Infant

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An infant or baby is the very young offspring of humans. 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 (from birth up to 4 weeks after birth, less than a month old).[1] The term "newborn" includes premature infants, postmature infants and full term newborns. The term infant is derived from the Latin word infans, meaning "unable to speak" or "speechless." 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. "Infant" is also a legal term referring to any child under the age of legal adulthood.[2]

Contents

Physical characteristics

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. 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.[3]

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. Special exercises sometimes advised by physicians may assist the process.

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