Developmental Milestones: Is My Baby on Track?

One year old girl taking first steps

Developmental Milestones: Is My Baby on Track?

Congratulations! You successfully carried this tiny bundle of love for nine long months, and then gave birth to an incredibly amazing (yet bewildering) miniature human being. So now what? Unfortunately, babies don’t come with instruction manuals, but you can keep track of important developmental milestones to make sure your baby is on track.

Keep in mind: milestones are just guidelines. You will soon learn that similar to pregnancy itself, every child is unique and develops at his or her own individual pace. Don’t get freaked out if your baby meets some milestones sooner or later than the guidelines suggest. However, do let the milestones serve as a guide for illuminating potential red flags. This will help you know when it might be a good time to check with your pediatrician about any concerns you may have.

Trust your mommy intuition. If something doesn’t feel right, share your concerns with your family pediatrician. He or she can direct you to the appropriate professional or community resource as needed. A simple screening can confirm whether or not a child’s development is on track, which goes a long way in reassuring nervous parents (like you and me).

Baby at One Month

At one month, baby can only focus eight to ten inches away from her face, but her hearing is now fully developed. She may turn her head towards familiar sounds, like mommy and daddy’s voices. She can lift her head briefly, and turn it side-to-side when she’s on her tummy, but still needs head and neck support when upright. Be attentive to these developmental milestones and responsive to her needs. Cuddle her, talk to her, read her books, and play simple games like peekaboo. Truth: you really can’t spoil a newborn! That’s just an urban (parenting) legend.

Talk to your family doctor is your child presents any of the following red flags:

  • Feeds slowly or doesn’t suck well
  • Has trouble focusing her eyes
  • Doesn’t react to bright lights
  • Seems especially stiff or floppy
  • Doesn’t react to loud noises

Baby at Three Months

At three months, baby actively enjoys playtime, has begun babbling and mimicking sounds, and is probably dazzling you daily with her big toothless smile. She no longer needs you to support her head. Tummy time is very important. She can lift her head and chest, and even do “mini pushups” in preparation for rolling over. She can open and close her hands, shake toys, swat at dangling objects, bring her hands to her mouth, and push down with her legs when in a standing position. Her hand-eye coordination is improving, as well as her focus. She can now spot you from across the room!

Talk to your family doctor if your child presents any of the following red flags:

  • Can’t support her head well
  • Doesn’t smile
  • Can’t grasp objects
  • Can’t focus on moving objects
  • Doesn’t react to loud noises
  • Ignores new faces

Baby at Four to Seven Months

Baby’s on the move! By seven months, she can probably roll to her tummy and back again, sit without assistance, and support her weight with her legs well enough to bounce when you hold her. She uses a raking grasp to pull objects (like toys) closer to her, and can move them from one hand to another. She is more sensitive to your tone of voice, and probably recognizes her name.

Read to her every day, and provide age-appropriate toys for play and learning. You really don’t have to do anything special to engage baby. Talk to her, and point out household items in their normal, everyday context. This is a great time to work on establishing a routine for sleeping, feeding, and playtime — if you haven’t already. Many child development specialists recommend the Eat, Play, Sleep method.

Talk to your family doctor if your child presents any of the following red flags:

  • Seems very stiff or floppy
  • Can’t hold her head steady
  • Can’t sit on her own
  • Doesn’t respond to noises or smiles
  • Isn’t affectionate with those closest to her
  • Doesn’t reach for objects

Baby at Eight to Twelve Months

Look at your little explorer go! By eight to twelve months, your baby will be hitting developmental milestones that will have her on the move. You will be surprised at how quickly she can crawl and scoot, so don’t forget to baby proof your home! Baby will pull up to standing and “cruise” on furniture. She may even take some solo first steps before her big birthday. Her babbling should sound more like actual conversation, and she may say a few words like “mama” and “dada.” She pays close attention to your words, and gestures to let you know what she wants. She uses her thumb and forefinger in a pincer grasp to eat finger foods, and she loves to imitate you. Combing her own hair, drinking from a cup, and pretending to talk on the phone. Do not be alarmed: separation anxiety is typical at this age. But makes it a little challenging to leave her in daycare or the nursery at church, when she refuses to let go!

Keep talking to her. This is a critical stage for language development. Keep reading together (always), play peekaboo, and hide and seek games (with toys — don’t actually hide from your baby). Practice walking with her. Offer her crayons and paper and building blocks. Babies love banging pots and pans! Praise her for good behavior, and correct her for not so good behavior.

Talk to your family doctor if your child presents any of the following red flags:

  • Doesn’t crawl
  • Can’t stand without support
  • Doesn’t try to find objects you’ve hidden in front of her
  • Doesn’t use gestures

Intervention is more likely to be effective when implemented early. Be sure to discuss this with your pediatrician and ask for more information on age appropriate developmental activities for infants and children that you can do in your own home.

About the Author /

Wife, mommy to three precious little girls, currently pregnant with baby a boy, and owner of The Plaid Pony.

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