What to Expect from 36 Weeks or Older

Depending on how sick your baby is, she may not show the expected age-appropriate behavior until she’s feeling better. 

Before Your Baby is Born

  • Your baby's body, arms and legs are plump with many creases and folds in the skin.
  • The arms, legs and head are in a flexed position.
  • Your baby's lungs are developing.
  • Feeding, sleeping and activity patterns are being established.

Appearance 

Your baby looks plump and well-formed. The arms and legs remain close to his body with elbows and knees bent. His skin is smooth and soft, and his facial features may look like a family member.

Tone and Posture 

Your baby's muscles are strong. She’ll hold her arms and legs flexed and drawn up to close to her body. When your baby is helped to a sitting position, her head will remain upright for a few seconds. When you hold her, she’ll snuggle.

Movement 

Movements are smooth, controlled and appear purposeful. You may see your baby bringing his hands to his mouth, suck a finger, wave his arms and legs, and wiggle his body. He’s able to turn his head from side to side, and his grasp is usually strong. Your baby is able to straighten his arms, legs and body.

Vision 

Your baby is able to focus, follow and maintain eye contact with you. She’ll turn her eyes and/or head toward soft light or moving objects. She likes patterns and curves, and may enjoy following a bright toy or a hanging object, but prefers the human face. Your baby still has poor eye control; her eyes may appear crossed at times. When she’s tired, she’ll look away. 

Hearing 

Expect your baby to be startled by loud noises, and possibly turn his head and/or eyes toward sound. He may block out irritating sounds or sounds that are frequently heard, so allow him to experience various sounds like bells, rattles and music boxes. Your baby likes the human voice, and knows his mother's and father's voices.

Feeding 

The pattern of suck, swallow and breathing, which is needed for nipple or breastfeeding, is strong and well-coordinated. The gag reflex, which keeps your baby from choking, is complete and the rooting reflex is strong. She may tire quickly when feeding.

Touching 

A gentle touch may be relaxing. Your baby knows the difference between pleasurable and painful touch, and enjoys being covered, wrapped or contained. If he’s very sick, too much touching may be irritating.

Behavior 

Your baby sleeps approximately 75 percent of the time but is able to wake up on her own and remain alert for several minutes. When awake, she may be actively moving or remain laying quiet. She may show distinct periods of attention or interest to stimuli, and enjoys social contact. Crying is used to signal a need or to show pain, discomfort, or hunger. Your baby is often able to quiet or calm herself.

Things to Do For Your Baby 

Watch for approach signals so your baby will be alert and ready for contact. Hold him with his arms and legs pulled up close to his face and abdomen, and encourage your baby to bring his hand to his mouth. Always support your baby's head, hold him close to your body, and use different positions when you are holding him. Learn about kangaroo care. You can also let your baby grasp your finger and sit in a soft pumpkin seat for short periods of time. 

Position your baby so her eyes are shaded from bright lights. This will encourage eye opening. Hold her about 8-12 inches from your face so she can better focus, and show her objects that have different patterns, such as black and white. Your baby may become tired trying to focus on you, so watch for time-out signals.

Talk, sing or read stories in a soft voice. Record and play soothing music or record voices of family members for your baby to hear, and call your baby by name. Change voice tones when speaking to him, and project your voice on both sides of your baby's head to encourage him to turn toward the sound and search for it.

Breast or bottle-feed when possible. Gently rub the top, bottom and sides of your baby's mouth to elicit the rooting reflex. Remember to shield her eyes from bright lights during feedings. You can also offer a pacifier.

Use your baby's signals to guide touching and holding. Encourage your baby to touch different textures, including fabrics, toys and skin. You should also encourage him to learn about his own body by touching your baby's hand to his hand, hand to his head, hand to his knee or foot, and foot to foot. Bath time may provide a good opportunity for learning.

Approach signals may mean your baby is ready for interaction:

  • awake and quiet
  • bright and shiny eyes
  • focused attention (looking)
  • making cooing sounds
  • decrease in activity
  • sucking movements
  • face, arms and legs relaxed
  • turning toward sound
  • fingers curled.

Time-out signals may mean your baby is stressed and needs a rest:

  • change in breathing pattern
  • change in heart rate
  • change in color
  • worried face
  • frowning
  • limp posture
  • looking away
  • frantic movements
  • tremors or startles
  • widening of fingers
  • arching posture
  • closing eyes
  • yawning
  • hiccups
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