Just After The Birth
Just after the birth, babies can often be very attentive and look at and respond to people. After this initial alert period, baby will usually sleep for a long time.
Many Dads often miss this period as they're outside on the mobile telling friends and family about the birth!
The way it works generally is that an alert, calm newborn will stare intently at Mum when placed in her arms. The baby will often imitate facial expressions so if Mum opens her mouth wide or sticks out her tongue, the baby will copy. A newborn will also turn in the direction of any voices and noises which attract attention.
If a newborn baby's cheek is gently stroked, they will demonstrate their sucking reflex by turning towards the touch and purse their lips, then start sucking when their lips are touched.
Newborn babies will also instinctively grip at anything that touches their palm until they develop the ability to reach for things. If you hold a baby upright with feet on a firm surface, they will also appear to 'take steps' in their first week. This reflex quickly disappears, as does the 'crawling reflex' that occurs when newborns are put on their stomachs.
Newborn babies have another reflex which relates to a fear of being dropped! This reflex causes them to flex their limbs frantically when being picked up or put down. It's advisable to hold tiny babies securely and give them plenty of warning before moving them.