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Baby Steps: A Guide to Your Child's Social, Physical, and Emotional Development in the First Two Years
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Baby Steps: A Guide to Your Child's Social, Physical, and Emotional Development in the First Two Years

by Claire B. Kopp

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A revised and updated edition of this popular
step-by-step guide to baby development
When Baby Steps was first published in 1993, it was named one of the 10 Best Parenting Books by Child magazine. Now, this popular guide to baby's first two years has been completely revised to incorporate the latest research on the young child's


A revised and updated edition of this popular
step-by-step guide to baby development
When Baby Steps was first published in 1993, it was named one of the 10 Best Parenting Books by Child magazine. Now, this popular guide to baby's first two years has been completely revised to incorporate the latest research on the young child's developing brain and behavior, including brand-new material on temperament, language, and memory.
Baby Steps pinpoints the important events in an infant's life, examining them month by month for the first year, and in three-month intervals during the second year. Beginning with a "miniguide" to early development, the book goes on to a cover such important subjects as sleep, crying, colic, motor development, social play, and toilet training. Developmental hints and alerts throughout the book provide parents with a clear understanding of the full range of "normal" behaviors for each phase, helping to allay common anxieties.
An accessible, concrete guide to infant and toddler behavior, Baby Steps takes much of the guesswork out of parenting.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“In contrast to all the 'how to' guides, this book provides readers with the in-depth developmental understanding they need to cultivate parenting techniques that work best for them and their toddler.” —Child magazine
Library Journal
Developmental psychologist Kopp seeks to eliminate some of the mystery surrounding babies by providing a detailed guide to infant development during the first two years of life. Boasting numerous research summaries and a fairly high reading level, this book may not be the first choice for answering common questions regarding infant care, but it should be a welcome resource for those desiring a more in-depth understanding of their baby's development. Features include both monthly and collective chapter arrangement (e.g., "Birth to Three Months," "Toddler Times"), with "Snapshot" overviews and then "Images of Development" offering physical, cognitive, social, emotional, and language development details for that particular age. "Developmental Close-Ups" and "Sharpening Our Focus" sections concentrate on issues such as speech acquisition and cultural parenting norms. An extensive bibliography rounds out the book. Recommended for academic and large public library infant development collections.-Kay Hogan Smith, Univ. of Alabama at Birmingham at Lister Hill Lib. Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
Second Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.74(d)

Read an Excerpt

Baby Steps

A Guide to Your Child's Social, Physical, Mental, and Emotional Development in the First Two Years

By Claire B. Kopp

Henry Holt and Company

Copyright © 2003 Claire B. Kopp, Ph.D.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8050-7243-3


Birth to Three Months

The Just Born
The Early Weeks
One Month
Two Months
Three Months
Developmental Hints and Alerts: Birth to Three Months
Sharpening Our Focus
Neurons, Neurons, and More ...
Emotion Development


It would be nifty if newborns greeted their parents with a broad smile that said, "Hey thanks for bringing me here!" But that's not going to happen. Indeed, newborns are relatively unsociable, which may surprise you. Yet rewards are coming. There are times when your very young baby will look at you briefly with rapt attention, reach out with his arms to touch a part of your body, or even make a few sounds to you. Many of these behaviors reflect behavioral biases that predispose newborns to respond to human faces and smiles, bobbing heads, and human voices. What matters most is that you and your baby can begin to build a relationship from day one! Your baby's response is most likely to occur when she's rested and in just the right state of alertness. If you can't get your newborn to respond, don't worry.

Very young babies are largely unsocial for good reason. Most of their energies must be directed toward adapting to a new environment, the one outside the womb. They must learn to breathe regularly and effectively, to nurse without regurgitating, to stay awake and alert for brief periods, and to have restful sleep periods. These adaptations are called physiological regulation, and collectively they are the most important challenges facing young babies. Be patient and provide lots of assistance when your baby needs an extra burp to eliminate gas or additional soothing to fall asleep. You're helping the baby with physiological regulation.

