We all know the most common developmental milestones and roughly when they should occur. Rolling, crawling, and walking are the easy ones, but what about the more subtle, less-talked-about milestones that are just as important. I like to call some of these milestones mini-milestones. Sometimes babies slip them in there without any fanfare. For example, we carefully record the date of the first step and the first word in the baby book, but what about the first time your baby noticed you from across the room or picked up a cheerio using a three-finger-grasp. Before we delve into these milestones, it is important to point out three critical tips about milestones in general.
The first thing that is important to remember is that all babies are individuals.
They are developing at their own rate in their own time. Try not to compare your baby to other babies and try not to live by the developmental milestone charts. Babies don’t hit milestones on the exact date that the chart says they will. The goal is to see minor progression every week.
The second important point is that babies should not show regression or go backward or plateau for a long time with their skills.
Of course, as your baby learns new skills, they may forget to practice an older skill. For example, perhaps your baby was rolling from front to back, but as they learn to push up on their arms and explore what is in front of them, they forget that they know how to roll because they are so distracted by the world they are exploring. This is common, but losing skills completely without developing new ones is a red flag.
The final important point about milestones is babies should never skip developmental milestones.
Each developmental milestone builds on the previous one, so it is essential to spend time working on each milestone. For example, some babies go straight to walking without ever crawling, and parents applaud this. Still, crawling is a critical milestone to build core strength, balance, sensory skills, and visual skills. If this milestone is skipped, a lot of opportunity for development is lost. Encourage every milestone along the way.
Let’s explore some of the lesser-known milestones because having an awareness of these will ensure that your baby stays on track and continues to move forward in their development.
1. Development of depth perception
Depth perception occurs within a tiny window of time, right around three months. Within two weeks, your baby will suddenly be able to take in images far away in the landscape and have an awareness of how far away items are. It is important to be aware of this so that you can provide your baby with lots of opportunities to explore different depths. Going outside for walks and looking out windows is excellent. You can also talk to your baby from across the room and see if he looks at you. Place toys at varying depths during tummy time and take note if your baby looks from one toy to another.
If you suspect issues with your baby’s vision, such as lazy eye or trouble focusing, try to get this addressed before three months so depth perception can develop correctly.
2. Fine pincer grasp
Around six to eight months, your baby will switch from the baby “raking” grasp, where they use four fingers to rake small items into their fist, to the three-finger fine pincer grasp. They now have the ability to oppose their thumb and use their thumb, index, and middle finger to pick up a small item. This happens fast and makes choking hazards even more hazardous, but it also allows your baby to explore more of his world with his hands and allows him more independence during feeding.
3. Purposeful palm release
Right around three to four months, the grasp reflex relaxes, and babies can purposefully release an item. This is significant because they can now pass a toy from one hand to the other and have more control over their world to help them explore.
4. Longer sleep cycles
Newborns have sleep cycles that only last 50-60 minutes, but right around three months, they transition to the more “adult” length sleep cycles of 90 minutes, allowing them deeper, more restful sleep, and it becomes easier to get your baby on a schedule.
5. Kneecaps form
Did you know your baby was born without kneecaps? This is because babies are born with only cartilage, not patellas. Your baby’s kneecaps will transition from cartilage to hard bone around age three to five years and are completely formed around ten to twelve years. This soft cartilage allows for growth.
6. Knows her name
Usually, around six months, your baby will turn her head toward someone who says her name, demonstrating that she has learned that word represents her. This is an important milestone because she is starting to have an awareness of her own separate identity.
7. Recognizes himself in the mirror
Babies look in the mirror from a very young age and seem fascinated by the bright-eyed baby staring back at them. Still, it isn’t until around 18 months that babies usually know that the reflection is himself. This is a great milestone because it represents self-awareness and a developing sense of his own identity. You can help your baby develop this by putting a sticker on your baby’s cheek and seeing if he reaches for the sticker in the mirror or his cheek—play mirror games to help him learn this distinction.
8. Understands the pause and flow of a conversation
By around one month, babies are already starting to shift their eye gaze from one person to another person when the first person pauses during a conversation. This shows us that they are understanding conversation from a very young age and forming the foundation for their communication.
Babies reach mini-milestones every single day that we might not even be aware of. So it can be fun to pay close attention and think about how these mini-milestones teach your baby about the world.