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An infant or baby is the term used to refer to the very young offspring of humans.
An infant in a common baby picture
A young infant




The term infant derives from the Latin word infans, meaning "unable to speak." It is typically applied to children between the ages of 1 month and 12 months . However, definitions vary between birth and 3 years of age.
Approximate outline of development periods in child development. Infancy marked in green at left.
"Infant" is also a legal term referring to any child under the age of legal adulthood.[1]

Newborn and neonate

In general contexts, a newborn is an infant who is within hours, days, or up to a few weeks from birth. In medical contexts, newborn or neonate (from Latin, neonatus, newborn) refers to an infant in the first 28 days of life (less than a month old).[2] The term "newborn" includes premature infants, postmature infants and full term newborns.

Infant mortality

Infant mortality is the death of an infant in the first year of life. Major causes of infant mortality include dehydration, infection, congenital malformation and SIDS.[3]
This epidemiological indicator is recognized as a very important measure of the level of health care in a country because it is directly linked with the health status of infants, children, and pregnant women as well as access to medical care, socioeconomic conditions, and public health practices.[4] [5]

The newborn


Newborn infant, just seconds after delivery.
A newborn's shoulders and hips are narrow, the abdomen protrudes slightly, and the arms and legs are relatively short. In the developed world, the average birth weight of a full-term newborn is approximately 7 ½ lbs.(3.2 kg), but is typically in the range of 5.5–10 pounds (2.7–4.6 kg). The average total body length is 14–20 inches (35.6–50.8 cm), although premature newborns may be much smaller. The Apgar score is a measure of a newborn's transition from the uterus during the first minutes of life.
A newborn's head is very large in proportion to the rest of the body, and the cranium is enormous relative to his or her face. While the adult human skull is about 1/8 of the total body length, the newborn's is about 1/4. At birth, many regions of the newborn's skull have not yet been converted to bone, leaving "soft spots" known as fontanels. .The two largest are the diamond-shaped anterior fontanel, located at the top front portion of the head, and the smaller triangular-shaped posterior fontanel, which lies at the back of the head.^ Position refers to location-on the right or left side of the mother-and the orientation-anterior [towards the mother's front], posterior [toward the mother's back], or transverse [lying crosswise]-of a given part of the baby, specifically, the occiput [back of the head], brow, chin, shoulder, or sacrum [the bone at the end of the spinal column].

^ For example, if the baby’s position is left occipitoanterior, the back of the head is on the left , pointing toward his mother’s front.

^ Warn the child about the anterior fontanel [the soft, boneless spot at the top of the baby's head], but don’t be unduly alarmed if he or she touches it; it’s protected by a firm membrane.

Later in the child's life, these bones will fuse together in a natural process. A protein called noggin is responsible for the delay in an infant's skull fusion.[6]
During labour and birth, the infant's skull changes shape to fit through the birth canal, sometimes causing the child to be born with a misshapen or elongated head. .It will usually return to normal on its own within a few days or weeks.^ When the cord falls off, usually within ten days to two weeks after the baby’s birth, it is not unusual for a few drops of blood to be left on the navel.

^ The gap should be back to the normal half an inch within a week or so.

Special exercises sometimes advised by physicians may assist the process.
Some newborns have a fine, downy body hair called lanugo. It may be particularly noticeable on the back, shoulders, forehead, ears and face of premature infants. Lanugo disappears within a few weeks. Infants may be born with full heads of hair; others, particularly white infants, may have very fine hair or may even be bald. Amongst fair-skinned parents, this fine hair may be blond, even if the parents are not. The scalp may also be temporarily bruised or swollen, especially in hairless newborns, and the area around the eyes may be puffy.
Newborn's digestive tracts, which of course have never been used prior to birth, are filled with a greenish-black, sticky material called meconium. This has the function of standing in for fecal material and allows the intestines to develop to the point where they can process milk immediately on birth. This material is passed by the child in the first few days.
Immediately after birth, a newborn's skin is often grayish to dusky blue in color. .As soon as the newborn begins to breathe, usually within a minute or two, the skin's color returns to its normal tone.^ When the cord falls off, usually within ten days to two weeks after the baby’s birth, it is not unusual for a few drops of blood to be left on the navel.

