The Newborn: Capabilities, Growth, and Developmental Milestones

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  • 0:05 The Amazing Newborn
  • 0:51 Reflexes
  • 2:34 How Does a Newborn Learn?
  • 3:45 Developmental Milestones
  • 5:29 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lisa Roundy

Lisa has taught at all levels from kindergarten to college and has a master's degree in human relations.

Newborn growth and development is an amazing process! In this lesson, you will discover how babies learn, when they acquire certain abilities, and what reflexes they are born with.

The Amazing Newborn

The carnival is in town! Let's visit and see what amazing sideshow acts they have for us to see. First up is the strong man. Hmmm. Not quite what I had in mind! Oh! Here's the bearded lady! This is always an interesting one! Now, what's this? The amazing newborn? We need to check this out!

Come one, come all! Step right up and see the amazing newborn! Watch as he wows you with his ability to learn and grow! See the incredible reflexes he is born with! Are you ready for the show? In the next few minutes, you will learn what reflexes are seen in a newborn, see how they learn, and find out about common developmental milestones.


A baby is born with many normal reflexes. Some of these are as simple as yawns, hiccups, quivers, and stretches. Exhibiting these reflexes is a sign of good neurological health. A reflex is an involuntary action or response. Some reflexes, such as coughing, sneezing, and blinking are protective. He will cough to remove irritations from his airway. He will blink to protect his eyes, and he will sneeze to protect his nose.

Some newborn reflexes have specific names. Let's examine a few of these now! First up is the startle reflex. The startle reflex occurs when the newborn is surprised or alarmed. Watch what happens when our ringleader suddenly rings a loud bell. The newborn suddenly flings his arms and legs straight out! Next up is the grasp reflex. Watch as the newborn firmly grasps an object that is placed in the palm of his hand! Now we will see automatic walking, or the stepping reflex. As our ringleader holds up the newborn he begins to alternately lift his legs as he feels pressure on the bottoms of his feet!

The next few reflexes are all related to one another. There is the rooting reflex, the sucking reflex, and the swallowing reflex. Let's have our ringleader introduce a bottle to the newborn. If he touches the newborn's cheek with the nipple, the newborn will turn toward the nipple and search for it with his mouth. Once he finds the bottle, he will immediately begin to suck and swallow its contents. These reflexes help him to eat and thrive.

How Does a Newborn Learn?

The newborn may have a lot of amazing reflexes to help it on its way, but it can learn as well! Learning begins at birth, and a newborn's senses are the main tools it uses for learning. He can see different colors! He can differentiate sounds! He can determine if a blanket feels soft or itchy!

As the newborn experiences the world through sensations, his brain rapidly develops. The more sensory input he receives, the more easily connections are made within the brain that differentiate these sensations. The newborn brain is busy taking it all in. New skills and information is stored as these connections develop.

Watch as the ringleader interacts with the newborn! The ringleader snaps his finger and the baby turns his head toward the sound. The newborn looks intently into the ringleaders face as he talks to him. This may seem like play, but he is paying attention and learning about his surroundings through this interaction. Play is the main way that the newborn learns to move, socialize, and understand his surroundings.

Developmental Milestones

As we leave the sideshow tent, you are thinking about all of the amazing abilities you witnessed. Now you have some more questions. When should a newborn develop particular skills? What are some developmental milestones for newborns? To answer this, let's look at some common developmental milestones and when they should occur.

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