An infant is the term used to characterize a human baby. The term "infant" derives from the Latin word in-fans, meaning "unable to speak." "Infant" is also a legal term referring to minors; that is, any child under the age of legal adulthood.
Upon reaching the age of one or beginning to walk, infants are referred to as "toddlers" (generally 12-36 months).
Infant mortality is the death of an infant in the first year of life. Major causes of infant mortality include dehydration, infection, congenital malformation, and SIDS. This epidemiological indicator is recognized as a very important measure of the level of health care 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.
Infants cry as a form of basic instinctive communication. A crying infant may be trying to express a variety of feelings including hunger, discomfort, overstimulation, boredom or loneliness.
Breastfeeding is the recommended method of feeding by all major infant health organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics. If breastfeeding is not possible or desired, bottle feeding is done with expressed breast-milk or with infant formula. Infants are born with a sucking instinct allowing them to extract the milk from the nipples of the breasts or the nipple of the baby bottle, as well as an instinctive behavior known as rooting with which they seek out the nipple. Sometimes a wet nurse is hired to feed the infant, although this is rare, especially in developed countries.
As infants grow, food supplements are added. Many parents choose commercial, ready-made baby foods to supplement breast milk or formula for the child, while others adapt their usual meals for the dietary needs of their child. Until they are toilet-trained, infants in industrialized countries wear diapers. Children need more sleep than adults - up to 18 hours for newborn babies, with a declining rate as the child ages. Until babies learn to walk, they are carried in the arms, held in slings or baby carriers, or transported in baby carriages or strollers. Most industrialized countries have laws requiring child safety seats for infants in motor vehicles.
Attachment theory is primarily an evolutionary and ethological theory whereby the infant or child seeks proximity to a specified attachment figure in situations of alarm or distress, for the purpose of survival. The forming of attachments is considered to be the foundation of the infant/child's capacity to form and conduct relationships throughout life. Attachment is not the same as love and/or affection although they often go together. Attachment and attachment behaviors tend to develop between the age of 6 months and 3 years. Infants become attached to adults who are sensitive and responsive in social interactions with the infant, and who remain as consistent caregivers for some time. Parental responses lead to the development of patterns of attachment which in turn lead to 'internal working models' which will guide the individuals feelings thoughts and expectations in later relationships. There are a number of attachment 'styles' namely 'secure', 'anxious-ambivalent', 'anxious-avoidant', (all 'organized') and 'disorganized', some of which are more problematical than others. A lack of attachment or a seriously disrupted capacity for attachment could potentially amount to serious disorders.