^ Filed under: Fitness — Baby Original @ 4:53 pm Begin the day of delivery [as soon as you return from the recovery room].

Newborns are wet, covered in streaks of blood, and coated with a white substance known as vernix caseosa, which is hypothesised to act as an antibacterial barrier. The newborn may also have Mongolian spots, various other birthmarks, or peeling skin, particularly on the wrists, hands, ankles, and feet.
A newborn's genitals are enlarged and reddened, with male infants having an unusually large scrotum. .The breasts may also be enlarged, even in male infants.^ The tiniest of babies can be incredibly flexible, and you may be able to nurse the baby in the evenings and on the weekends when you are at home and have your caregiver feed the baby bottles of formula or your expressed breast milk.

This is caused by naturally-occurring maternal hormones and is a temporary condition. Females (and even males) may actually discharge milk from their nipples (sometimes called witch's milk), and/or a bloody or milky-like substance from the vagina. In either case, this is considered normal and will disappear in time.
The umbilical cord of a newborn is bluish-white in color. After birth, the umbilical cord is normally cut, leaving a 1–2 inch stub. .The umbilical stub will dry out, shrivel, darken, and spontaneously fall off within about 3 weeks.^ When the cord falls off, usually within ten days to two weeks after the baby’s birth, it is not unusual for a few drops of blood to be left on the navel.

^ If the umbilicus doesn’t dry up in a few days after the cord comes off, an umbilical granuloma may be present.

Occasionally, hospitals may apply triple dye to the umbilical stub to prevent infection, which may temporarily color the stub and surrounding skin purple.
Newborns lose many of the above physical characteristics quickly. Thus prototypical older babies look very different. .While older babies are considered "cute", newborns can be "unattractive" by the same criteria and first time parents may need to be educated in this regard.^ This may sound like a contradiction for the postpartum period-a time that is often associated with sleepless nights, baby blues, tears, and fatigue.

^ Your baby’s daytime naps may give you some precious time.

^ Even later, when you may not feel the need to sleep every time your baby does, nap time should be for you, not for housework.

Internal physiological changes at birth

Upon its entry to the air-breathing world, without the nutrition and oxygenation from the umbilical cord, the newborn must begin to adjust to life outside the uterus.

The newborn's senses

As an infant's vision develops, he or she may seem preoccupied with watching surrounding objects and people.
Newborns can feel all different sensations, but respond most enthusiastically to soft stroking, cuddling and caressing. Gentle rocking back and forth often calms a crying infant, as do massages and warm baths. Newborns may comfort themselves by sucking their thumb, or a pacifier. The need to suckle is instinctive (see suction in biology) and allows newborns to feed.
.Newborn infants have unremarkable vision, being able to focus on objects only about 18 inches (45 cm) directly in front of their face.^ The “lift” comes from the shoulders and should be straight up, about six inches maximum, face toward ceiling.

While this may not be much, it is all that is needed for the infant to look at the mother’s eyes or areola when breastfeeding. Depth perception does not develop until the infant is mobile. Generally, a newborn cries when wanting to feed. .When a newborn is not sleeping, or feeding, or crying, he or she may spend a lot of time staring at random objects.^ Even later, when you may not feel the need to sleep every time your baby does, nap time should be for you, not for housework.

^ Even the baby’s sex may be disappointing, and the fact that he or she does nothing but eat, sleep and cry-and monopolize your attention-surely will be.

^ For example, your child’s temperature may have gone up a lot, or he may have suddenly begun to cry and pull at his ear, or he may just begin to vomit violently.

Usually anything that is shiny, has sharp contrasting colors, or has complex patterns will catch an infant's eye. However, the newborn has a preference for looking at other human faces above all else. (see also: infant metaphysics and infant vision)
While still inside the mother, the infant could hear many internal noises, such as the mother's heartbeat, as well as many external noises including human voices, music and most other sounds. Therefore, although a newborn's ears may have some catarrh and fluid, he or she can hear sound from before birth. Newborns usually respond to a female voice over a male voice. This may explain why people will unknowingly raise the pitch of their voice when talking to newborns (this voice change is called motherese). The sound of other human voices, especially the mother's, can have a calming or soothing effect on the newborn. Conversely, loud or sudden noises will startle and scare a newborn. Newborns have been shown to prefer sounds that were a regular feature of their prenatal environment, for example, the theme tune of a television programme that their mother watched regularly.
Newborns can respond to different tastes, including sweet, sour, bitter, and salty substances, with a preference toward sweets. It has been shown that neonates show a preference for the smell of foods that their mother ate regularly.
A newborn has a developed sense of smell at birth, and within the first week of life can already distinguish the differences between the mother's own breast milk and the breast milk of another female.[citation needed]

