The word Infant derives from the Latin in-fans, meaning unable to speak. It is commonly used as a slightly more formal word for baby (the youngest category of child). A newborn baby is known as a neonate (neonatal) after the final stage of gestation.
Infant mortality is the death of infants in the first year of life. Infant mortality can be subdivided into neonatal death, referring to deaths in the first 27 days of life, and post-neonatal death, referring to deaths after 28 days of life. Major causes of infant mortality include congenital malformation, infection and SIDS.
This epidemiological indicator is recognized as an important measure of the level of healthcare 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.
Newborn babies are born with their skin coated with a white substance known as vernix caseosa, which is hypothesized to act as an antibacterial barrier. Newborns look physically different from prototypical older infants. They typically suffered minor trauma during birth resulting in a misshapen skull (compressed and pointed), puffy eyes, various discharges, blotchy and wrinkled skin. The Apgar score is a measure of a newborn health.
Feeding is done by breastfeeding or with special industrial milk, "infant formula". As infants age, and their appetites grow, many parents choose from a variety of baby foods to feed the child. Babies have a sucking instinct allowing them to extract the milk from the nipples of the breasts or of the nipple of the baby bottle. If the mother is unable to breast feed, or doesn't want to, infant formula is used in Western countries. In third world countries, a wet nurse is hired to feed the baby.
Breastfeeding provides babies with many natural immune substances and isolates the baby from most bacteria or other contaminations in the local water supply. Infant formula does not provide these immune substances and in places with poor quality water supply, subjects the baby to an increased risk of disease.
Infants are incontinent, therefore diapers are generally used. They cannot walk, although more mature infants may crawl; baby transport may be by perambulator (stroller or buggy) or on the back or in front of an adult in a special bag, cloth or cradle board. Babies cry as a form of basic instinctive communication to their parents when in need of feeding or when in discomfort.
As is the case with most other young children, infants are usually treated as special persons. Their social presence is different from that of adults, and they may be the focus of attention. Fees for transportation and entrance fees at locations such as amusement parks or museums are often waived.
- Infant mortality rates in different countries and other health indicators :
- Baby Milk Action (http://www.babymilkaction.org) ("aims to save lives and to end the avoidable suffering caused by inappropriate infant feeding")
- Cord-Blood.org - unbiased information on baby cord blood banking (http://www.cord-blood.org) - Umbilical cord stem cells can be used to treat future diseases
The term infant is also used as formal term for minor; that is, a child in general.