The first year of a baby’s life is full of exciting milestones. It can also be a year full of concern and worry if you don’t know what to expect. Learning what is typical for a baby your child’s age will help to sideline those fears and help you to enjoy your baby and all his wonder.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends developmental surveillance at all well baby visits. Developmental surveillance is intended to identify children who may have developmental delays early on so they may be addressed earlier rather than later. Developmental surveillance is done by addressing your baby’s physical, emotional and mental development through observations on the part of the parent and the provider as well as other parameters of growth and development. Knowing what your baby’s development should be will help you raise and address concerns with your health care provider that will help you give the best care to your baby.
In the first 3 months, your baby should be able to master holding her head up for short periods of time. She’ll grab a hold of a rattle or finger, and her kicking and stretching is likely to get very boisterous. Her hearing and vision improve dramatically in the first three months–the sounds of life around her will begin to distract her from the task at hand (perhaps thumb sucking or nursing) or even wake her from a light sleep. At birth a baby can focus easily on objects held about 12 inches away but will soon be intent on observing patterns, colors and faces–even her own hands and feet. What parents most often find most exciting is their baby’s first smile and the tender interactions that follow–your baby will begin to coo and imitate you! The next 3 months bring big changes. Babies have gained significant head control and will begin to move purposefully as they kick and stretch. A lot of babies begin sitting up alone around this age–and get ready because creeping and crawling will soon follow. The rattle your baby was able to grasp for a short period of time will now go straight to his mouth, along with everything else he picks up. By 6 months most babies have mature vision–meaning they recognize familiar and unfamiliar faces and are apt to turn their heads toward moving toys, balls and bright lights. Baby will also be babbling, bubbling, smiling and laughing.
Everyone wants to do what’s best for baby. Offering your baby an environment rich in new sights, sounds and experiences will help nurture her. In the first 3 months it’s very important to baby’s development that you hold your baby. Snuggling, cuddling and staying close and warm together are wonderful ways to help your baby feel loved, safe and protected. Change your baby’s positions and environments often. Talking to your infant is the best way to begin laying the foundation for the fundamental building blocks of language and communication. You should respond to your baby’s tears quickly–doing so will help establish a bond with you as well as confidence in herself that she will eventually use to self soothe. As your baby grows, continue the activities you’ve enjoyed in his first 3 months and add a few new ones. Offer simple toys; head out on small adventures to the park, zoo or grocery store. Use music to soothe, comfort or excite the baby and read to him often.
All babies will reach milestones in their own time–some early, some late. But if you are concerned about your baby’s lack of head control, poor weight gain or inability to maintain eye contact, call your health care provider. Some other delays to consider are poor muscle tone (too tight or floppy) and no desire to reach for toys or grasping.
A baby’s development is rapid and ever changing. It is also unique to your baby in her circumstances. Developmental guidelines are meant to give you an idea–they are not written in stone. Some babies will reach physical milestones light years ahead of others while their language may lag behind, or they may be just the opposite. If you are concerned or uncomfortable about your baby’s development, see your health care provider to voice those concerns immediately.