Care and feeding

Infants cry as a form of basic instinctive communication. A crying infant may be trying to express a variety of feelings including hunger, discomfort, overstimulation, boredom, wanting something, or loneliness.
Breastfeeding is the recommended method of feeding by all major infant health organizations.[7] If breastfeeding is not possible or desired, bottle feeding is done with expressed breast-milk or with infant formula. Infants are born with a sucking reflex allowing them to extract the milk from the nipples of the breasts or the nipple of the baby bottle, as well as an instinctive behavior known as rooting with which they seek out the nipple. Sometimes a wet nurse is hired to feed the infant, although this is rare, especially in developed countries.
As infants grow, food supplements are added. Many parents choose commercial, ready-made baby foods to supplement breast milk or formula for the child, while others adapt their usual meals for the dietary needs of their child. Whole cow's milk can be used at one year, but lower-fat milk should not be provided until the child is 2 to 3 years old.[8] Until they are toilet-trained, infants in industrialized countries wear diapers. Diapers are usually changed by a parent or adult caregiver. Children need more sleep than adults—up to 18 hours for newborn babies, with a declining rate as the child ages. Until babies learn to walk, they are carried in the arms, held in slings or baby carriers, or transported in baby carriages or strollers. Most industrialized countries have laws requiring child safety seats for infants in motor vehicles.

Common care issues


An infant being immunized in Bangladesh
Attachment theory is primarily an evolutionary and ethological theory whereby the infant or child seeks proximity to a specified attachment figure in situations of alarm or distress, for the purpose of survival.[9] The forming of attachments is considered to be the foundation of the infant/child's capacity to form and conduct relationships throughout life. Attachment is not the same as love and/or affection although they often go together. Attachment and attachment behaviors tend to develop between the age of 6 months and 3 years. Infants become attached to adults who are sensitive and responsive in social interactions with the infant, and who remain as consistent caregivers for some time. Parental responses lead to the development of patterns of attachment which in turn lead to 'internal working models' which will guide the individual's feelings, thoughts, and expectations in later relationships.[10] There are a number of attachment 'styles' namely 'secure', 'anxious-ambivalent', 'anxious-avoidant', (all 'organized') and 'disorganized', some of which are more problematic than others. A lack of attachment or a seriously disrupted capacity for attachment could potentially amount to serious disorders.


  • Simkin, Penny; et al. (1992 (late 1991)). Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn: The Complete Guide. Meadowbook Press. ISBN 0-88166-177-5. 


