As I sit here watching Noah, only one-month old today, I can’t help but marvel at the miracle that is life. I’m not religious by any means. I celebrated my Bat Mitzvah, but my religious journey ended there. I don’t believe in deities; my faith lies in science. And yet, his presence in my life seems to be nothing short of a miracle. Only one month ago, he was squirming around inside me. Only nine months before that, he was nothing but a blob of cells. Today, he’s a giggling, milk-addicted, bundle of joy that I can’t take my eyes off of.
The first days of his life were a bit of a blur. The golden hour – the first hour after his birth – is a haze, but I remember the warmth of his skin against mine and the pure ecstasy as he lifted his head to gaze at me. He slumbered on and off, leaving my arms for only mere minutes at a time. The entire experience was surreal.
Born only 6 lbs 7 ounces, he left the hospital at only 6 lbs 3 ounces. His tiny arms and legs were hidden within the newborn clothes; no amount of sleeve rolling helped to reveal his little hands. So small – so new – and such a personality already. He can’t talk, but he’s definitely able to communicate what he likes and doesn’t like!
For example, Noah doesn’t like the school. I spent the last fifteen years building this school — HEROES — and he’ll be here A LOT since, as a single mom by choice, I’ll bring him to work with me. And yet, he just didn’t seem to like the school. And, as I discovered, his distaste for the school was significantly contributing to the so-called “normal” constant spit-up that was drenching both of us all day. He wouldn’t sleep on his own, and I couldn’t hold him ALL day (as much as I’d like to). After trying various different “set-ups” for tummy time mats, pack and plays, bouncers, and swings, I finally realized that the school is the only heavily air conditioned environment that he spends time in. I moved him to the reception area where the AC was off, and he quickly drifted off to sleep. Hopefully this magic trick continues to work in the days and weeks to come!
Not to brag, but he definitely loves his mommy! Babies recognize the smell of their mother’s milk before they recognize mom’s face, and I used this to my advantage during the first week of his life when he had a hard time sleeping on his own. One of my sweaty-milk stained shirts beside him helped him sleep soundly. Putting Noah in a bouncer where he could see me has definitely helped me cook, clean, work, and shower! While research suggests that babies don’t develop object permanence until four to seven months of age, I can tell that Noah has some degree of object permanence. When I hold him facing “out,” he turns his head back to see me.
Everyone reminded me that he wouldn’t stay this tiny forever. Enjoy this time as it will be over before you know it. And while logically, scientifically, I also knew that all facets of his development would be rapid at this point, it has been nothing short of a miracle to watch as he grows and changes each day.
Babies are born with a set of reflexes that not only make it possible for them to eat but set the foundation for future skills. I have had quite a bit of fun testing these reflexes with Noah.
From birth to about four months of age, babies have a rooting reflex. Stroke your baby’s cheek, and (s)he will turn his/her head in that direction and open his/her mouth. This reflex helps your baby find your breast to eat. On the other hand, it can also cause some confusion! Noah’s cheek often grazes my arm as I hold him, causing him to root towards my arm.
Babies are also born with a sucking reflex. My brother thought he found a genius way to test whether or not Noah was hungry. Stick a finger in his mouth. If he sucks on it, he must be hungry, right? Nope. Babies are born with a sucking reflex. When the roof of the mouth is touched, babies will suck (even if they’re not hungry!).
Sucking can also be a calming for babies. When they suck on something, it actually calms their nervous system. Before having Noah, I was very “anti-pacifier.” Why introduce something that I’d just need to wean him off of later on? It only took a few weeks for me to realize that by not using a pacifier, I’d become a human pacifier which, while I didn’t really mind, was also not feasible to maintain.
My arm was falling asleep in the car as I stretched to allow him to suck my fingers, and he was using nursing as a way to self soothe. This was resulting in over-eating and more spit-up. So, by week 3 of his life, I became mom to a pacifier-loving baby. After a long (and stressful) car ride, I popped the brand-new pacifier in his mouth, and I watched as relief and relaxation flooded his little body. He was SO happy, and, as a result, so was I!
The tonic neck is often called the fencing reflex. When a baby is lying on their back with their head turned to the side, one arm is outstretched while the other is bent at the elbow. This reflex helps babies develop hand-eye coordination. Your baby will have this reflex until they’re about 5 to 7 months old.
