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Chapter: Essentials of Anatomy and Physiology: Development, Heredity, and aging

First Year Following Birth

Describe the changes that occur during the first year after birth.


A great number of changes occur in the infant from the time of birth until 1 year of age. The time when these changes occur may vary considerably from child to child, and the dates given are only rough estimates. The brain is still developing at this time, and much of what the infant can accomplish depends on the amount of brain development achieved. It is estimated that the newborn’s central nervous system contains nearly all the adult number of neurons, but subsequent growth and maturation of the brain add new neuroglial cells, new myelin sheaths, and new connections between neurons, which may continue throughout life.

 By 6 weeks, the baby is usually able to hold up her head when placed in a prone position and begins to smile in response to people or objects. At 3 months of age, the infant exercises his limbs aimlessly. However, he can control his arms and hands enough that voluntary thumb sucking can occur.


 The infant can follow a moving person with his eyes. At 4 months, the infant begins to do push-ups—that is, raise himself by the arms. The infant can begin to grasp objects placed in his hands, coo and gurgle, roll from back to side, listen quietly when hearing a person’s voice or music, hold the head erect, and play with his hands. At 5 months, the infant can usually laugh out loud, reach for objects, turn her head to follow an object, lift her head and shoulders, sit with support, and roll over. At 8 months, the infant can recognize familiar people, sit up without support, and reach for specific objects. At 12 months, the infant may pull herself to a standing position and may be able to walk without support. The child can pick up objects in her hands and examine them carefully. A 12-month-old child can understand much of what is said and may say several words.

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