  1. ^ ""Infant"". Merriam-Webster online dictionary. Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2007-03-27. 
  2. ^ ""Neonate"". Merriam-Webster online dictionary. Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2007-03-27. 
  3. ^ Garrett, Eilidh (2007). Infant Mortality: A Continuing Social Problem. Ashgate Pub Co. ISBN 0754645932. 
  4. ^ Hertz,, E; Hebert JR, Landon J. (July 1994). "Social and environmental factors and life expectancy, infant mortality, and maternal mortality rates: results of a cross-national comparison". Soc Sci Med. 39 (1): 105–14. doi:10.1016/0277-9536(94)90170-8. PMID 8066481. 
  5. ^ "The relationship between socioeconomic factors and maternal and infant health programs in 13 Argentine provinces" (in Spanish). Rev Panam Salud Publica 21 (4): 223–30. April 2007. PMID 17612466. 
  6. ^ Warren SM; Brunet LJ, Harland RM, Economides AN, Longaker MT (2003-04-10). "The BMP antagonist noggin regulates cranial suture fusion". Nature 422 (6932): 625–9. doi:10.1038/nature01545. PMID 12687003. 
  7. ^ Gartner LM; Morton J, Lawrence RA, Naylor AJ, O'Hare D, Schanler RJ, Eidelman AI, etal (February 2005). "Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk". Pediatrics 115 (2): 496–506. doi:10.1542/peds.2004-2491. PMID 15687461. 
  8. ^ Salkind, Neil (2006). Encyclopedia of Human Development. SAGE Publication. ISBN 1412904757. 
  9. ^ Tronick, Morelli, & Ivey, 1992, p.568. "Until recently, scientific accounts ... of the infant's early social experiences converged on the view that the infant progresses from a primary relationship with one individual... to relationships with a growing number of people... This is an epigenetic, hierarchical view of social development. We have labeled this dominant view the continuous care and contact model (CCC...). The CCC model developed from the writings of Spitz..., Bowlby..., and Provence and Lipton... on institutionalized children and is represented in the psychological views of Bowlby...[and others]. Common to the different conceptual frameworks is the belief that parenting practices and the infant's capacity for social engagement are biologically based and conform to a prototypical form. Supporters of the CCC model generally recognize that the infant and caregiver are able to adjust to a range of conditions, but they consider the adjustments observed to reflect biological variation. However, more extreme views (e.g., maternal bonding) consider certain variants as nonadaptive and as compromising the child's psychological development. Bowlby's concept of monotropism is an exemplar of the CCC perspective..." (Tronick, Morelli, & Ivey, 1992, p. 568).
  10. ^ Bretherton,I. and Munholland,K., A. Internal Working Models in Attachment Relationships: A Construct Revisited. Handbook of Attachment:Theory, Research and Clinical Applications 1999eds Cassidy,J. and Shaver, P., R. Guilford press ISBN 1-57230-087-6

See also

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Preceded by
Stages of human development
Succeeded by

