The first year of your baby’s life can seem like a miraculous time. This is when he or she will develop basic skills such as responding to visual and sound cues, rolling over, crawling, and even walking. Tracking your baby’s development is not only something you’ll feel naturally compelled as a parent to do as you witness this period of rapid development; it can help you quickly identify any developmental difficulties and provide your child with the support they may need along the way.
If you are concerned about your child’s development, there are occasions when it might be appropriate to consult your paediatrician. However, keep in mind that every child is different and will develop at their own pace. Your intuition as a parent, as well as common sense, could be your best guide to working out when you should consult a doctor about any concerns.
Here we outline the developmental milestones for babies in their first year and some of the issues to look out for.
At around the one-month stage, your baby won’t yet be able to raise their head when they’re upright, but he or she can lift their head and turn it to the side when on their stomach. Your infant will also be able to raise his or her hands close to their mouth. It’s common for babies at this stage to try to push up if they’re lying on their stomach. A photo or video is the perfect way to capture your baby’s first few times moving their head from side to side, perhaps when they respond to you calling his or her name.
Over the first three months, give your child’s head plenty of support when they’re upright. If he or she is unable to move their hands close to their head or raise their head when on his or her tummy, keep an eye out for any possible issues.
By your baby’s fourth month he or she will generally be able to hold their head steady without your help. At this stage, babies typically are also able to sit up with some support. Your baby holding their head up to look at you in response to you calling their name will be a great photo or video opportunity. If he or she is unable to hold their head steady by the four to seven month stage, speak to your doctor for advice.
By their first or second month, your baby will be able to track objects with their eyes and gradually their eye crossing will decrease. While in the first month they can’t focus on objects beyond eight to 12 inches away, he or she will be able to look at your face. It’s the perfect time to play peekaboo and other visual games with her. By the third month, she should be focusing intently on objects of interest and recognizing you from across the room. Talk to your doctor if you notice your baby doesn’t watch things when they move or doesn’t seem interested in tracking things with her eyes.
By the two to three-month stage your baby will be smiling to themself, and then later in response to your smiles. This is part of their critical motor development skills and ability to respond to their surroundings. Your baby might smile in response to your voice or to your smile, which makes it a perfect opportunity to capture his their response with a photo or video. If your baby seems unresponsive to your smiles, calls, cuddles, or presence, or they seem unable to smile, it could be a matter of concern and you may want to seek advice from a medical professional.
Babies will be interested in objects around them, and be reaching out to grab them by the third or fourth month of their lives. Your infant will move their hand close to their mouth during the first month, and then within several months he or she will be trying to grab objects around them, especially dangling hair, toys, and other shiny objects that come within their reach. Later, they will begin moving items from one hand to another.
This developmental milestone makes a great photo opportunity, and you’ll probably want to capture it with a video. It’s unusual for babies to be uninterested in their surroundings and to not proactively grab things like toys, so check with your doctor if you think your baby might be slow to develop in this area.
If you thought your baby’s first smile was cute, wait until they start laughing. By their fourth month, your child will be typically babbling and laughing, either spontaneously or in response to your tickling, funny faces, or peekaboo games. They will be predisposed to chatting to themself and making babbling sounds that sound like real words, so you’ll want to capture the cute moments and their laughter with a video. If your child doesn’t babble or laugh by the fourth- to sixth-month stage, you might want to consult your paediatrician or GP about assessing your baby’s development.
By your baby’s sixth month, they should be able to roll over from his or her front onto their back, and from his back to his front. If possible, try to capture the first time they achieve this with a video – they will be so pleased with themself!
If your baby seems limp or uninterested in rolling well beyond his or her first six months, it might be the right time to talk to your doctor about having your baby checked.
The seven, eight, or nine month period is when you’ll start noticing your child sitting up without support. They can get into the sitting position and stay sitting without resting on the back of a chair, or without mum or dad’s support against their back. Some babies even begin sitting without support by their fifth or sixth month. Or, they may be might getting up into the sitting position with the help of a pillow or furniture.
This special milestone deserves to be captured with a photo or video. If you notice your baby isn’t sitting up by the ninth month, you should probably talk to your doctor about assessing your baby’s physical development.
By your baby’s eighth or ninth month, he or she will be starting to crawl on their hands and knees. However, some babies never crawl in this way and instead prefer to wriggle with their body, or drag themselves along by their arms and legs. Whether your child is crawling, scooting on their bottom or wriggling, this is a cute milestone to capture with a video.
Crawling is not considered an essential milestone, so there’s probably no cause for concern if your baby isn’t crawling in some way by this time as long as they’re meeting other key milestones.
At seven to nine months, your baby will recognise familiar words and his or her own name. Your baby will turn to look at you when you call their name, and be able to understand the meaning of basic words such as, ‘No’. They might start to say ‘no’, or babble words such as ‘Mama’ and ‘Dada’ in response to certain verbal cues, and combine them with basic gestures such as a shake of the head or a nod.
