Infant


Infant
An infant sleeping.
An infant in a hall with a pacifier.
Sleeping baby boy.
Boy with pacifier.
An infant with a teddy bear.

An infant or baby is the very young offspring of a human or other mammals and such. A newborn is an infant who is within hours, days, or up to a few weeks from birth. In medical contexts, newborn or neonate (from Latin, neonatus, newborn) refers to an infant in the first 28 days after birth.[1] The term "newborn" includes premature infants, postmature infants and full term newborns. The term infant is derived from the Latin word infans, meaning "unable to speak" or "speechless." It is typically applied to children between the ages of 1 month and 12 months; however, definitions vary between birth and 3 years of age. "Infant" is also a legal term referring to any child under the age of legal adulthood.[2]

An infant in a common baby picture
An infant

Contents

Physical characteristics

Newborn infant, seconds after delivery

A newborn's shoulders and hips are narrow, the abdomen protrudes slightly, and the arms and legs are relatively short. In the developed world, the average birth weight of a full-term newborn is approximately 7 ½ lbs.(3.2 kg), and is typically in the range of 5.5–10 pounds (2.7–4.6 kg). The average total body length is 14–20 inches (35.6–50.8 cm), although premature newborns may be much smaller. The Apgar score is a measure of a newborn's transition from the uterus during the first minutes after birth.


A newborn's head is very large in proportion to the body, and the cranium is enormous relative to his or her face. While the adult human skull is about 1/8 of the total body length, the newborn's is about 1/4. At birth, many regions of the newborn's skull have not yet been converted to bone, leaving "soft spots" known as fontanels. The two largest are the diamond-shaped anterior fontanel, located at the top front portion of the head, and the smaller triangular-shaped posterior fontanel, which lies at the back of the head. Later in the child's life, these bones will fuse together in a natural process. A protein called noggin is responsible for the delay in an infant's skull fusion.[3]

During labour and birth, the infant's skull changes shape to fit through the birth canal, sometimes causing the child to be born with a misshapen or elongated head. It will usually return to normal on its own within a few days or weeks. Special exercises sometimes advised by physicians may assist the process.

Some newborns have a fine, downy body hair called lanugo. It may be particularly noticeable on the back, shoulders, forehead, ears and face of premature infants. Lanugo disappears within a few weeks. Infants may be born with full heads of hair; others, particularly white infants, may have very fine hair or may even be bald. Amongst fair-skinned parents, this fine hair may be blond, even if the parents are not. The scalp may also be temporarily bruised or swollen, especially in hairless newborns, and the area around the eyes may be puffy.

Newborns' digestive tracts, which of course have never been used prior to birth, are filled with a greenish-black, sticky material called meconium. This has the function of standing in for fecal material and allows the intestines to develop to the point where they can process milk immediately on birth. This material is passed by the child in the first few days.

Immediately after birth, a newborn's skin is often grayish to dusky blue in color. As soon as the newborn begins to breathe, usually within a minute or two, the skin's color reaches its normal tone. Newborns are wet, covered in streaks of blood, and coated with a white substance known as vernix caseosa, which is hypothesised to act as an antibacterial barrier. The newborn may also have Mongolian spots, various other birthmarks, or peeling skin, particularly on the wrists, hands, ankles, and feet.

A newborn's genitals are enlarged and reddened, with male infants having an unusually large scrotum. The breasts may also be enlarged, even in male infants. This is caused by naturally occurring maternal hormones and is a temporary condition. Females (and even males) may actually discharge milk from their nipples (sometimes called witch's milk), and/or a bloody or milky-like substance from the vagina. In either case, this is considered normal and will disappear in time.

The umbilical cord of a newborn is bluish-white in color. After birth, the umbilical cord is normally cut, leaving a 1–2 inch stub. The umbilical stub will dry out, shrivel, darken, and spontaneously fall off within about 3 weeks. Occasionally, hospitals may apply triple dye to the umbilical stub to prevent infection, which may temporarily color the stub and surrounding skin purple.

Internal physiological changes at birth

Upon entry into the air-breathing world, without the nutrition and oxygenation via the umbilical cord, the newborn must begin to adjust to life outside the uterus. Newborns can feel all different sensations, but respond most enthusiastically to soft stroking, cuddling and caressing. Gentle rocking back and forth often calms a crying infant, as do massages and warm baths. Newborns may comfort themselves by sucking their thumb, or a pacifier. The need to suckle is instinctive (see suction in biology) and allows newborns to feed.

