Pregnancy week by week



Speech & hearing


At birth, an infant’s vision is blurry. Their near vision is far better developed than their far vision. They can only focus on objects held 8 to 12 inches in front of them or nearer. As their vision develops, they show preference for high contrast patterns to other shapes. They prefer bright colours and pattern objects (such as a disc). They also show preference visual preference for faces more than objects. Infants spend much of their early weeks and months developing such skills as focusing, recognizing depth, developing eye-hand coordination, and making spatial judgements. As the child grows, more complex skills, such as visual perception and visual motor integration, develop to meet their need to understand their surroundings.

At birth, a baby’s eyes may roll away from each other occasionally. This is normal. But if your baby is squinting all or a lot of the time, tell your doctor. They can refer you to an ophthalmologist who specialises in children’s eyes. It’s important that any problems with your child’s eyesight are identified as soon as possible, as they can affect social and educational development. Children themselves may not know that there is anything wrong with their sight.


Learning to talk is vital for children to make friends, as well as for learning and understanding the world around them. The first step that babies need to take is learning to understand words. They need to understand before they can start to talk themselves.

You can help your child learn by holding them close, making eye contact and talking to them as soon as they are born. They will look back at you and very soon begin to understand how conversations work. Even making baby noises will teach your baby useful lessons about listening, the importance of words and taking turns in a conversation.

As your baby starts to take more of an interest in what is going on around them, you can start naming and pointing at things that you can both see. This will help your baby to learn words and, in time, they will start to copy you. Once your baby can say around 100 individual words, they will start to put short sentences together. This normally happens by the age of about two.

However, some children may find it hard to learn what words mean, or may struggle to use words or put them together in sentences. Others may use long sentences but find it hard to make themselves understood. These are all signs that they may need some extra help. If you are at all worried about your child’s language development, talk to your doctor. It may help to get your child referred to a speech and language therapist.

Helpful tips: the following tips will help encourage your baby to start talking.
  • From the day that they are born, you can make faces and noises and talk about what is going on: “are you hungry now?” “Do you want some milk?”

  • You can start looking at books with your baby from an early age. You don’t have to read the words on the page, just talk about what you can see.

  • Point out things you see when you are out and about. As your baby gets older, add more detail.

  • As your baby grows, have fun singing nursery rhymes and songs, especially those with actions like “Pat-a-cake” and “row, row, row your boat”.

  • If you repeat the sounds your baby makes back to them, your baby will learn to copy you.

  • Background noise will make it harder for your child to listen to you so switch off the tv.

  • If your child is trying to make a word but gets wrong, say the word properly. For example, if your baby points to a cat and says “ca!”, Say “yes, it’s a cat.” But don’t criticise or tell them off for getting the word wrong.

  • It is best to use short, simple sentences. If your child is already talking, as a general rule try to use sentences that are a word or so longer than the sentences they use themselves.

  • Play games where you have to take turns, like peek-a-boo and round and round the garden.

  • Get your child’s attention by saying their name at the start of whatever it is you are saying to them.

  • You can increase your child’s vocabulary by giving them choices: for example, “do you want an apple or a banana?”

  • Encouraging your child to talk in different settings (such as in the bath, in the car or just before bed) will help them to learn to talk. If you ask a question, give them plenty of time to answer you.

  • Keep dummies for sleeping. It’s hard to learn to talk with a dummy in your mouth!


    Hearing develops early in life and even before birth. Newborns will turn their heads towards the direction of sounds and are startled by loud noises. Newborns cal be soothed to sleep by rhythmic sounds such as a lullaby. Infants look around to locate or explore sources of sounds, such as doorbell or a musical toy.

    Hearing and talking are closely linked. If your child cannot hear properly, they may well find it difficult to learn to talk.  If the problems with their hearing are relatively minor, they may simply need some extra support to learn to talk; if the problems are more serious, they may simply need to learn other ways of communicating. The earlier that hearing problems are discovered, the greater the chance that something can be done.