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

INFANT (in early forms enfaunt, enfant, through the Fr. enfant, from Lat. infans, in, not, and fans, the present participle of fart, to speak), a child; in non-legal use, a very young child, a baby, or one of an age suitable to be taught in an "infant school"; in law, a person under full age, and therefore subject to disabilities not affecting persons who have attained full age.
This article deals with "infants" in the last sense; for the more general sense see Infancy and Child. The period of full age varies widely in different systems, as do also the disabilities attaching to nonage (non-age). In Roman law, the age of puberty, fixed at fourteen for males and twelve for females, was recognized as a dividing line. Under that age a child was under the guardianship of a tutor, but several degrees of infancy were recognized. The first was absolute infancy; after that, until the age of seven, a child was infantiae proximus; and from the eighth year to puberty he was pubertati proximus. An infant in the last stage could, with the assent of his tutor, act so as to bind himself by stipulations; in the earlier stages he could not, although binding stipulations could be made to him in the second stage. After puberty, until the. age of twenty-five years, a modified infancy was recognized, during which the minor's acts were not void altogether, but voidable, and a curator was appointed to manage his affairs. The difference between the tutor and the curator in Roman law was marked by the saying that the former was appointed for the care of the person, the latter for the estate of the pupil. These principles apply only to children who are sui juris. The patria potestas, so long as it lasts, gives to the father the complete control of the son's actions. The right. of the father to appoint tutors to his children by will (testamentarii) was recognized by the Twelve Tables, as was also the tutorship of the agnati (or legal as distinct from natural-. relations) in default of such an appointment. Tutors who held office in virtue of a general law were called legitimi. Besides and in default of these, tutors dativi were appointed by the magistrates. These terms are still used in much the same sense in modern systems founded on the Roman law, as may be seen in the case of Scotland, noticed below.
By the law of England full age is twenty-one, and all minors alike are subject to incapacities. The period of twenty-one years is regarded as complete at the beginning of the day before the birthday: for example, an infant born on the first day of January attains his majority at the first moment of the 31st of December. The incapacity of an infant is designed for his own. protection, and its general effect is to prevent him from binding. himself absolutely by obligations. Of the contracts of an infant which are binding ab initio, the most important are those. relating to "necessaries." By the Sale of Goods Act 1893, an infant liable on a contract for necessaries can be sued only for a reasonable price, not necessarily the price he agreed to pay. The same statute declares "necessaries" to mean "goods suitable to the condition in life of the infant, and to his actual requirements at the time of the sale and delivery." In the case of goods having a market price, the market price is reasonable. In all other cases the question is one of fact for the jury. The protection of infants extends sometimes to transactions completed after full age; the relief of heirs who have been induced to barter away their expectations is an example. "Catching bargains," as they are called, throw on the persons claiming the benefit of them the burden of proving their substantial righteousness.
At common law a bargain made by an infant might be ratified by him after full age, and would then become binding. Lord Tenterden's act required the ratification to be in writing. But now, by the Infants' Relief Act 1874, "all contracts entered into by infants for the repayment of money lent or to be lent, or for goods supplied or to be supplied (other than contracts for necessaries), and all accounts stated, shall be absolutely void," and "no action shall be brought whereby to charge any person upon any promise made after full age to pay any debt contracted during infancy, or upon any ratification made after full age of any promise or contract made during infancy, whether there shall or shall not be any new consideration for such promise or ratification after full age." For some years after the passage of this statute highly conflicting views were held as to the meaning of the part of section 2 whereby it was enacted that "no action shall be brought whereby to charge any person ... upon any ratification made after full age of any promise or contract made during infancy." Some authorities were of opinion that the section only applied to the three classes of contract made void by the previous section, viz. for goods supplied, money lent and on account stated. Others thought the effect to be that no contract, except for necessaries, made during infancy could be enforced after the infant came to full age. After several conflicting decisions it has been settled that both these views were wrong. Of the infant's contracts voidable at common law there were two kinds. The first kind became void at full age, unless expressly ratified. The second kind were valid, unless repudiated within a reasonable time after full age was attained by the infant. The Infants' Relief Act (section 2) strikes only at the first class and leaves the second untouched. Thus a promise of marriage made during infancy cannot be ratified so as to become actionable; but an infant's marriage settlement, being of the second class, is valid, unless it is repudiated within a reasonable time after the infant attains full age. What is a reasonable time depends on all the circumstances of the case. In a case decided in 18 93 a :settlement made by a female infant was allowed to be repudiated thirty years after she attained full age, but the circumstances were exceptional. A contract of marriage may be lawfully made by persons under age. Marriageable age is fourteen in males and twelve in females. So, generally, an infant may bind himself by contract of apprenticeship or service. Since the passing of the Wills Act, an infant, except he be a soldier in actual military service or a seaman at sea, is unable to make a will. Infancy is in general a disqualification for public offices and professions, e.g. to be a member of parliament or an elector, a mayor or burgess, a priest or deacon, a barrister or solicitor, &c.
Before 1886 the custody of an infant belonged in the first place, and against all other persons, to the father, who was said to be "the guardian of his children by nature and nurture"; and the father might by deed or will dispose of the custody or tuition of his children until the age of twenty-one.