Newborn infants have unremarkable vision, being able to focus on objects only about 18 inches (45 cm) directly in front of their face. While this may not be much, it is all that is needed for the infant to look at the mother’s eyes or areola when breastfeeding. Depth perception does not develop until the infant is mobile. Generally, a newborn cries when wanting to feed. When a newborn is not sleeping, or feeding, or crying, he or she may spend a lot of time staring at random objects. Usually anything that is shiny, has sharp contrasting colors, or has complex patterns will catch an infant's eye. However, the newborn has a preference for looking at other human faces above all else. (see also: infant metaphysics and infant vision)

In utero, the infant can hear many internal noises, such as the mother's heartbeat, in addition to external noises including the human voice, music and most other sounds. Therefore, though a newborn's ears may have some catarrh and fluid, he or she can hear sound from before birth. Newborns usually respond more readily to a female voice over a male voice. This may explain why people will unknowingly raise the pitch of their voice when talking to newborns (this voice change is called motherese). The sound of other human voices, especially the mother's, can have a calming or soothing effect on the newborn. Conversely, loud or sudden noises will startle and scare them. Newborns have been shown to prefer sounds that were a regular feature of their prenatal environment, for example, the theme tune of a television programme their mother watched regularly.

Newborns can respond to differing tastes, including sweet, sour, bitter, and salty substances, with a preference toward sweetness. It has been shown that neonates show a preference for the smell of foods that their mother ate regularly.

Care and feeding

Infants cry as a form of basic instinctive communication. A crying infant may be trying to express a variety of feelings including hunger, discomfort, overstimulation, boredom, wanting something, or loneliness.

Breastfeeding is the recommended method of feeding by all major infant health organizations.[4] If breastfeeding is not possible or desired, bottle feeding is done with expressed breast-milk or with infant formula. Infants are born with a sucking reflex allowing them to extract the milk from the nipples of the breasts or the nipple of the baby bottle, as well as an instinctive behavior known as rooting with which they seek out the nipple. Sometimes a wet nurse is hired to feed the infant, although this is rare, especially in developed countries.

As infants grow, food supplements are added. Many parents choose commercial, ready-made baby foods to supplement breast milk or formula for the child, while others adapt their usual meals for the dietary needs of their child. Whole cow's milk can be used at one year, but lower-fat milk should not be provided until the child is 2 to 3 years old.[5] Until they are toilet-trained, infants in industrialized countries wear diapers. Children need more sleep than adults—up to 18 hours for newborn babies, with a declining rate as the child ages. Until babies learn to walk, they are carried in the arms, held in slings or baby carriers, or transported in baby carriages or strollers. Most industrialized countries have laws requiring child safety seats for infants in motor vehicles.

Infant mortality

Infant mortality is the death of an infant in the first year of life, often expressed as the number of deaths per 1000 live births (infant mortality rate). Major causes of infant mortality include dehydration, infection, congenital malformation and SIDS.[6]

This epidemiological indicator is recognized as a very important measure of the level of health care in a country because it is directly linked with the health status of infants, children, and pregnant women as well as access to medical care, socioeconomic conditions, and public health practices.[7][8]

Emotional development

An infant being immunized in Bangladesh

Attachment theory is primarily an evolutionary and ethological theory whereby the infant or child seeks proximity to a specified attachment figure in situations of alarm or distress for the purpose of survival.[9] The forming of attachments is considered to be the foundation of the infant/child's capacity to form and conduct relationships throughout life. Attachment is not the same as love and/or affection although they often go together. Attachment and attachment behaviors tend to develop between the age of 6 months and 3 years. Infants become attached to adults who are sensitive and responsive in social interactions with the infant, and who remain as consistent caregivers for some time. Parental responses lead to the development of patterns of attachment which in turn lead to 'internal working models' which will guide the individual's feelings, thoughts, and expectations in later relationships.[10] There are a number of attachment 'styles' namely 'secure', 'anxious-ambivalent', 'anxious-avoidant', (all 'organized') and 'disorganized', some of which are more problematic than others. A lack of attachment or a seriously disrupted capacity for attachment could potentially amount to serious disorders.