    You can take an appointment with your doctor if you are concerned about your child’s hearing.



    Most babies get their first milk tooth at around six months, usually in front and at the bottom. But all babies are different. Some are born with the tooth already through; while others have no teeth by the time they are a year old. Most will have all their milk or primary teeth by about two-and-a-half. There are 20 primary teeth in all, 10 at the top and 10 at the bottom. The first permanent teeth come through at the back at around the age of six.

    Brushing your child’s teeth

    As soon as your baby’s teeth start to come through, you can start brushing their teeth. Buy a baby toothbrush and use it with a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste. Check with your dentist whether the brand you are using has enough fluoride for your baby’s needs. Don’t worry if you don’t manage to brush much at first. The important thing is to get your baby used to teeth-brushing as part of their everyday routine. You can help by setting a good example and letting them see you brushing your own teeth.

    Gradually start brushing your child’s teeth more thoroughly, covering all the surfaces of the teeth. You should do it twice a day-just before bed, and at another time that fits in with your routine. Not all children like having their teeth brushed, so you may have to work at it a bit. But try not to let it turn into a battle, or brush your own teeth at the same time and then help your child “finish off”. The easiest way to brush a baby’s teeth is to sit them on your knee with their head resting against your chest.

    With an older child, stand behind them and tilt their head upwards. Brush the teeth in small circles covering all the surfaces and let your child spit the toothpaste out afterwards. Rinsing with water has been found to reduce the benefit of fluoride. You can also clean your baby’s teeth by wrapping a piece of damp gauze with a tiny amount of fluoride toothpaste on it over your finger and rubbing this over their teeth. You will need to carry on helping your child brush their teeth until you are sure they can do it well enough themselves. This normally will not be until they are at least seven.

    Cutting down on sugar

    Sugar causes tooth decay. Children who eat sweets every day have nearly twice as much decay as children who eat sweets less often. It’s not just the amount of sugar in sweet food and drinks that matters, its how often the teeth are in contact with the sugar. Sweet drinks in a bottle or feeder cup and lollipops are particularly bad because they “bathe” the teeth in sugar for long periods of time. Acidic drinks such as fruit juice and squash can harm teeth too. This is why it’s better to give them at meal times, not in between.

    The following tips will help you reduce the amount of sugar in your child’s diet and avoid tooth decay:
  • From the time your baby is introduced to solid food, try to encourage them to eat savoury food. Watch for sugar in pre-prepared baby foods, rusks and baby drinks, especially fizzy drinks, squash and syrups.

  • You should only give sweet foods and fruit juice at meal times. Well diluted fruit juice containing vitamin C and given in a cup with a meal may also help iron to be absorbed. Between meals, stick to milk or water.

  • Try not to give biscuits or sweets as treats- and ask relatives and friends to do the same. Use things like stickers, badges, hair slides, crayons, small books, notebooks and colouring books. They may be more expensive than sweets, but they last longer too.

  • If children are having sweets or chocolate, it’s less harmful for their teeth to eat them all at once and at the end of a meal than to eat them little by little and/or between meals.

  • At bedtime or during the night, give your baby milk or water rather than baby juices or sugar sweetened drinks.

  • Try to avoid giving drinks containing artificial sweeteners, such as saccharin or aspartame. If you do, dilute them with water.

  • It is okay to use bottles for expressed breast milk, infant formula or cooled boiled water but using them for juices or sugary drinks can increase tooth decay. It is best to put these drinks in a cup and keep drinking times short.

  • Between six months and one year, you can offer drinks in a non-valved free- flowing cup

    It might help to check your whole family’s sugar intake and look for ways of cutting down.

    Helpful tips

    Monitoring sugar content:
  • Sucrose, glucose, dextrose, maltose, fructose and hydrolysed starch are all sugars.
  • Invert sugar or syrup, honey, raw sugar, brown sugar, cane sugar, muscovado and concentrared fruit juices are all sugars.

  • Maltodextrin is not a sugar, but can still cause tooth decay.





















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