The Guardianship of Infants Act 1886 placed the mother almost on the same footing as the father as to guardianship of infants. On the death of the father the mother becomes guardian under the statute, either alone when no guardian has been appointed by the father, or jointly with any guardian appointed by him under 12 Chas. II. c. 24. A change of the law even more important is that whereby the mother may by deed or will appoint a guardian or guardians of her infant children to act after her death. If the father survives the mother, the mother's guardian can only act if it be shown to the satisfaction of the court that the father is unfitted to be the sole guardian. On the death of the father, the guardian so appointed by the mother acts jointly with any guardian appointed by the father. The Guardianship of Infants Act 1886 also gives power to the high court and to county courts to make orders, upon the application of the mother, regarding the custody of an infant, and the right of access thereto of either parent. The court must take into consideration "the welfare of the infant, and ... the conduct of the parents, and ... the wishes as well of the mother as of the father." The same statute also empowers the high court of justice, "on being satisfied that it is for the welfare of the infant," to "remove from his office any testamentary guardian or any guardian appointed or acting by virtue of this act," and also to appoint another in place of the guardian so removed.
The same statute gives power to a court sitting in divorce practically to take away from a parent guilty of a matrimonial offence all rights of guardianship. When a decree for judicial separation or divorce is pronounced, the court pronouncing it may at the same time declare the parent found guilty of misconduct to be unfit to have the custody of the children of the marriage. "In such case the parent so declared to be unfit shall not, upon the death of the other parent, be entitled as of right to the custody or guardianship of such children." The court exercises this power very sparingly. When the declaration of unfitness is made, the practical effect is to give to the innocent parent the sole guardianship, as well as power to appoint a testamentary guardian to the exclusion of the guilty parent.
Another radical change has been made in the rights of parents as to guardianship of their children. In consequence of several cases where, after children had been rescued by philanthropic persons from squalid homes and improper surroundings, the courts had felt bound by law to redeliver them to their parents, the Custody of Children Act 1891 was passed. It provides that when the parent of a child applies to the court for a writ or order for the production of the child, and the court is of opinion that the parent has abandoned or deserted the child, or that he has otherwise so conducted himself that the court should refuse to enforce his right to the custody of the child, the court may, in its discretion, decline to issue the writ or make the order. If the child, in respect of whom the application is made, is being brought up by another person ("person" includes "school or institution"), or is being boarded out by poor-law guardians, the court may, if it orders the child to be given up to the parent, further order the parent to pay all or part of the cost incurred by such person or guardians in bringing up the child.
A parent who has abandoned or deserted his child is, prima facie, unfit to have the custody of the child. And before the court can make an order giving him the custody, the onus lies on him to prove that he is fit. The same rule applies where the child has been allowed by the parent "to be brought up by another person at that person's expense, or by the guardians of a poorlaw union, for such a length of time and under such circumstances as to satisfy the court that the parent was unmindful of his parental duties." The 4th section of the Custody of Children Act 1891 preserves the right of the parent to control the religious training of the infant. The father, however unfit he may be to have the custody of his child, has the legal right to require the child to be brought up in his own religion. If the father is dead, and has left no directions on the point, the mother may assert a similar right. But the court may consult the wishes of the child; and when an infant has been allowed by the father to grow up in a faith different from his own, the court will not, as a rule, order any change in the character of religious instruction. This is especially the case where the infant appears to be settled in his convictions.
In the same direction as the Custody of Children Act 1891 is the Children Act 1908, whereby considerable powers have been conferred on courts of summary jurisdiction (see Law relating to children).
There is not at common law any corresponding obligation on the part of either parent to maintain or educate the children. The legal duties of parents in this respect are only those created by the poor laws, the Education Acts and the Children Act 1908.
An infant is liable to a civil action for torts and wrongful acts committed by him. But, as it is possible so to shape the pleadings as to make what is in substance a right arising out of contract take the form of a right arising from civil injury, care is taken that an infant in such a case shall not be held liable. With respect to crime, mere infancy is not a defence, but a child under seven years of age is presumed to be incapable of committing a crime, and between seven and fourteen his capacity requires to be affirmatively proved. After fourteen an infant is doli capax. The law of Scotland follows the leading principles of the Roman law. The period of minority (which ends at twenty-one) is divided into two stages, that of absolute incapacity (until the age of fourteen in males, and twelve in females), during which the minor is in pupilarity, and that of partial incapacity (between fourteen and twenty-one), during which he is under curators. The guardians (or tutors) of the pupil are either tutors-nominate (appointed by the father in his will); tutors-at-law (being the next male agnate of twenty-five years of age), in default of tutors-nominate; or tutorsdative, appointed by royal warrant in default of the other two. No act done by the pupil, or action raised in his name, has any effect without the interposition of a guardian. After fourteen, all acts done by a minor having curators are void without their concurrence. Every deed in nonage, whether during pupilarity or minority, and whether authorized or not by tutors or curators, is liable to reduction on proof of "lesion," i.e. of material injury, due to the fact of nonage, either through the weakness of the minor himself or the imprudence or negligence of his curators. Damage in fact arising on a contract in itself just and reasonable would not be lesion entitling to restitution. Deeds in nonage, other than those which are absolutely null ab initio, must be challenged within the quadriennium utile, or four years after majority.
The Guardianship of Infants Act 1886, the Custody of Children Act 1891 and the Children Act 1908, mentioned above, all apply to Scotland.
In the United States, the principles of the English common law as to infancy prevail, generally the most conspicuous variations being those affecting the age at which women attain majority. In many states this is fixed at eighteen. There is some diversity of practice as to the age at which a person can make a will of real or personal estate.

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