You'll soon be rewarded with the faint but very real social smile of your five- or six-week-old, the rapt attention of your two-month-old as she explores your face and makes eye contact with you, and the broad, consistent smile of your three- month-old as he welcomes your presence with coos and more smiles. The day-to- day interactions you have with your baby contribute to the transition from biologic predispositions to voluntary behaviors.

Once babies' vital systems are working smoothly, they have more total energy, which can be freed for other enterprises. As sleeping and eating become routine, the baby gains increasing control of her motor movements: when held upright her head control is stronger and less precarious than before. As other physical abilities improve — head control, reach, and grasp — babies increasingly explore their surroundings. As they explore, they learn about their environment.

Social interactions provide the baby with more learning opportunities. She learns that the scent of a familiar person and being picked up seem to happen together, that touching one hand with the other feels good, and that she can produce gruntinglike sounds. By three months, the tissues in her larynx are flexible enough to make vowel sounds. As soon as she emits these cooing sounds, at first accidentally, she sets about learning how to reproduce them. Grown-ups love to hear coos, and babies thrive on the attention that coos elicit!

Overall in just three short months, the baby's vital systems begin to function quite smoothly, her senses are maturing, and the baby can make some controlled head, arm, and hand movements. She has some vocal mechanisms that will eventually lead to speech, she has formed a few associations for events that co- occur, and she has learned that some things make her feel good. Instead of fretful, intermittent sleeping she has acquired the habit of a lengthy nighttime sleep and longer daytime periods of wakefulness. Not bad for only three months work!

The Just Born

* all senses are intact and working

* can move head from side to side

* has curled-up body position (fetal posture)


Birth launches the newborn into a totally new world. The baby has to make accommodations simply to survive, much less flourish, outside the womb. Suddenly he has to breathe on his own, swallow food to get nourishment, lie on a solid surface rather than float in a fluid space, and regulate his own body temperature. A newborn's physiological disorientation is akin to what we would experience if we were suddenly propelled to outer space.

When the umbilical cord is cut, the newborn begins his solo flight. The baby has to keep his plane aloft even though not all of his vital processes were checked out before liftoff and even though he has not been schooled about what to do if something malfunctions. Fortunately, biological predispositions help babies sustain life as they begin their adaptation to a world filled with people and objects and events.

The newborn's survival kit includes reflexes, movements, and the senses. A reflex is a patterned series of movements that occur in response to a particular stimulus; an adult example is the knee-jerk response, and a baby example is the grasp reflex. Reflexes perform many functions for babies. The sucking reflex provides him with a way to take in food now that nourishment is no longer automatically supplied through the umbilical cord. The grasp reflex allows him to hold on to a parent, which can build emotional closeness. Coughing and sneezing keep passages clear for ingestion and respiration.

Beyond reflexes, there are several kinds of movements in the newborn. Some spontaneous movements are total-body actions that are sometimes jerky or writhing and may be accompanied by leg kicks. These movements are due to an immature brain and its connections to an immature neuromuscular system. Spontaneous movements may look as if they are purposeful, such as when the baby stretches, but probably are due to some unobserved internal or external stimulus. Overall though, the spontaneous whole-body movements, whatever their cause, keep muscles toned during the time that a baby has limited means to exercise his trunk muscles and his limbs.

Other newborn movements consist of relatively controlled arm actions. Some of these are survival mechanisms, which are often set in motion by stimuli linked to primitive brain centers. The hand-to-mouth movement is an example: this basic movement allows a newborn to soothe himself by sucking on a hand or thumb under mild conditions of distress. Another kind of newborn controlled movement is easiest to observe under precise laboratory conditions and often consists of brief, limited range, up-and-down arm movements as if the baby was getting ready to wave.

The third component of the newborn's survival kit also includes the senses of touch, smell, vision, hearing, and taste, which provide information about surroundings. The baby's sense of touch, smell, and taste are functional, but additional experiences improve the ability to detect subtle variations within these inputs.

In terms of hearing, newborns hear but they do not hear all sound frequencies. Young babies typically detect sounds such as those made by someone who speaks in a normal, everyday voice. They do not detect whispers. By one or two months, infants distinguish some phoneme contrasts (a vowel or consonant), some speech intonations, and speech sounds from non-speech sounds. Yet there are many sounds and variations within a language that young infants do not perceive, and in general they are less sensitive than older infants to duration and rhythm in speech. As with the other senses, both the hearing apparatus and perception of sounds (including speech) improve dramatically in the first six months of life. Experiences and the maturing brain have a major role.

