Hello, world! Your baby is listening, absorbing, and responding from their first moment in the world. Use a soft, sing-song voice to talk early and often with your baby. 

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What's happening at birth

Language learning starts at birth. Your baby absorbs a huge amount of information about sounds, words and talking from the environment. Your baby listens to the speech of those close by, and startles or cries if there is an unexpected noise. Your womb was a warm and cozy environment, and it'll take time for your baby to adjust to the various sights, sounds, and sensations of life outside your body. Your baby spends most of these first few days moving in and out of several different states of sleepiness, quiet alertness, and active alertness. Talk with your baby using parentese (a sing-song voice) about what you are doing, as you watch your baby’s personality develop. 

Look for these expected behaviors at birth: 

  • Depend on parents/caregivers
  • Sleep a lot
  • Like to be undisturbed
  • Have rooting, sucking and swallowing reflexes
  • Cry when hungry, unattended to or in pain
  • Startle at noises
  • Turn towards lights, providing it is not too bright
  • Cry to get needs met
  • Make eye contact
  • Make sounds to show joy and displeasure
  • Startle at loud sounds
  • Notice when sounds start and stop (a vacuum cleaner, the ring of a telephone, etc.)
  • Follow moving lights with their eyes
  • Prefer the faces of their parents to those of other people
  • Turn in the direction of sounds
  • Focus their eyes on objects up to a foot away
  • Constantly look around at various people and things
  • Kick their arms and legs in a jerky, uncoordinated way
  • Suck from a breast or bottle
  • Wriggle and squirm on your lap or in their cribs
  • Raise their hands to mouths or eyes
  • Turn their heads when you touch their cheeks
  • Cry, scream, gurgle, sneeze, blink, and engage in other natural reflexes
  • Wake up numerous times during the night (every two to three hours) for feedings
  • By reflex, grasp an object or finger that is placed in their hand
  • Keep hands closed in fists

Talk to your doctor if you notice your child:

  • Frequently resists being held
  • Keeps fists closed most of the time
  • Does not cry when hungry or uncomfortable
  • Does not notice or respond to loud sounds
  • Unable to latch on while nursing or bottle feeding
  • Loses a lot of breast milk or formula out of side of mouth while feeding

Additional Resources:

Talk With Me Baby is made possible by a grant from the United Way of Atlanta and is a collaborative effort among organizations.