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Why's my baby doing that?

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  • Why’s my baby doing that? 1 of 12

    10 baby learning and development habits explained Babies are fascinating creatures. In the first year, it seems that with every passing week, they boast impressive new skills, as well as entertaining, endearing, and sometimes brow-furrowing habits. Here are 10 common baby behaviors that you might notice as your infant grows, along with the explanations for why they decide to pop up when they do.

  • Why’s my baby doing that? 2 of 12

    1: Everything in the mouth

    10 baby learning and development habits explained: Everything in the mouth Babies put everything in their mouths — their hands, your sleeve, the arm of a wooden chair. That’s because the mouth is by far the most sensitive area of an infant’s body. In fact, the mouth is the first part of the body to perceive touch: embryos at just six weeks gestation can perceive touch on the lips. From birth, touch sensitivity grows from the top of the body, down (but even at age five, the mouth will still be the most sensitive). That means that for a baby, the best way to explore and learn about the world is to mouth it.

  • Why’s my baby doing that? 3 of 12

    2: The love of sweets

    10 baby learning and development habits explained: The love of sweets Kids don’t have to learn to like sweets — it’s a naturally programmed preference that exists starting in the newborn days. It comes down to biology: sweet receptors in the mouth trigger feel-good chemicals in the brain. That’s why sucking on a sweetened pacifier calms a baby and may help block the perception of pain. The preference for sweets makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint, since sweet foods in nature are usually safe and high in energy.

  • Why’s my baby doing that? 4 of 12

    3: Stranger anxiety

    10 baby learning and development habits explained: Stranger anxiety This is a major milestone! When your formerly easy-to-pass-around baby becomes wary of strangers, it may seem like a setback (and no doubt it can make your life harder), but it’s actually an important advance. Your baby is becoming socially aware and showing her attachment to familiar caretakers — that means that the sophisticated areas of her frontal cortex are coming online. Stranger anxiety is nearly universal and shows up at the same time through every culture around six months, peaking at 18 months for many babies. The intensity of stranger anxiety depends on a baby’s temperament.

  • Why’s my baby doing that? 5 of 12

    4: The catnap

    10 baby learning and development habits explained: The catnap The short nap is such a tease — it gives you just enough time to eat a snack, check email, or take a shower. But it’s a common development for babies, especially between three and eight months of age. Back in the day, when our parents put us down on our bellies, we slept for long stretches, but a lot of babies sleeping on their backs (where we put them these days for safety reasons) will wake up after coming into a light phase of sleep. Until they learn to soothe themselves back down again, many will take these 20 to 40 minute power naps and be ready to play again.

  • Why’s my baby doing that? 6 of 12

    5: Flying and flailing

    10 baby learning and development habits explained: Flying and flailing Before babies crawl, if you put them on their bellies they often shoot their legs and arms out, superman-style, or kick around and push their bottoms in the air. To us, it can look random and spastic, but every time babies do this, they’re testing, learning, and getting feedback to strengthen and refine their nerves and muscles. That’s why it’s helpful to let them work on the ground without interfering — there’s a lot of important work going on in all that floundering.

  • Why’s my baby doing that? 7 of 12

    6: Forever bouncing

    10 baby learning and development habits explained: Forever bouncing The front pack, the swing, the jumper, or a stint on the yoga ball — we know these are all calming activities for a baby. That’s because they activate the vestibular sense (the sense of motion babies can feel beginning in the womb). Fetuses get nine months of non-stop bouncing while mom walks around during the day, so it’s no surprise that lying still on the floor or in the crib isn’t always their preferred activity. But bouncing isn’t just calming, it’s tied to the other senses and also stimulates cognitive development. In other words, we rock babies for their smarts, not just to keep them from crying.

  • Why’s my baby doing that? 8 of 12

    7: Deferred imitation

    10 baby learning and development habits explained: Deferred imitation This is one of your baby’s hidden talents — the ability to imitate what you do days or even months later without any practice. If your nine month old sees you work with a toy but never lays hands on it herself, she’ll know exactly how to use it a day or more later. Just after their first birthday, a one-year-old can remember and repeat a sequence of actions a week later, without having any hands-on experience. It’s proof that our little ones’ memories are strong, and they’re always watching and learning br> from us.

  • Why’s my baby doing that? 9 of 12

    8: Shrieking

    10 baby learning and development habits explained: Shrieking Not all of your baby’s sounds are adorable coos. Her vocal tract develops a lot in the first year — allowing her to first produce the easy vowels and later the harder consonants. Around six months of age, a baby’s vocal tract is quite mature and has the ability to produce a lot of the sounds needed for language. Along the way, your little one will want to practice all forms of babble, noise, and yelps with her fast-developing, personal sound machine.

  • Why’s my baby doing that? 10 of 12

    9: The weight dip

    10 baby learning and development habits explained: The weight dip Among breastfed babies, it’s pretty common for weight to creep down on the growth charts somewhere in the three-to-six-month age range. This is because the trajectory of weight gain is different on average for breastfed and formula-fed infants, with those drinking formula tending to gain a little more starting at three months. If your pediatrician is using the CDC’s weight chart, your breastfed baby could look a little skinnier than her peers. The WHO’s charts are more appropriate for breastfed babies.

  • Why’s my baby doing that? 11 of 12

    10: Extreme interest

    10 baby learning and development habits explained: Extreme interest Around eight months of age, your baby goes through a huge cognitive milestone. The frontal cortex — home to her powers of attention, impulse control, and emotional regulation — is becoming much more active. That means that along with her newfound emotional skills of clinging to you, seeking you out, and having a babbling conversation, she’s also able to wait a bit and focus on a task in front of her. Let her watch you put a toy under a blanket or in a particular cup and see if she can remember where it is and find it a few seconds later. Sounds simple, but this is a highly complex feat of coordination and decision-making on her part.

  • Why’s my baby doing that? 12 of 12

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