In the human brain, the appearance of cortical sulci is a complex process that takes place mostly during the second half of pregnancy, with a relatively stable temporal sequence across individuals. Since deviant gyrification patterns have been observed in many neurodevelopmental disorders, mapping cortical development in vivo from the early stages on is an essential step to uncover new markers for diagnosis or prognosis. Recently this has been made possible by MRI combined with post-processing tools, but the reported results are still fragmented. Here we aimed to characterize the typical folding progression ex utero from the pre- to the post-term period, by considering 58 healthy preterm and full-term newborns and infants imaged between 27 and 62 weeks of post-menstrual age. Using a method of spectral analysis of gyrification (SPANGY), we detailed the spatial-frequency structure of cortical patterns in a quantitative way. The modeling of developmental trajectories revealed three successive waves that might correspond to primary, secondary and tertiary folding. Some deviations were further detected in 10 premature infants without apparent neurological impairment and imaged at term equivalent age, suggesting that our approach is sensitive enough to highlight the subtle impact of preterm birth and extra-uterine life on folding.