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"I'll play with my baby when he can play ball," the new dad says.

Posted Nov 04 2009 10:06pm


That's what Jerry, the husband of 28 year-old Elizabeth, said one afternoon at their first pre-natal visit. "All the baby does is eat and sleep that first year anyway, " Jerry explains.

Jerry is not alone in this view of a newborn. A study by Zero-to-Three asked new parents "at what age do you think babies can 'take in the world?" 61% of parents thought that a baby needed to be two- to three-months-old to notice the world around them.

The real truth is good news for you, Jerry (and for Elizabeth too!). Most babies can "play ball" (and actively engage in the world around them) as the tiniest of newborns. But parents need to notice a baby's special ways of approaching this ball game. (See DVD on playing with your newborn.)

Now, at the young family's first post-natal check-up, Jerry holds his newborn, Joey, and gazes intently into his eyes. I almost have to pry little Joey from his daddy's arms. In addition to the routine physical exam, I always love to take time to help parents appreciate some of the amazing capabilities of their baby.

As I hold Joey in front of me his eyes fix on mine. I slowly tilt my head to the side; Joey's eyes follow. As I move a bit more to the left, his eyes drop from my gaze. I hesitate a moment, and then he engages with me again. I'm not worried when I see his eyes jerk a bit as they move. (It will be a few weeks before they move continuously like grown-up's eyes.) "Wow!" Jerry says. "He can really pay attention!"

Then I pick up my little red ball. Joey stares at the ball differently than when he looked at my face It is normal for many babies to be more interested in a face, initially, than in an object. But I just jiggle the ball a second and Joey's eyes start to follow it as I slowly move it. When Joey starts to wiggle around, and his breathing increases, I recognize an SOS (Sign of Over-Stimulation). I hold his little hands gently against his chest, and his eyes immediately look intently at the ball again. Now he follows its movement from one side to the other.

"Yep! Like I thought," Jerry declares to all. "He's a star ball player already! It's my turn to play ball with him now!"

Read other articles on understanding and care of babies.
Discover The HUG DVD and Newsletters for new parents.
© HUG Your Baby 2009

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