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Infant Social and Behavioral Development

You are expecting your first child.  You want to be an informed parent.  Here is what you can expect for your infant’s social and behavioral development in the first three months of her life.*

During your infant’s first month of life, she will be very busy learning very basic information about her body and her environment.  Initially, her focus will be on her internal experiences:  hunger, pain, and exhaustion, to name a few.  However, she will also be observing the world around her.  As her first month comes to a close, she will have learned some basic connections between her internal experiences and the world around her.  For example, she will have learned that, when she is hungry, she cries, and then she gets held and fed.

During your infant’s second month of life, she will spend time observing her environment and the people in it for social cues.  She will gradually become more focused on the world around her than her internal experiences.  She will smile with pleasure and recognize your smile as well.   She will learn that her smiles can prompt your smiles.

During your infant’s third month of life, she will, by conscious choice, engage you in non-verbal communication.  She will make gestures or sounds to get your attention, follow your gaze as you look around the room, and mimic some of your non-verbal communications.  At this same time, she will be developing an understanding of the non-parental people who are a part of her support system.  (Of course, she will have identified her parents as her primary support system much earlier.)  Non-parental people in her support group may include her grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and family friends.  She will greet these familiar people differently than she greets people that she does not know.  This is because she is developing social connections.

Throughout your infant’s first three months of life, she will construe the world around her by non-verbal cues.  She understands that she is important to you because, when she cries, you quickly respond to her by holding her and feeding her; you smile at her when she smiles at you; when she makes gestures or sounds to get your attention, you will quickly respond to her.  If you do not respond to her cries or other non-verbal requests for attention, she will perceive that she is not important to you.   If you exhibit delayed responses to her cries or other non-verbal requests for attention, she will perceive that she is only marginally important to you.  Therefore, it is essential in her first three months of life that you observe her non-verbal communications and respond to them promptly.

In sum, by seeking to be an informed parent, staying attuned to your infant’s non-verbal communications, and responding promptly to her non-verbal requests to get her needs met, you will be fostering healthy social and behavioral development in your infant.

*Each infant develops at his or her own pace.  While the progression above his considered normal or average, your infant may vary somewhat from that progression.  You should be attuned to your infant’s progression.  If your infant is progressing significantly differently, you are encouraged to speak with your pediatrician about what you are observing in your infant.

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