Birth and the Newborn Period
The Birth Experience
• Approximately 38 weeks after conception, contractions of the uterine muscles
begin, initiating the birth of the baby
• Research on the birth process has revealed that many aspects of the birth
experience have adaptive value and increase the likelihood of survival for the
• Pressure on the head during birth can cause the separate plates of the skull to
overlap, resulting in a temporarily misshapen head
• Fortunately, the condition rapidly corrects itself after birth
Diversity of Childbirth Practices
• All cultures pursue the dual goals of safeguarding the survival and health of
the mother and child and ensuring the social integration of the new person.
o Groups differ, however, regarding the relative importance they give to
the two goals.
• Childbirth practices change over time within a given society because of
o Shifts in the priority placed on different goals
o The development of new strategies and technologies to achieve these
The Newborn Infant
A. State of Arousal
• State: The infant’s level of arousal and engagement in the environment
o Ranges from deep sleep to intense activity
o Is an important influence in the newborn’s exploration of the world
Six States ofArousal
1. Active sleep (8 hrs.)
2. Quiet sleep (8 hrs.)
3. Crying (2 hrs.)
4. Active awake (2.5 hrs.)
5. Alert awake (2.5 hrs.)
6. Drowsing (1 hr.)
• Newborns sleep twice as much as young adults
• The pattern of two different sleep states changes dramatically:
o REM (rapid eye movement) sleep: an active sleep state associated with
dreaming in adults and is characterized by quick, jerky eye movements
under closed eyelids
o Non-REM sleep: a quiet or deep sleep state characterized by the
absence of motor activity or eye movements and by regular, slow brain
waves, breathing and heart rate • REM sleep constitutes fully 50% of a newborn’s total sleep time and declines
rapidly to only 20% by 3 or 4 years of age.
• According to auto stimulation theory, brain activity during REM sleep in the
fetus and newborn
o Makes up for natural deprivation of external stimuli
o Facilitates the early development of the visual system
• Early in infancy, crying reflects discomfort or frustration.
• Crying gradually becomes more of a communicative act.
o With experience, parents become better at interpreting the
characteristics of the cry itself
• Many effective soothing techniques, including swaddling, involve moderately
intense and continuous or repetitive stimulation.
• Parents of babies with colic should seek social support and relief from
frustration—and remember that colic typically ends within a few months.