Difference between baby, newborn, infant and toddler: A timeline

What is the difference between a baby, a newborn, an infant, and a toddler? When does a baby become a toddler? What is the meaning of infant? I learned that:

  • Babies covers all the subcategories of newborns, infants, and toddlers, or 0 months to 2 years.
  • Babies are considered newborns from 0-2 months
  • Infants range from 2 months to one year
  • Toddlers range from one year to about three years, depending on who you ask

How about a timeline to help break it down? I look for any excuse to make graphs!

And of course, beyond that point, they just become children, or kids! Or at least until they are adolescents, pre-teens, teens, young adults…

I like learning about history and how words develop over time. Let’s dig into the meanings of all these kid-related words!

Baby

Babe” goes all the way back to the 1300s, meaning an infant of either sex. It likely comes from imitating baby talk, or babbling, if you will. It’s interesting to note that it’s similar to the words for describing older people, like babushka (Russian for grandmother).

Newborn

The history of this one is super simple. We’re just describing a newly born baby. Though it was used as early as 1300! Newborns are getting used to life outside the womb and developing their senses so they can understand the world around them.

Infant

In today’s world, the word “infant” implies a baby who can’t walk yet. But it actually comes from a combination of two Latin words, “fans” or “fari,” meaning “to speak,” and “in-,” meaning “the opposite of.” Putting it all together, we get “one who is not able to speak.” So in ancient Greece, infant referred to a newborn. The Romans expanded the word to include older children – the French still use the word enfant, which means child. And somehow, in English (and other languages like Spanish), we’ve come full circle and use infant to describe very young children!

Infants have the skills to look at and understand some of the things going on in the world around them, and are beginning their motor development. At the start of the infant stage, they can probably use their head and eyes to track someone’s movement, and flail their arms and legs. They are now starting to interact with the world around them and not just eating and sleeping! By the end of the infant stage, they are crawling and babbling.

Toddler

The term toddler arose in 1793, of course, coming from the word toddle, describing how these young ones moved around! By the time your baby is a toddler, they have pretty well-developed motor skills and their brains are growing to understand more complex ideas, like language.

Conclusions

I hope you enjoyed today’s episode of MyMomsaNerd: some interesting etymology facts about babies and a graph!

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