What you need to know

  • Children develop at different rates and there is a wide range of normal.
  • Comparing your baby to other tamariki can be stressful and may cause you to worry unnecessarily.  
  • If your baby isn’t developing social, communication, or physical skills at the same rate as most other children their age, talk to your Plunket nurse, other Well Child health provider or doctor about your concerns.
  • It's important to detect any developmental issues early, because it helps ensure your child gets the support they need.

Development in the first six weeks

Your newborn will spend most of their time sleeping, feeding, and cuddling, but they’re learning as they move, watch and listen to the world around them. 

They can hear, feel, taste and smell when they’re born, but their vision takes a few months to develop fully. In the first six weeks most babies will: 

  • know your voice and may turn towards it 
  • may startle when they hear loud noises 
  • loves looking at your face 
  • may enjoy seeing toys with faces, patterns, or contrasting colours 
  • may make eye contact with you and move their head to see where you are 
  • grab your finger if you place it in their hand 
  • automatically turn in the direction of a source of food (breast or bottlebecause of their rooting reflex.

Development from six weeks to three months

By three months most babies will: 

  • listen to your voice and other sounds 
  • try to communicate by making talking sounds 
  • stop moving to listen to new sounds 
  • wake or stir to loud sounds 
  • blink or cry when there's a sudden noise 
  • focus on and follow people and objects in the room 
  • close their eyes against a bright light 
  • smile at you without being touched or spoken to 
  • stare at people’s faces  
  • smile and coo 
  • watch your face, and try to respond to speech 
  • like listening to sounds, voices, and their own cooing 
  • start changing their coo to a babble 
  • hold their head up  
  • lift their head for a short time when lying on their tummy while awake.

Helping your child develop

There are a few things you can do to help support your baby in their learning and development: 

  • read, tell stories, talk or sing to your child. It’s a great way to bond and helps them to get familiar with sounds and words 
  • make eye contact if your wee one is looking at you, look back at them. Eye contact is important for bonding, so spend lots of time gazing at your baby. When they look away from you, they’re telling you they’re tired and need a rest 
  • play! Your baby will enjoy looking at your smiling face, listening to you sing, make funny faces, and blowing raspberries 
  • give your baby a massage, which helps you connect with your child  
  • give them space to stretch and move their arms and legs 
  • let your baby have tummy time when they’re awake, to help the muscles in their back and neck strengthen. Babies spend a lot of time lying on their backs and this can sometimes lead to misshapen head shapes, so any time off the back while awake can also help to prevent this. Always stay with your baby during tummy time to keep them safe and follow their lead.
Fact Sheet: Tummy time for your baby

Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne

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The Royal Children's Hospital is a major specialist paediatric hospital in Victoria.

Tummy time, rolling and crawling (PDF)

Sport New Zealand | Ihi Aotearoa

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Sport NZ promotes and supports quality experiences in play, active recreation and sport to improve physical activity and wellbeing for all New Zealanders.

Things to watch for

If you’re worried about your baby’s growth or development, talk to your Plunket nurse, other Well Child provider or doctor. 

Talk to your nurse or doctor if your baby:

  • doesn't make sounds 
  • isn’t moving their arms or legs 
  • isn’t feeding well or isn’t waking for feeds 
  • is crying a lot, and this is making you worry 
  • isn’t sleeping well or is very tired or sleeps a lot more than expected for this age (16 hours + per day) 
  • has a lazy eye or squint (the eye turns in or out)  
  • doesn’t turn to look at bright objects 
  • doesn’t look at your face 
  • eyes are cloudy doesn't seem visually alert 
  • doesn’t respond to sounds.