Much of the same can be said about the newborn's visual system. At birth, it is far from fully functional because of the interrelated immaturity of the eyes (e.g., the retina), the visual portion of the brain, and the ability to perceive certain stimuli (e.g., a very narrow band of white and black stripes). The newborn's visual world is often filled with fuzzy, blurry images, even for objects that are nearby. But there is no doubt the newborn sees the overall configuration of faces!

Although newborns differ appreciably from older babies, toddlers, or adults in the quality and quantity of what they take in through their senses, these limitations help them cope with the hustle and bustle that take place in human environments. By seeing less clearly and hearing less distinctly, the newborn is not as likely to become overwhelmed by sensory stimulation. Bear in mind, the newborn cannot move around at will; thus he doesn't have ways to escape bright lights and loud noises.

Overall, the newborn is just a little physical being struggling to exist in a foreign environment. Thanks to biological programs his vital processes can function, and the baby's nascent motor, sensory, and perception skills help him maintain and organize these processes. With parents' assistance, newborns successfully pilot their way through this period of adjustment.


What Does My Baby See?

We've come a long way from the time that pediatricians assured parents that newborns could not see, even though babies' eyes were open wide and they appeared to be looking. Several decades later, Robert Fantz — who had been studying vision in nonhuman primates — closed the book on that myth. Fantz decided to use a variation of his simple observational technique with babies. He showed babies a two-dimensional drawing and then looked for the reflection of the stimulus on the baby's pupil. Surprise! When newborns were shown two different stimulus drawings side by side, the babies' looking patterns revealed their preferences. Contrasts, such as a pattern of wide black-and-white stripes, were preferred over a simple gray background.

Research on infant visual-preference patterns exploded after Fantz's original studies. Still, it's taken a while for scientists to figure out how to accurately measure how well babies see, to identify those parts of the brain that are likely to be involved in newborn vision, and to specify the kinds of visual information newborns can process, at least in some way. Fortunately, advances in measurement technology and the development of sophisticated computer programs have contributed to the acquisition of new knowledge, most of which has come about during the past twenty years.

Let's start with visual acuity, that is, the clarity of a newborn's vision. If 20?20 is normal vision for adults, then the newborn's typical vision of 400 indicates blurred vision perhaps thirty times worse than normal adult vision. However, blurred vision is developmentally limited. By this I mean that the young baby's visual acuity improves dramatically, typically by three months of age. At about eight to ten months, the baby's vision is comparable to that of adults who have normal vision.

Several factors contribute to these early visual limitations. For one, the distance between the front and the back of the eye is shorter than it will be later on. The shortened length means there's reduced clarity of a visual image on the retina. Blurred vision is also a consequence of the structure of the retina at birth. The part of the retina called the fovea is associated with recognition of fine detail and color perception. In newborns though, the fovea contains far fewer cones (photoreceptors for detail and color) than are found in adults, and the shape of the newborn fovea makes it less efficient for catching light signals. A third limitation comes from immature neuronal connections within the brain itself and connections from the eyes to the brain's vision centers.

Despite blurred vision, newborns can still perceive many visual stimuli. At birth or soon after, they are able to differentiate a simple geometric shape from another; a moving stimulus from a static one; angles that are wide versus narrow; high-contrast patterns from low-contrast ones; and faces from other stimuli. Faces seem to be particularly attractive to newborns, primarily as a function of certain stimulus properties. Faces contain contrast elements (white eyes, darker skin), relative degrees of contrast (think fair skin and very dark hair), and overall oval shapes. Some researchers suggest that babies also prefer their mothers' faces within a day or two of birth. These findings suggest some form of early learning may take place although its duration is not known. However, other researchers believe there is an innate program that specifies a preference for faces from birth.

Studies from the past decade help us interpret data from some of the earlier vision research. Converging findings from animal and human research suggest that many newborn visual, auditory, and motor responses are largely, but not exclusively, linked to subcortical pathways. Cortical activity is present, but in only limited and selective ways.

