Physical development in infancy

Physical development in infancy


According to the medical terminology, infant is a young child.There is no specific age limit for when the individual ceases to be an infant and becomes a child.The word infant suggests extreme fragile, therefore helplessness. During this period, the newborn’s complete helplessness gradually gives away to increasing independence. Infancy is the shortest of all developmental periods and it is a time of radical adjustments. Infancy period is a Plateau in development.

The growth and development which took place during prenatal period suddenly come to a stop with birth. Infant loses weight after birth, but at the end of this period infant again starts gaining weight. Bell, R.Q. et. al. suggested that infancy is a period of future prediction and is a preview of later development. Infancy is considered a hazardous period in terms of physical and psychological adjustment.

According to HurlockE.B(1981), infancy is the shortest of all developmental periods and it covers approximately the first two weeks of life. The period is usually divided into two subdivisions. One is called period of Part unate,which lasts from the time the foetus emerges from the mothers’ body until the umbilical cord has been cut and tied.

The second is the period of the Neonate,which lasts from the cutting and tying of the umbilical cord to approximately the end of the second week of life. It is a time of radical adjustments, for the newborn to adjust to the new environment out side its mother’s body. Infants must make four major adjustments before they can resume their

developmental progress:

a. Adjusting to temperature changes:There is constant temperature of 100 degree Fin the uterine sac,while temperature in the hospital or homemayvaryfrom60 to 70 degree.
b. Breathing:When umbilical cord is cut, infant must start to breathe on its own.
c. Sucking and swallowing: the infant must get nourishment by sucking and swallowing, instead of receiving it through umbilical cord. These reflexes are imperfectly developed at birth and the infant often gets less nourishment that is needed and thus loses weight.
d. Elimination: The infant’s organs of elimination begin to work soon after birth. Formerly,waste products were eliminated through umbilical cord.

If they do not make them quickly, their lives will be threatened. While these adjustments are being made, there is no developmental progress. Instead, the infant remains on a plateau or may even regress to a lower stage of development. The difficulty of adjustment to postnatal life is shown by loss of weight, disorganized behavior and infant mortality.

The most important conditions influencing the infant’s adjustment to post natal life are prenatal environment,length of gestation period, kind of birth, postnatal care and parental attitudes.

There is a sudden change seen in infants in terms of their growth.The rapid growth and development which took place during the prenatal period suddenly come to a stop with birth.

The changes are manifested in terms of loss of weight and loss of strength and sometimes even the health of the child.This change is seen for several weeks and there will again be a change in the growth pattern. The infant begins to improve. By end of the infancy period, the infant’s state of development is usually back to where it was at the time of birth. These changes indicate that the child passes through a phase of getting adjusted with the certain changes both within and outside environment.The health of the infant determines the life span health of the individual.This needs lot of care towards the child in getting adjusted to the changing situations.

The infants undergo many changes in their physical development, physiological functions during infancy period. Each child is different and the rate at which each child grows is different.Although the patterns and sequences for growth and development are usually
the same for all children, the rates at which individual children reach developmental stages will be different (Novella, J. R. 2009 a).

Normal physical growth and motor development proceed according to the cephalocaudal (growth occurs from top to bottom) and proximodistal (inner to outer – growth and motor development proceed from the center of the body out ward)principles. A child’s body grows most dramatically during the first year of life. Growth proceeds at a rapid but diminish ingrate throughout the first three years. Teething begins at about 3 or 4months. By age 3, all primary teeth are in place.

Physical hazards in Infancy

As we have seen earlier, developmental tasks play an important role in setting guidelines for normal development. Anything that interferes with their mastery may be regarded as a potential hazard.The physical hazards of infancy though of low significance, its effect on infant can affect the entire life span of the child. Some of the physical hazards according to Hurlock,H.Bare given below:

1. Unfavorable Prenatal Environment: Prolonged and intense maternal stress, excessive smoking on the part of mother.

2. Complications of pregnancy: These complications include persistent vomiting, vaginal bleeding, toxemiaorpreeclampsia (pregnant woman exhibit elevated blood pressure, swelling,weight gain and protein in her urine) and intrauterine growth retardation. Several environmental factors may affect pregnancy outcome, including maternal age (mothers under 18 or above 35),multiple births, poor nutrition, illness, drug use, cigarette use and stress. Alcohol use during pregnancy may cause the child to suffer from foetal alcohol syndrome, the leading known preventable cause of mental retardation.

3. Birth complications: Such complications include anoxia or insufficient oxygen to the foetus duringdelivery, meconiumaspiration –meconiumis a waste material in the baby’s bowel at birth which is black and tarry and if baby inhales amniotic fluid contacting meconium, they may develop respiratory problems at birth -mal presentation and a prolonged labor. Birth complications can necessitate birth by cesarean.

4. Multiple birth: Children of multiple birth are usually smaller and weaker than singletons as a result of crowding during prenatal period,which inhibits foetal movements. These babies tend to be born prematurely, which adds to their adjust mental problem.

5. Post maturity: post maturity is hazardous only when the foetus becomes so large that the birth requires the use of instruments or surgery, in which case the hazards are due to the conditions associated with birth rather than to post maturity per se.

6. Prematurity: Premature causes more neonatal deaths than any other condition. A major risk factor for new born is low birth weight, either from intrauterine growth retardation or pre maturity (birth before 38weeks). Premature babies face many problems such as breathing problems, feeding problems, and jaundice,birth defects may affect development, neural tube defects, chromosomal abnormalities, phenylketonuria – baby cannot metabolize a substance known as phenylalanine found in protein,which can build up and can cause mental retardation- and cerebral palsy. Prematurely born babes usually experience complications in adjusting to the post natal environment, and these may have a serious effect on future adjustment.