Babies are also born with a grasping reflex. Parents, family, and other visitors often get a lot of joy out of this reflex as babies will “hold your hand” if you let them! Stroke the inside of a baby’s hand, and they’ll grab on. Their tiny hands aren’t big enough to hold your hand, but they will take a strong hold of your finger if you let them! Noah loves to grab my necklace as he tries to climb “Mt. Mommy” too.
The stepping reflex is another fun reflex to “play” with. Hold your baby upright above a flat surface (your lap will work!) and watch as your baby stretches out their legs and makes little “stepping” motions.
It’s been said that almost 90% of brain growth occurs before five years of age; a baby is born with all of the neurons that they’ll have for the rest of their life, but it’s the connections between these neurons (the synapses) that will develop to make the brain “work.” During these early months (and years), nearly one million synapses are made every second. Every second counts, literally. So, what does this mean?
This means that every moment that you spend with your newborn child has an impact on who your child will become. No pressure, right? This doesn’t mean that one moment in your newborn child’s life will make or break their future intellect and/or emotional health, but it does mean that it’s important for you to have healthy interactions with your child from day one.
Some medical professionals recommend reading to your child before they’re even born. I never “read to my tummy.” It felt awkward and forced. But, I’ve been reading to Noah since I brought him home from the hospital. During the first few days, I could count on only getting through a fraction of a story before he’d doze off. Yet, he already showed an early preference for certain books over others.
For example, he’s hated anything by Eric Carle since week one. That was quite a disappointment, but I’m hopeful that he’ll change his mind eventually! The Very Hungry Caterpillar that I got to hang over his stroller scares him, and all the Eric Carle stories result in quite a fuss. He loves “Guess How Much I Love You,” “I Love You to the Moon and Back,” and “A Gift from Pooh.” I can feel his muscles relax as I read the story, and his eyes light up as he gazes at the pictures. He doesn’t like books without a plot such as alphabet books, books that name animals or trucks, etc. I think that these books lack the soothing rhythm that his favorite books have. He doesn’t like books with too many words on a page as he seems happier when the page turns more frequently. The pictures intrigue him.
We really like the mini stuffed animals that pair with many of our books. For example, we have the bunny from “Guess How Much I Love You,” Corduroy Bear, Winnie the Pooh, and the Velveteen Rabbit. Cuddling with them as we read makes story time so much fun!
Babies love music. Playing music can activate the neural pathways responsible for creativity, spatial intelligence, language, and more. Tuning to “Today’s Adult Hits Radio” doesn’t excite Noah, but repeatedly listening to kids tunes such as “Apples and Bananas” genuinely elates him. These songs will definitely get stuck in your head, but that’s okay. He excitedly kicks his feet and his eyes light up as I bounce his hands back and forth to the rhythm of his favorite songs. He loves the Super Simple Songs station on YouTube, and we were recently introduced to the “Milky Milk” song too.
The AAP recommends beginning tummy time as soon as you’re home from the hospital. Starting with just a minute or so, you can build up to longer sessions over time. Noah loves his Lovevery Playgym for tummy time. I also got him a water mat for the school. So far, he doesn’t like the water activity mat. I think it’s too cold. Noah’s shown a keen interest in mirrors, and with a few breaks, he can “worm” his way across the play gym. He’s rolled over a few times, but rumor has it that he’ll lose the ability to roll when he puts on a bit more weight (before regaining this skill again in a few months!).
He loves to use the play gym on his back too. He likes toys that make noise when he hits them. After visiting many stores, Barnes and Nobles had the best selection of toys for him.
The Bolli Rattle by Ogo Sport is another favorite. I’ve seen a few variations of this toy, but this is the only one that I’ve seen with things that actually “rattle” inside. It’s very easy for him to grab too.
We have a few wrist rattles from Amazon, but he’s not a huge fan of them. They don’t hold his interest for very long.
I was surprised at how difficult it was to find good toys, but we are loving these so far, so we will definitely visit Barnes and Nobles for more toys in the future.
The first month of his life has been such a joy. He’s not even out of newborn clothes, but he’s growing up so fast. We learn a little more about each other each day, and I am loving every minute of it. With some time and trial-by-error, he is spitting up far less often, playing independently (but supervised!) for up to 20 minutes at a time, sleeping through the night, and napping at the school. In the next month, we plan to attend more story time events at the local library, go blueberry picking at DiMeo’s farm, clean up the gardens, and read some new books. Being cute is hard work, so I’m sure there will be a lot of napping too!