The subcortical nature of the young baby's visual responses does not imply these are unimportant activities. On the contrary, other research implies that the earliest forms of visual experiences contribute to the development of cortical pathways. And it is these pathways, which greatly increase starting at about two months of age, that are associated with the acquisition of knowledge about faces, objects, and events in the baby's surroundings.

Improvements in the baby's visual system go along with better control of awake and alert states. During the first three months of life, babies not only increase the amount of awake and alert periods but also are better able to maintain alertness on their own. As a consequence, researchers can more effectively study the kinds of visual stimuli that babies are most attentive to, how long they attend, the stimuli that are likely to distract babies, shifts in attention preferences, and more.

The Early Weeks

* is most responsive to touch and gentle rocking

* will look around when awake and alert but vision is blurry

* can soothe self if mildly upset by sucking on fist or fingers


A few hours after birth the baby's heart and blood systems begin to work effectively, but not all vital processes stabilize this quickly. Even at three weeks of age, respiration, sleep, ingestion and digestion, and modulation of body temperature have still not completely settled into smooth and steady functioning. Nor are all these systems synchronized with one another. Hiccups, slight quivers, fussing, jumpiness, spitting up, and restlessness are body upsets that signify temporary disruptions in the baby's journey toward physiological stability.

Maintaining physical functioning is hard work for the three-week-old. You can sometimes coax her into looking at you, but don't be surprised if she soon tires. The baby just doesn't have the strength for sustained social interactions. However, the occasional wide-eyed alert look she directs your way tells you she's processing something about your interactions.

Sleep gives body processes a chance to function without external distractions and lets the baby recharge his energy. Babies of this age have only a small amount of energy to store and consume large amounts in just a short period of wakefulness. Young babies require a great deal of rest, and they sleep as much as twenty hours in each twenty-four-hour period.

Often, the baby is comforted by caresses and light touches. Light stroking reduces her fretfulness and promotes sleep. Though the young baby's sense of touch is not fully developed, she does seem to feel marked discomfort from significant pressure. Pain associated with pressure is a subjective experience, and a baby may be more or less finicky than other newborns about being accidentally pinched or tightly held.

A two- to three-week-old already prefers sweet formula to all others and easily tells the difference between sour and bitter solutions. The baby is also able to distinguish differences in the smells of things around her; she dislikes the smell of foul substances as much as an adult does. Research also shows that babies quickly learn the scents associated with the people who routinely care for them. Sometimes a familiar scent is enough to soothe mild upsets. Also at this age, the baby may respond to speech by becoming still or sometimes by making startle movements. Vision is still blurry.

Keep an eye out for your baby's responses to your presence and to different soothing techniques. You'll soon discover the ones that typically work best.

Despite their overall immaturity, babies of this age are not totally at the mercy of their surroundings. They have two highly effective means of coping with the world: they can cry and they can sometimes reduce mild forms of distress. A cry indicates that something is not right and summons parents to provide care and comfort. Self-soothing goes like this. As the three-week-old is lying on her side, with her free arm bent at the elbow, her fist happens to rub her cheek, and then her mouth. She opens her mouth to receive the fist, and sucking occurs. She may drop off to sleep.



Vision. At this age babies see objects best when the objects have sharp contrast. A baby's vision is pulled toward her father's mouth: his white teeth stand out against his otherwise blurry-looking facial features. Research shows that when the baby looks at an object she doesn't see all of it. She sees only a portion of what she is looking at, most typically a section of the edge of the item because of its high contrast. So the three-week-old probably sees only a corner of her dad's mouth. That's fine for now.


Excerpted from Baby Steps by Claire B. Kopp. Copyright © 2003 Claire B. Kopp, Ph.D.. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Claire B. Kopp, Ph.D., is an acclaimed developmental psychologist. She has been a professor at Claremont Graduate University and was also an adjunct professor at UCLA for more than twenty years. Baby Steps is the result of over three decades of her work with children and parents, as well as her own experiences as a mother and grandmother. She lives in Los Angeles.

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