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  • Writer's pictureDr Andy Raffles

Tips for Healthy Child Development

Infants (0-1 year old) Developmental Milestones

What happens – or doesn’t happen – to children in the earliest years of their lives is of critical importance, both to their immediate well-being and to their future.

If you received the best start in your earliest years of life, you are more likely to have grown healthily, developed language and learning capacities, gone to school, and led a productive, rewarding life and been given the opportunity to reach your full potential.

Cognitive development for your baby means the learning process of memory, language, thinking and reasoning. Your baby is learning to recognize the sound of your voice. They are also learning to focus their vision from the periphery or the corner of their eyes to the centre. Language development is more than uttering sounds (“babble”), or mama/dada. Listening, understanding, and knowing the names of people and things are all components of language development. During this stage, your baby is also developing emotional bonds of love and trust with you. The way you cuddle, hold, and play with your baby establishes how they will interact with you and others.

  • Talk to your baby. It is soothing to hear your voice.

  • When your baby makes sounds, answer by repeating and adding words. This will help your baby learn to use language.

  • Read to your baby. This helps her develop and understand language and sounds.

  • Sing to your baby.

  • Play music. This helps your baby develop a love for music and math.

  • Praise your baby and give lots of loving attention.

  • Spend time cuddling and holding your baby. This helps them feel cared for and secure.

  • The best time to play with your baby is when he’s alert and relaxed. Watch your baby closely for signs of being tired or fussy so that you can take a break.

  • Parenting can be hard work! Take care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally. It is easier to enjoy your new baby and be a positive, loving parent when you are feeling good yourself.

Child Safety First

Make sure that your home is a safe place for your young child. Look around your home for household items that might present a possible danger to your baby. As a parent, it is your responsibility to ensure that you create a safe environment for your baby. Something to be aware of is the environment your child is in varies – and visits to relatives, especially those whose children are grown up will have forgotten the need to ensure the environment for your child is safe. It is also important that you take the necessary steps to make sure that you are mentally and emotionally ready for your new baby. Here are a few tips to keep your baby safe during her first year of life.

  • It is important that you never shake your newborn baby. Newborn babies have very weak neck muscles that are not yet able to support their heads. If you shake your baby you can damage his brain and delay normal development

  • To prevent SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), it is recommended that you always put your baby to sleep on her back

  • Place your baby in a car safety seat every time you take him in the car. The safest place for his safety seat is in the back seat of the car. Children who are less than one year OR weigh less than 10 kilograms (20 pounds) - should be placed in a rear-facing car seat

  • To prevent your baby from choking, cut food into small bites. Don’t allow your baby to play with anything that may cover the face or is easy to swallow

  • Never carry hot liquids or food near your baby or while holding them

  • Check your hot water is not scalding – ask a plumber to ensure your hot water thermostat is set at a safe level

  • Never leave a baby of any age in any depth of bathwater unsupervised

  • Immunisations are important to protect your child’s health and safety. Because children are susceptible to many potentially serious diseases, it is important that your child receive the proper immunisations at the appropriate time

  • Use vitamin supplements from 6 mths of age – to avoid deficiencies.

Your child's doctor will advise you of the recommended immunisation schedule for children in the UK – also available from NHS choices at:

In the first year of life, there are some early warning signs to look for if you have concerns about your child's development.

Overall progress should mean your baby will sit at about 7-8 months, and stand by 11 months, with walking by 12-18 months. If your baby hasn’t achieved these physical milestones by the ages suggested it is still most likely there is nothing wrong, but your local baby clinic, Health Visitor or Paediatrician should arrange an assessment if your baby fails to make these milestones within 6 months of expected age.

In the newborn period your baby will probably have had a newborn hearing screening test – and if you are worried they are not hearing you then seek advice – and the same for vision – any concerns, for example, you feel your baby has a squint (when each eye points in a different direction) you should seek advice.

Speech and language development is barely starting in the first year, but the absence of babbling is a concern and should be discussed with your baby's doctor, especially if a hearing test is normal. By the end of the first 12 months after birth, your baby should respond to their name and perhaps understand a few simple commands – again a delay in these skills may mean nothing at all is amiss but best to ask for an assessment if you are concerned.

By the end of the first 12 months after birth the average baby is independently mobile, or at least getting there, is communicating with you, and is becoming aware of themself as an entity.

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