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Guide to Baby Milestones in the First 12 Months

baby developmental milestonesIt is always exciting to witness each and every baby milestone that your baby reaches – not just the first time your baby walks or talks, but the little milestones, like the first time your baby smiles at you or when your baby rolls over.

Baby milestones aren’t just thrilling for parents, but they’re markers for you and doctors to track your baby’s development. For most milestones, there’s a range of what’s considered “normal.” It’s important not to panic if your baby is delayed in a milestone. Different factors play into baby milestones.

However, it’s a good idea to pay extra attention to your baby’s milestones to make sure he or she is on the right track.

Here are 8 major milestones to pay attention to in the first year of life.

1. Eye Contact (6 to 8 weeks old)

Between 6 and 8 weeks old, your baby will make eye contact. This is one of the first baby milestones that you’ll notice, and it’s an exciting baby developmental milestone. Your baby will follow you with her eyes, and finally paying attention to you. Eye contact demonstrates that your child’s brain is registering a familiar face, and it indicates that her neurological growth and communication skills are on the right track.

Keep in mind that some babies will make eye contact later, so try not to freak out if he or she doesn’t make eye contact until 3 months old. If your child doesn’t make eye contact by age 3 months, you may want to have her vision tested to rule out any eye diseases. Also, if your child is not making eye contact, you should pay attention for any signs of attachment or behavior problems.

In most cases, your baby is fine. But talk to your doctor if you’re worried.

2. The Social Smile (8 weeks old)

When your baby smiles at you for the first time, it’s a heartwarming feeling that you should cherish. The social smile isn’t the same as the occasional smile that newborns use after they pass gas, or when they’re looking at the ceiling. The first social smile is a reciprocal experience. Your baby is smiling back at your own smile. He is responding to you!

The social smile is a sign that different parts of your baby’s brain are maturing, and it shows emotional growth. Your little one can distinguish his empty feeling when mom isn’t around to the joy he feels when he sees your face.

If you don’t notice any social smiles by 3 months old, bring it up to your pediatrician. It may be a sign of an eye or vision problem, or an attachment disorder.

3. Rolling Over (2 to 3 months old)

Once your baby reaches two or three months old, he or she should start rolling over. During supervised tummy time, your baby may lift herself into a push-up position, then start rocking back and forth (or kick his or her feet). Once your baby is strong enough, these movements will cause him or her to roll over. Your baby probably won’t be strong enough to flip from back to front until she reaches 5 months old, since this takes more strength and coordination.

Once your baby hits this milestone, make sure that you keep a hand on her during diaper changes to avoid any accidents.

If your baby hasn’t learned how to flip over by the time he or she reaches 6 months old, discuss this with your doctor. But keep in mind that babies develop physical skills – like this baby milestone – at different rates. Some babies hit this baby milestone sooner than others.

4. Grabbing (3 months old and up)

Newborns are born with a strong grasping reflex. That’s why when you touch your newborn’s palm, he will curl his or her tiny fingers around yours. Once your baby hits 3 months old, your baby is developing hand-eye coordination. He will start attempting to reach and grab objects that he wants.

You may notice that babies at this age drop objects in their hands and then try to pick them up again. This baby milestone helps your baby learn about gravity, objects in his environment, etc. Reaching and grabbing shows your baby’s natural curiosity.

At 4 months old, your baby can pick up larger objects – such as blocks and toys. Your little one won’t be able to grab smaller objects (like peas) until your child develops better finger dexterity.

Once your baby hits this baby milestone, you can engage your baby’s senses and help his development by creating opportunities for your child to practice this skill. Place a favorite toy just out of reach of your little one’s grasp.

If your baby doesn’t seem interested in any toy that you place in front of him by 8 weeks old, talk to your doctor. Premature infants typically reach this and other baby milestones later, but your doctor can give you advice on the reasonable time frame for your individual situation.

5. Object Permanence (5 months and up)

Starting at 6 months old, your baby starts to understand the concept of object permanence – a fancy term for saying that he or she grasps the idea that objects are still there, even when they’re hidden from sight. That’s why babies at this age love playing “peek-a-boo.”

Peek-a-boo engages both your baby’s memory and his abstract thinking skills. Start playing peek-a-book (or jack-in-the-box) activities with your baby at this age, and you’ll get plenty of smiles!

6. Sitting up (4 to 8 months old)

Most babies learn to sit independently between 4 to 8 months old. This is roughly the same time that your child will master rolling over and holding her head up. By 8 months old, around 90 percent of all babies can sit alone for several minutes without any support. (But just because your baby can sit unsupported doesn’t mean she will want to. Some babies lose interest in being upright after awhile.)

If your child can’t hold up her head steadily by the time 6 months rolls around, discuss this with your child’s doctor.

7. Crawling (6 to 10 months old)

Once your baby is sitting up, it won’t be long before he is ready to explore the rest of the house. Your baby will probably start in the sitting up position, and then get on all fours. Once he realizes that he has the strength to support himself, he will start crawling around.

Not all babies use the hands-and-knees type of crawl. Some babies like to shuffle around to his butt, while others like to roll around.

To encourage your baby to crawl, give him some space. Then, place his favorite toys or objects just out of reach.

When your baby hits this baby milestone, make sure that you baby-proof your home. You don’t want your little one getting into anywhere he shouldn’t be going into – like electrical outlets and cabinets.

All babies will learn how to move around in their environment – whether this is by crawling, rolling, or scooting. If your child doesn’t show any interest in becoming mobile by age 1, talk to your pediatrician.

8. Walking (10 months and up)

Once your baby masters the art of crawling, she will look for things to pull up on, including the side of her crib, a sturdy chair, a sofa. To keep your baby safe during this time, make sure you remove any objects that aren’t safe or have the potential to fall over on your child.

Once your baby pulls herself up to a stand, walking will soon follow. Some babies learn to take their first steps sometime after 10 months old. It takes some infants longer, and others sooner. Most babies take their first baby steps between 9 and 12 months old, and can walk around by the time they reach 14 or 15 months old.

Walking takes time for some children, but if you have any concerns, talk to your doctor.

About the author: DP Nguyen is founder and editor of Hip Chick’s Guide to PMS, Pregnancy and Babies. She’s an expert pregnancy and women’s health blogger. She is NOT a medical doctor and does NOT offer medical advice. Connect with her on Google+, Twitter and Facebook.

{ 4 comments… add one }
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  • Mare April 27, 2011, 5:49 pm

    This is great information, and very reassuring. I had been a little worried that my almost 9-month-old hasn’t really figured out how to crawl yet. Well, she does move, she just gets places by rolling around in different directions. She also does kind of scoot herself backwards. We secretly think she’s too chubby to haul herself anywhere forwards yet. So I won’t really stress about this until 10 months, I guess?

  • Trauma April 27, 2011, 12:49 pm

    It’s so wonderful to know the milestones and development of your baby but, with all the different disabilities on the rise like Autism, Parents should know the signs of Autism. Talk to your childs doctor if any signs of develoment seem a little odd. Early Intervention alway helps.

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