Common care issues

See also

An infant of four months
Smile of a little baby
An infant of two months

References

  1. ^ "Neonate". Merriam-Webster online dictionary. Merriam-Webster. http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=neonate. Retrieved 2007-03-27. 
  2. ^ "Infant". Merriam-Webster online dictionary. Merriam-Webster. http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=infant. Retrieved 2007-03-27. 
  3. ^ Warren SM; Brunet LJ, Harland RM, Economides AN, Longaker MT (2003-04-10). "The BMP antagonist noggin regulates cranial suture fusion". Nature 422 (6932): 625–9. doi:10.1038/nature01545. PMID 12687003. 
  4. ^ Gartner LM; Morton J, Lawrence RA, Naylor AJ, O'Hare D, Schanler RJ, Eidelman AI, etal (February 2005). "Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk". Pediatrics 115 (2): 496–506. doi:10.1542/peds.2004-2491. PMID 15687461. 
  5. ^ Salkind, Neil (2006). Encyclopedia of Human Development. SAGE Publication. ISBN 1412904757. 
  6. ^ Garrett, Eilidh (2007). Infant Mortality: A Continuing Social Problem. Ashgate Pub Co. ISBN 0754645932. 
  7. ^ Hertz,, E; Hebert JR, Landon J. (July 1994). "Social and environmental factors and life expectancy, infant mortality, and maternal mortality rates: results of a cross-national comparison". Soc Sci Med. 39 (1): 105–14. doi:10.1016/0277-9536(94)90170-8. PMID 8066481. 
  8. ^ "The relationship between socioeconomic factors and maternal and infant health programs in 13 Argentine provinces" (in Spanish). Rev Panam Salud Publica 21 (4): 223–30. April 2007. PMID 17612466. 
  9. ^ Tronick, Morelli, & Ivey, 1992, p.568. "Until recently, scientific accounts ... of the infant's early social experiences converged on the view that the infant progresses from a primary relationship with one individual... to relationships with a growing number of people... This is an epigenetic, hierarchical view of social development. We have labeled this dominant view the continuous care and contact model (CCC...). The CCC model developed from the writings of Spitz..., Bowlby..., and Provence and Lipton... on institutionalized children and is represented in the psychological views of Bowlby...[and others]. Common to the different conceptual frameworks is the belief that parenting practices and the infant's capacity for social engagement are biologically based and conform to a prototypical form. Supporters of the CCC model generally recognize that the infant and caregiver are able to adjust to a range of conditions, but they consider the adjustments observed to reflect biological variation. However, more extreme views (e.g., maternal bonding) consider certain variants as nonadaptive and as compromising the child's psychological development. Bowlby's concept of monotropism is an exemplar of the CCC perspective..." (Tronick, Morelli, & Ivey, 1992, p. 568).
  10. ^ Bretherton,I. and Munholland,K., A. Internal Working Models in Attachment Relationships: A Construct Revisited. Handbook of Attachment:Theory, Research and Clinical Applications 1999eds Cassidy,J. and Shaver, P., R. Guilford press ISBN 1-57230-087-6

Bibliography

  • Simkin, Penny; et al. (1992 (late 1991)). Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn: The Complete Guide. Meadowbook Press. ISBN 0-88166-177-5. 

External links

Preceded by
Fetus
Stages of human development
Infancy
Succeeded by
Toddlerhood


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Synonyms:

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Infant — est un mot issu du latin infans, qui signifie bébé, jeune enfant. Les enfants des familles royales des Espagnes étaient appelés infants de leurs pays, tout comme les princes de sang royal français étaient appelés les enfants de France. En… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • infant — infant, ante [ ɛ̃fɑ̃, ɑ̃t ] n. • 1407; esp. infante; lat. infans ♦ Titre donné aux enfants puînés des rois d Espagne et de Portugal. L infant d Espagne. Le personnage de l infante dans « le Cid ». « Pavane pour une infante défunte », œuvre de… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • infant — in·fant / in fənt/ n: a person who is not of the age of majority: minor compare adult Merriam Webster’s Dictionary of Law. Merriam Webster. 1996 …   Law dictionary

  • Infant — In fant, n. [L. infans; pref. in not + fari to speak: cf. F. enfant, whence OE. enfaunt. See {Fame}, and cf. {Infante}, {Infanta}.] 1. A child in the first period of life, beginning at his birth; a young babe; sometimes, a child several years of… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Infant — In fant, a. 1. Of or pertaining to infancy, or the first period of life; tender; not mature; as, infant strength. [1913 Webster] 2. Intended for young children; as, an infant school. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • infant — infant, ante (in fan, fan t ) s. m. et f. 1°   Titre qu on donne aux enfants puînés des rois d Espagne et de Portugal.    Infant s est dit aussi dans quelques grandes familles espagnoles. •   Mudarra Dont ses [de don Rodrigue] complots… …   Dictionnaire de la Langue Française d'Émile Littré

  • infant — [n] baby babe, bairn, bambino, bantling, bundle, child, kid, little one, neonate, newborn, small child, suckling, toddler, tot; concepts 414,424 Ant. adult infant / infantile [adj] very young baby, babyish, callow, childish, childlike, dawning,… …   New thesaurus

  • infant — Infant, [inf]ante. substantif. Titre qu on donne aux enfans puisnez des Rois d Espagne & des Rois de Portugal. Le Cardinal Infant. l Infante Claire Eugenie …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie française

  • Infant — In fant, v. t. [Cf. F. enfanter.] To bear or bring forth, as a child; hence, to produce, in general. [Obs.] [1913 Webster] This worthy motto, No bishop, no king, is . . . infanted out of the same fears. Milton. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Infánt — (span. infante; v. lat. infans, »Kind«), in Spanien und Portugal Titel der Prinzen und Prinzessinnen (infanta, Infantin) der königlichen Familie; der Kronprinz heißt in Spanien seit 1388 Prinz von Asturien, während er in Portugal bis zur… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Infánt — (span. infante; vom lat. infans, d.i. Kind) und Infantin (span. infanta), in Spanien und Portugal Titel der Prinzen und Prinzessinnen des königl. Hauses …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon


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