How long is a baby a newborn? Here are the stages of early childhood

Hey mama! Congratulations on your newborn!

If this is your first child, you might be wondering, “what do I do now?” and “how long is this baby considered a newborn?” I wondered this myself as I arrived home from the hospital with this small human being wondering what I should even call it. I’ve done the research for you. Take a look below on what to call the new addition to your family!

So how long is your baby a newborn?

The short answer is: 2 months

But it’s a little more complicated than that. If you really want to understand the stages you and your baby are about to go through, take a look below.

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Do I call it a newborn? Infant? Baby?

The terms “newborn”, “infant” and “babies” are used interchangeably. However, the exact definition varies.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary says a “newborn” is a child that was recently or just born. It doesn’t put a time restriction on when the newborn stage ends.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines a newborn infant as a child under 28 days of age. During these 28 days, the newborn is at highest risk of disease and infant death.

An ‘infant’ however is defined as young children under the age of one. Though sometimes this may include children up to the age of two.

Finally, a ‘baby’ is used to define a child from birth to 4 years of age. This would cover newborns, infants as well as toddlers.

So really, you can call your just born human a newborn, infant, or baby!

What are the stages of a baby?

The first year of my baby’s life went by so quickly. I watched as my daughter learned to smile, roll over, laugh, sit unassisted, clap, wave, pick up objects, speak and walk. My daughter loved music and playing games like peek-a-boo. They grow so quickly and by their first birthday, they will have tripled their weight and gained 6 to 8 inches in length.

Within the first four years of their life, they will have hit many milestones. Here are some of the major ones but also take a look at the full list on the CDC website.

2 Months

  • The baby begins to smile (no more facial twitches because of gas!)
  • Turns their head towards sounds
  • Start to get bored (and will let you know)
  • Can hold their head up and push up during tummy time

4 Months

  • They begin to make sounds with their mouth
  • Begins to reach for things
  • Follows moving objects with their eyes
  • Holds their head up unassisted
  • May be able to roll over from tummy to back

6 Months

  • Likes to look in the mirror
  • Responds to their name
  • May be able to pass things from one hand to the other
  • Rolls over in both directions
  • Sits unassisted
  • Might start to bounce (good time to introduce the Jolly Jumper or an Exersaucer)

9 months

  • Starts to be afraid of strangers
  • Starts to cling to caretaker
  • Understands “no”
  • May start saying “mama” or “dada”
  • May start pointing at things
  • Looks for things that you hide (great time to play hide-and-seek with toys!)
  • Puts things in their mouth
  • Stands assisted
  • Crawls (my daughter never did, she completely skipped crawling and went straight to walking at 10 months)

1 Year

  • Upset when caregiver leaves
  • Shows fear in situations (my baby is afraid of the Roomba)
  • Hands you items they want you to play with/read to them
  • Says “mama” or “dada”
  • Likes to bang, shake, throw things
  • Copies you when you use things like a brush for your hair, toothbrush when you brush your teeth
  • Follows simple directions
  • First steps in walking

18 Months

  • Starts to have temper tantrums
  • Starts to play pretend (good time to get a doll or play kitchen)
  • Explores alone with an adult nearby
  • Says several short words
  • Points to things they want
  • Walks alone
  • Can help undress/dress themselves
  • Eats with a spoon

2 Years

  • Copies others
  • Wants to play with other children
  • Shows more independence and defiance
  • Says sentences with 2 to 4 words
  • Begins sorting shapes and colours
  • Build towers of 4 or more blocks
  • Follows more complicated instructions
  • Stands on tiptoe
  • Starts to run/kick/throw overhand
  • Walks up and down stairs assisted

3 Years

  • Shows affection to people
  • Shows empathy
  • Understands “mine, “his”, “hers”
  • Can name familiar things
  • Carries a conversation with 2 or 3 sentences
  • Can play with toys with buttons, levers and moving parts
  • Can do easy puzzles
  • Screws and unscrews jar lids or turns door handles
  • Climbs and runs easily
  • Can pedal a tricycle/trike

4 Years

  • Plays with caregiver and would rather play with others than alone
  • Knows basic grammar rules
  • Sings a song or rhyme from memory
  • Tells stories
  • Plays simple board games or card games
  • Hops and stands on one foot
  • Can catch a ball
  • Can begin assisting in the kitchen (never leave your child unattended!)

What about toddlers? How long can I call my child a toddler?

A toddler is defined as a child that is just learning to walk or one that toddles. This is roughly around one year of age. There is no cut and dry age for when your child becomes a toddler but rather they graduate to “toddler” status when they are exhibiting toddler behaviours.

This includes walking, becoming more curious and more independent. I considered my daughter a toddler around 11 months though many wouldn’t be considered a toddler until 14-18 months. The CDC defines toddlers as children from the age of 1-2 years old. Toddlers should be able to recognize names of familiar people and objects and follow simple instructions.

The CDC has a great list of things you can do to help your toddler during this growth and development period to aid their learning. Some of these include reading to your toddler, playing games and giving them encouragement in their own independence.

What’s next?

When your child is about 3 years old, they have graduated to preschooler status. They will soon begin school and have reached milestones in how they play, speak, interact, move and learn. They become very curious and like to ask questions and play pretend. This is also the time you can let your child help you with chores.

They will no longer be a ‘baby’ and will let you know they aren’t one either! This is when you can pat yourself on the back and be proud that you survived their ‘baby’ years. Congrats mama.

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