From a Traditional Physical Therapy Perspective regarding Normal Development:
Full-term is 38 weeks onward. 37 weeks’ gestational age is NOT full-term.
The neonate has NO experience with life outside of the womb – Please remember that as you expose your infant to his or her first sounds and sights of the outside world.
Very little movement is independently controlled – most movement is random and affected by gravity (gravity is also a new experience).
The elbows, hips, knees, and ankles have strong flexion, meaning that they are bent up and if you try to straighten them they will recoil back into a bent position.
Newborns are usually moving when they are awake and display a wide range of vigorous movement with rotational components of the ankles and wrists. Usually one can see this better when the infant is lying on his or her back. There is much about tummy time and its importance out there, but giving an infant opportunity to freely kick and move while lying on their back is also important.
A neonate is interested in breastfeeding, being held and cuddled and in hearing their mother’s voice. If you are a first-time mother, I am here to reassure you that less material things are needed than you think.
A neonate can fixate on your smiling face and track briefly. They typically see best when the object (your bright smiling face!) is about 9 inches away.
Extension (lifting) of the head and neck while lying on the stomach is one of the first things you will see against gravity, but I am not so personally convinced that a neonate needs a whole separate “playtime-tummy time” on the floor on a blanket by themselves. Tummy time can also be achieved over your legs, over your lap or being held with the infant’s tummy on your chest as you are laying down.
There are a wide range of reflexes that help the infant organize themselves and drive an infant’s ability at this age, along with the musculoskeletal constraints already mentioned (strong flexion) and the way the bones start out.
If your baby has a history of prematurity, intraventricular hemorrhage, bronchopulmonary dyplasia, low birth weight under 1500 grams, or lack of oxygen to the brain, please follow your baby’s development carefully.
From an Anthroposophical Point of View:
(One of the best resources on the Web regarding The Waldorf Baby can be found here: http://www.christopherushomeschool.org/early-years-nurturing-young-children-at-home/the-waldorf-baby.html).
Rahima Baldwin Dancy talks about in her book how the infant experiences space, time and gravity differently once born compared to life within the womb. Birth also is the first experience an infant has with temperature regulation and the rhythmical qualities of breathing.
“With the first breath,” she writes, “inner emotional life begins, and the breath serves as the connection between the inner and outer worlds. With the first in-breath, the possibility exists for the soul life to enter into a deeper relationship with the body, a relationship it will keep until the last expiration. Although the baby is spiritually present and physically responsive to stimuli while in the womb, the soul cannot come into the body without the breath. Then the soul gives expression to our emotions through the breath as sound and speech.”
Incarnation into the body is a gradual process.
The infant is viewed as entirely a sense-organ where all impressions from the environment go into the infant without filters and influence physiological processes – such as digestion and circulation of the blood.
Sleep of the infant is seen as needed to “shut-off” from the world because if one is a sense organ where impressions are just flooding in, imagine how exhausting that is!
Things typically recommended by authors such as Rahima Baldwin Dancy, and Joan Salter include having a special place for the baby to rest, such as a bassinet or co-sleeper, and draping this with silks to provide rest for the infant’s eyes.
Provide harmony and rhythm through singing. You can also play a soft flute or kinderlyre.
Provide a sense of warmth for your infant and keep your infant’s head covered throughout the first year. Remember, an infant does not do a great job regulating temperature by themselves!
Think about 40 days of rest and of being at home – there is an entire post on this blog regarding that subject here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/07/17/40-days-after-birth-and-beyond/
Joan Salter asserts that the baby’s most natural position within the first six weeks is HORIZONTAL, not vertical.
You may consider keeping your infant inside for the first 40 days and after that introducing your infant to the wonderful sounds of nature outside. Trips to the store, in the car, in a bus, etc should be avoided if at all possible.
Joan Salter recommends swaddling with the upper extremities bent and the hands near the infant’s mouth – as a therapist, this is the position I most frequently recommend as well.
I suggest if you would like to read more about The Waldorf Baby, to go back and re-read pertinent chapters in “You Are Your Child’s First Teacher” and “The Incarnating Child.” Sometimes a third or fourth read of these chapters can really provide further illumination!