Signs of concern to look out for include a lack of babbling, and a lack of response to their name. If your baby doesn’t turn to look at you when you call out their name, there might be an underlying developmental issue that you need to speak to your doctor about.
Between the eight to 12 month stages, you will start to see your baby trying to grab food and eat finger foods. He or she will be experimenting with different foods for a variety of tastes and textures. By the end of this period, they will be an expert of the pincer grasp, which means they’ll be able to take things between their thumb and forefinger to eat smaller pieces of food.
Your baby is also likely to grab other small objects in his or her hands, such as toys, combs,and other small objects. Your baby might want to copy you during meal times, and a photo or video will allow you to capture this milestone for future reminiscence.
If you notice your baby isn’t interested in using their hands and grabbing things, or is unable to feed themself finger foods by this stage, it could be a good time to speak to your doctor about any developmental issues your baby might have.
At the 10 to 12 month stage, you’ll begin noticing your baby pointing out things to communicate or get your attention. This could happen as early as the nine month stage, or sometimes even earlier. Your child will be interested in their surroundings and using the pointing gesture to communicate their desire to play with something or have something.
If you notice that your baby isn’t visually engaging with their surrounds and proactively pointing to items of interest, there could an underlying developmental issue. Your paediatrician can give you further advice on whether your baby’s lack of interest could be related to something more serious, or whether it’s nothing to be concerned about.
Between the 10 to 12 month stages, your baby will also be starting to ‘cruise’, or navigate themself around the place with the help of furniture, walls, or other forms of support. He or she will try to get up by holding on to chairs or tables, and try to get around the place so they can reach toys or other objects of interest. Your child should be able to stand for short moments without any support, and keep practising with cruising movements for when he or she can take their first independent steps. This pre-walking milestone can be captured with a video or photo for future enjoyment.
If your baby isn’t interested in getting to their feet and cruising, there may be an underlying issue associated with physical or motor development. Check with your doctor if you have any concerns. Generally, babies will try to become more mobile of their own accord as they become interested in things in the world around them, so keep an eye out for this developmental milestone.
Your baby’s first walk is probably one of the most exciting milestones. This declaration of independence can happen anywhere from nine to 17 months, though most babies are taking their first steps by 13 months. Your baby’s first solo steps warrant capturing with a video, photo, or perhaps even an inky footprint in your baby diary (you can make your own ink with cornflour, natural food colouring and water).
If your baby can’t stand on his or her own by this stage, or haven’t taken their first ‘cruising’ or independent steps, check with your doctor for advice.
Research shows that 10-15% of children under the age of three have at least one form of developmental delay, while as many as 14% of those under the age of 17 have some sort of developmental difficulty relating language, learning, behaviour, or some other area. These can range from learning difficulties to developmental delays associated with communicating or practical skills. Of those children who do have developmental delays, around 40% have more than one developmental issue.
Some delays can resolve themselves by the time the child starts school, while others might require more attention and support. Early detection can make a big difference for children with developmental delays because, as a parent, you’ll be able to support your child with the right attention or support to foster development.
Types of developmental delays include the following categories:
There are various potential causes of development delays. These can be medical in nature, such as issues arising from premature birth or genetic conditions. Others could be the result of physical injuries or accidents. Some developmental delays, such as speech difficulties, can be the result of hearing impairments or physical impediments in the throat, larynx, or nasal cavity.
However, most commonly there’s no particular medical issue causing a child’s developmental delay.
Babies tend to develop at their own pace, but they also tend to reach milestones in the same order. As you become aware of the general developmental milestones for infants, you’ll be able to use this knowledge as a general guide to check on your child’s development.
Factoring in your understanding of your baby’s unique habits and behaviours, you will usually be able to quickly identify any unexpected lags or delays in development. For example, you might notice that your baby is not interested in trying to stand up when other of his or her age are, or have problems grasping with his ‘pincer grasp’ – holding things with his index finger and thumb. Your baby might have problems with understand basic commands when babies of his or her age are usually responsive to basic words like ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Other motor skill, movement, or vision and hearing issues can be detected through the course of everyday activities, and often it’s a matter of paying attention and interacting with your baby.
If anything seems off about your baby’s ability to reach certain growth milestones, your baby might have a developmental delay.
What to do if you think your child has a developmental delay
If you suspect your child has a development delay, talk to a professional immediately. Your GP might be able to give you some general advice before referring you to a specialist, whether that’s a speech pathologist, physical therapist, or another medical specialist depending on your child’s needs.
They will be able to perform the necessary evaluation to help you find out whether your child has a development delay, as well as provide you with guidance on support your child could benefit from.
As the parent, your knowledge of your baby’s unique habits and behaviours will be the best judgement tool you’ll have to catch developmental delays. And getting informed about expected developmental milestone is another component of the equation.
To assist with furthering your knowledge, these are some useful resources on developmental milestones to explore: