so he can see it turn. If he can handle this and likes it, you can try adding the music. Slowly and sensitively introducing him to more stimulation can help him build greater tolerance over time.
This is also an important example of how babies are good communicators, and are skilled (even from very young ages) at letting you know their needs and wants. When you pay attention to your son’s signals and respond in a supportive way, you let him know he is a good communicator, as well as someone who is loved and accepted for who he is. This gives him the foundation he needs to be a confident, secure person as he grows.
3. I wish I could stay home longer, but I’m going to need to head back to work when my baby is 8 weeks old. Will my daughter be okay in child care?
Children who are in high-quality programs can do very well in child care. Look for a clean and safe setting, with no more than three babies for every caregiver. There should be toys and books at the baby’s level, and child care providers who will let your daughter eat, sleep, and play according to her own individual schedule. Make sure that the caregivers talk and play with babies, that they comfort them when they are upset, and that they are loving and nurturing. Caregivers should also be able to provide you with daily feedback about your daughter’s day—how much she ate and slept, how many diapers she had, and what and whom she played with. It’s also important to find a program that welcomes parent participation and communicates regularly with parents. Building a good working relationship with your daughter’s caregivers helps ensure that her needs are met.
Ideally, your daughter would have a “primary” caregiver in her program who is the person primarily responsible for her, while the other caregivers offer back-up care. Having a primary caregiver helps babies thrive as it gives them the chance to build a nurturing connection with an adult who has the time to understand them—their personalities, nonverbal signals, even the way they like to be held, fed, and played with, and how they like to be put to sleep. This makes babies feel safe and secure. Talk with your daughter’s child care providers to see if they would be open to assigning one of the staff members to be your daughter’s primary caregiver.
You can help your daughter adjust and feel comfortable in her new setting by taking her to meet her caregivers and spending time there so it feels familiar. If you can, plan to stay with her for a while on the first day. Then, over the course of the first week, gradually decrease your time until you are spending only a minute or two at drop-off. Try as best you can to be positive and relaxed as you say your good-byes. Even young babies pick up on their parent’s feelings through their tone of voice, facial expressions, and gestures. If you are anxious and hovering, it may increase your child’s anxiety and make it harder for her to separate. If you are worried about how your daughter is doing during the day, call the center and talk with her caregiver. While it can take time, finding a child care program that you like and trust helps make the transition that much easier for your baby…and you, too.
4. My 2-month-old cries hysterically when I dress and undress him. It makes me feel awful, but what do I do?
Seeing your baby unhappy is always tough. But this reaction is not uncommon. Many babies protest at being changed. The experience of going from feeling warm and cozy to being exposed can be uncomfortable. Imagine what being in the womb must have been like—warm and protected, soft and comfy. When your baby finds himself naked and chilly on the changing table, he lets you know he doesn’t like it one bit by crying—his most effective communication strategy!
Certain factors make changing especially distressing for young babies. One is that infants can’t control their body temperature very well. When they’re undressed, the temperature drop feels dramatic, and it takes them longer to warm up once they’re clothed again.
Also, when you change your baby, all different parts of his body are being touched, pushed, and tugged as clothing and diapers are pulled on and off. For babies who are especially sensitive to touch, the experience can be particularly uncomfortable. They show it by pulling away, arching their backs, and crying.
Be sure to plan ahead and make dressing as gentle and quick as possible. Have a clean diaper, baby wipes, and your child’s change of clothes close at hand. Consider using warm diaper wipes or moisten paper towels or a washcloth with warm water. When changing your child, drape a soft towel or blanket over his body to keep him warm. You can also try distracting him with a mobile above the changing table or by singing and talking to him while you change him.
The most important thing you can do is stay calm. When you get upset, your baby senses it in your facial expressions, your voice, and in the way you touch him as you perhaps try to rush to get it over with sooner. This may just get him more worked up. So take a deep breath, and remember, the crying is not about you. Reassure your baby: I understand you don’t like this, sweetie. I’ll just be a few more seconds. I’m putting your pajamas on now. Even though he doesn’t understand your words yet, your soft, loving tone will send the right message.
5. My 2-month-old cries so much more than my friend’s babies and than my first child. It’s stressful to deal with, but my biggest concern is if this has any bearing on how fussy she will be as she gets older. Will she be crankier than other kids who don’t cry as much as babies?
You can put your fears to rest. By and large, the research shows that young babies who are fussy are NOT more likely to grow up to be cranky kids.
There are several reasons for fussing in the early months:
- Some babies’ central nervous systems are more sensitive and reactive to stimulation from the outside world. This can cause irritability, because these babies are more likely to experience sensory overload. As they mature over the first 3 to 4 months, they usually become better able to handle all the sights and sounds they’re encountering.
- Your baby might be dealing with reflux, a temporary condition, which occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter muscle, which separates the esophagus from the stomach, is relaxed. This allows acidic stomach fluids to back up into the esophagus, causing an uncomfortable, burning sensation.
- If your baby cries continuously for more than 3 hours, 3 days a week during the first 3 months, she may have colic. (Up to 20 percent of babies have it.) Although the cause is unknown, the condition is temporary and won’t impact your child’s development or personality.
Whatever the cause of your child’s crankiness, what’s most important is to find ways for both you and your baby to cope. Your feelings matter. When parents are stressed, it can increase rather than decrease their child’s fussiness, since even young babies pick up on what their parents are feeling.
If nothing you do to soothe your baby works, put her down for 5 to 10 minutes. Sometimes they (and you!) need a total break from stimulation—the rocking, singing, and talking—to calm down.
- Terrie Rose, PhD, President and Founder, Baby’s Space
- Ross Thompson, PhD, Professor of Psychology, University of California at Davis
- Robert Weigand, MS, IMH-E, Director, Child Development Laboratory, Arizona State University
This ZERO TO THREE newsletter series was made possible by generous funding from the MetLife Foundation.
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