Baby 101: All of the milestones you can expect in your baby's first year
The year between your baby being born and turning one will be the longest and also, funny enough, shortest of your life. It is a non-stop whirlwind of a learning curve, mostly because it is filled with so many "firsts".
First poop. First bath. First rolling over. First steps; and you get the drift. But when it comes to all the "firsts", what can we really expect when? And more importantly; is your baby hitting all these milestones on schedule?
The first thing to remember, and this is important to keep in mind to stop you from freaking out, is that babies, like people, are individuals, and will hit milestones at their very own pace. But as a rule of thumb, here is what you can be pretty sure will unfold in front of your very eyes:
Usually happens: At around two months of age, most babies will smile back at their parents when you talk or sing to them. In some cases, it might take a little longer, for instance, if your baby was born prematurely.
Can I encourage it? Sure can. Just keep doing what you are already doing, smiling and chatting to your little baby.
What if he still isn't doing it? “Smiling is really one of those first milestones I’m looking for as a paediatrician,” says Altmann. “If the baby isn’t smiling back at the parent by two months of age, I want to keep a close eye on him. Sometimes it will happen by three months, but if not, that’s when I’ll get concerned about possible neurological issues.”
Sleeping through the night
Usually happens: Oh, how we wait for this one... Generally, after your baby reaches the four-month mark, she should be able to sleep between six to eight hours between feeds. At six months, this can stretch to eight to ten hours. But; again, ALL babies are different, and many factors will influence how your baby sleeps, so stay calm, mamas. It WILL happen. Eventually.
Can I encourage it? Yes, or try to, at the very least. Start with letting the baby sleep, and slowly start extending the time between nighttime feedings until you get there. Many will also advise you to not rush in to pick up baby the moment she cries at night, as she will need to learn to self-soothe. (Note: Others, me included, pick them up the minute they utter a sound and bring them in for some extra cuddles! Whatever floats your boat, basically.)
What if she still isn't doing it? If she’s not sleeping through the night by six to eight months (and many babies are not, you are not alone!), it might just be because you’re hitting the nursery too often at night, says Altmann, and you may want to consider backing off.
Usually happens: For the majority of babies, this milestone will happen somewhere between four to six months of age, some earlier, some a little later. “Initially, she’ll probably roll from front to back, and then she’ll master rolling back to front," Altmann explains. "Remember, though, to avoid leaving a baby alone on an elevated surface long before that age, since babies start wriggling enough to fall pretty early on."
Can I encourage it? Get down on the ground and talk to baby, cheering her on. Hold blocks or toys just out of reach so she can flip over trying to reach them.
What if she still isn't doing it? If your baby isn’t trying to roll over by six months of age, let your paediatrician know. Most likely, she says, the baby just needs more time. But if she’s not making any effort, however, that could be a sign something else is going on.
Usually happens: At six months, some babies can sit up if you prop them up (just make sure to create a soft landing zone around them as they will topple!). Come eight months, however, the majority of little tots should be able to sit more sturdily on their own.
Can I encourage it? Floor time, floor time and more floor time. Your baby needs the opportunity to learn, so you got to give him a chance.
What if she still isn't doing it? If your infant isn’t sitting on her own by nine months, your paediatrician may suggest she be evaluated by a physical therapist.
Usually happens: Again, they totally do things their own way and in their own good time, but between six to nine months, the majority of babies will start crawling, as they are now both strong enough and curious enough about the world around them.
Can I encourage it? Tummy time and just general playtime on the floor will encourage your baby's desire to learn to move around. Use toys to tempt him into moving forward.
What if she still isn't doing it? If your baby is getting to a year, and still just stays in the same place when put on the floor, you might want to ask your GP about it.
Reaching, grasping and holding
Usually happens: “At six months of age, babies can bring both hands to their midline. So if you were to hold a toy in front of them, they would bring both hands up and try to grab it,” says Altmann. But using their thumb and forefinger in a so-called pincer grasp, usually only comes later, at about eight or nine months. It is at this stage you need to be careful about what you have laying around, as babies will now start picking things up and put it in their mouth.
Can I encourage it? Yep. Just train with your baby and offer toys and safe objects for him to grab.
What if she still isn't doing it? If your baby at one isn't yet picking up objects and trying to put them in his mouth, it might be a good idea to talk to your GP or local health nurse.
Usually happens: Few things are as cute as clapping babies, which is why you should be excited for your baby to get to to about eight to nine months, when most babies will be doing this. Waving also usually happens around this age, and so now is a good time to start practicing those bye-bye's.
Can I encourage it? Play patty-cake and other clapping games with baby. Fun for baby, fun for you!
What if she still isn't doing it? By one, babies should be able to mimic some your actions, clapping and waving being one of them.
Pulling himself up to stand
Usually happens: At nine months many babies will start to hang on to furniture and try to hike themselves up to a standing position. By 12 months, most are doing this. This is why it is important now to drop the mattress down on their cots and cribs, guys. Also, any furniture that needs to be attached to walls so they won't topple; NOW is the time to do it.
Can I encourage it? Like with sitting, make sure baby gets lots of free-range playtime.
What if she still isn't doing it? If he’s not pulling himself up to stand by his first birthday or so, let your paediatrician or health nurse know. “It doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with him because he could be almost there,” says Altmann. “But I think it’s a good idea to check in with the doctor to make sure there’s nothing else going on.”
Cruising and walking
Usually happens: Cruising and then walking is a natural progression from standing up, and will for most babies follow naturally in the footsteps (pun intended!) of that. Usually, babies use furniture to hang onto when they are taking their first steps, so take note of the warning above about making sure all your furniture is secure and safe for them to hang on to.
“When they initially pull to stand, they’ll grab on, let go and drop down on their bottoms. But then they’ll figure out that they can hold on and walk along the couch,” says Altmann. “Within a couple of weeks to a couple of months, they’ll let go and take their first step.” For most babies, this happens around 12 months, but many will be slightly older, up to 15 and 16 months before they feel secure enough on two legs to attempt walking.
Can I encourage it? More floor play.
What if she still isn't doing it? There’s probably nothing to be worried about unless the baby’s missing other milestones, but if she gets to a year-and-a-half and still shows no interest in walking, it’s worth a mention and maybe an evaluation by a physical therapist.
When did YOUR baby reach these milestones? Were they ahead of themselves or did they take it all in their own time?