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Observation #1

Assessing a Newborn
Infant Development
Directions: Arrangements will be made to observe a relatively newborn baby (less
than 8 weeks old). Observe and record the types of behavior noted below. Be aware
of the babys state when observing it- it is easier to observe and assess a baby who
is in an active alert state rather than one who is drowsy or crying.
1. Cries. See if you can identify the different cries the child makes during the
visit or ask the parent/caregiver if they can tell you what different cries mean.
Report on cries that you either heard/observed or that were reported to you
by the caregiver.
Rhythmic- regular pattern (often associated with hunger)
Mad- rhythmic, but energetic
Pain- a shriek followed by a few seconds of silence as the breath is
recovered, followed by extremely energetic crying
Fake- sobs that do not seem to be stimulated by any particular
condition, except perhaps the desire to arouse a response from others
2. Responses to faces and voices. Ask the caregiver to place their face close to
the babys face and stick out their tongue. Wait seven seconds to see if the
baby imitates the behavior. Ask them to try opening and closing their mouth
and blinking their eyes. Observe the newborn closely to see if he or she
makes any effort to imitate the actions. Record your observations on your
record form.
3. Smiles. See if the newborn smiles. Notice what state the infant is in- active
alert, inactive alert, drowsy, and so forth. If the baby is in the drowsy state,
ask the caregiver to make a humming or whistling sound, and then wait ten
seconds. The newborn may respond with a smile. See if the baby smiles for
his/her caregiver. Note any observations of smiling behavior on your record
4. Interactional synchrony. Ask the caregiver to talk to the baby in a rhythmical
way (reciting nursery rhymes with emphasis on the rhythm works well).
Observe the baby to see if he or she makes head and body movements in
time with the caregivers voice and record your observations.
5. Reactions to mothers voice and face. Have the caregiver and a stranger
stand where the baby cannot see either. Ask the two to take turns talking to
the baby, observe the infant to see if the caregivers voice arouses a greater
response than the strangers. Carry out the same procedure within the babys
line of vision and see how long the baby focuses on each face. Record you
observations when done.
6. Reciprocal shaping. Observe the relationship between the newborn and the
caregiver. Does the baby seem to shape the behavior of the parents? For
example, does the baby vocalize and try to get the mother or fathers

attention, and then stop when he or she is picked up? Record any evidence
you see of shaping behavior.
7. Do an informal survey of the infants reflexive behavior. The following
suggestion will help. Record observations of each of the following reflexes.
The sucking reflex can be measured by watching how the baby
nurses or sucks on a nipple or pacifier. If the baby does not exhibit this
while you are there, try inserting a (clean) finger or nuk into the babys
The rooting reflex can be seen when the baby turns his or her head
when touched on either side of the mouth as if to take the nipple. This
is replaced by voluntary movements by three or four months.
The palmar grasp can be elicited by placing a finger in the palm of
the babys hand. The baby will close his or her fingers and hold on
tight. This reflex typically disappears by about five months.
The eye blink occurs when a hand is waved in front of the infants
face. The infants pupils will also adjust to bright lights by narrowing
and to dim lights by widening. This reflex continues throughout life.
The Babinski reflex is measured by stroking the soles of the babys
foot from heel to toe. If this reflex is well established, the baby will
spread the little toes and lift the big one. This reflex should disappear
by age six months
The Moro, or startle, reflex is a reaction to a loud noise or to the
babys being dropped a few inches, in which the baby extends his or
her limbs and digits and then draws them back. This disappears at
about four months.
The stepping reflex occurs when the infants show walking behaviors
when they are held upright and their feet are touching a firm surface.
This disappears after two or three months.
The tonic neck reflex is elicited by turning and holding the babys
head to one side. They extend the arm and leg on that side and bend
the arm and leg on the opposite side into a fencing position. This also
disappears around age four months.
In some babies, these reflexes will be weak, or even nonexistent. In babies, who
have Cerebral Palsy or who have received some trauma to the brain, these reflexes
may not disappear at all and can interfere with voluntary movement.
Billman & Sheman, Observation and Participation in Early Childhood Settings: A
Practicum Guide. Allyn and Becon. Boston. 2003.