Development Stages and Growth Milestones
Your child’s first year is incredibly important; it is a fun and eventful time as they grow and develop, but you want to make sure your child is growing at the rate they should be. A lot of new (and even those who are parents already) parents are concerned about their children reaching those milestones. The milestones are guidelines as every child is different; your child may crawl at an earlier age than your friend’s baby, but they may say their first word later. Below are the development and growth milestones - but keep in mind that they are just averages. If you are concerned still about your baby, then go to your healthcare provider.
Babies will grow a lot during these first months after birth; they look and feel tiny when you bring them home, but be prepared for them to get bigger. While at first, all they do is eat, sleep, and poop, they will learn to recognize (and feel comforted by) the sound of your voice. During this stage, they focus on nearby objects and faces - tracking them also with their eyes. By the time they reach three months old, your child will recognize their parent’s faces from farther away - as well as other people’s. They begin to smile and make more noises that mimic your speech by cooing, opening, and closing their hands, and holding up their own head as their neck muscles strengthen.
Your baby’s personality starts to come out more, as they smile and babble more. Over the next few months, keep an eye on them rolling over from front to back first, then back to front, sitting up with support (pillows, couch, etc), grabbing toys or their feet with hands, putting weight on their legs in a standing position, and showing more interest in your food as they start to be introduced to some solid foods at six months old.
Mobility is key during these months as your child grows and wants to move around more. Now is the best time to baby-proof your house as your child will want to put everything in their mouth. You may expect your child to be able to sit up by themselves and pull up to a standing position using items and furniture, start to crawl, recognize familiar words like ‘no’, babble ‘mama’ or ‘dada’, and play games such as hide and seek or peek a boo - the great thing about games like these is that it helps your child to understand object permanence, so when they realize this, they know that it an object or person can’t disappear when it’s hidden. If you hide under a blanket, then they will look under it to find you. One thing they also do is use their hands to point at things they are interested in; they will use their forefinger and thumb to pick things up - otherwise known as the pincer grasp.
It is now the final months of that wonderful first year of caring for your baby and they are growing a lot and becoming more independent (almost at the toddler phase). Your baby will be able to cruise - that is, pull themselves to a standing position and then walk around the room holding onto items for support. This is the final stage before they start to walk completely by themselves. There are times when your baby may make that step at this stage too, but it is more likely to occur when they are 12 months old. Anywhere from 8 to 18 months is considered normal. They will start to say more words and enjoy hearing the rhythm of children’s books - picture books will help them grasp the meaning of some words. They will use hand gestures to communicate, like waving to say goodbye.
They may also mimic your actions and behaviors, if you talk on the phone, they will try to do the same action with a toy. They will like to put things in containers and then take them out again.
When should you be worried?
This is merely a guide of averages, so there is a wide range of what is considered ‘normal’ because children develop at different rates and can still develop healthily. While these are estimates, there are still situations that may need investigating just to make sure your baby is healthy.
Babies who are born with health issues or are born prematurely could take a little longer to reach these milestones, but it’s not important that your baby should hit certain milestones at certain ages. Trust your instincts as a parent and contact your healthcare provider with any questions you may have. Attend all the checkups also, so you can monitor your baby’s progress with your doctor.
Your baby will develop at the pace they do, but you can do some things to encourage healthy development. Things like talking to your baby throughout the day, making eye contact, and identifying the emotions they have so you can see the best way to manage them. Reading to your child also helps even singing and playing music help.
Prop them up to encourage sitting or challenge them to reach for a toy that is a few feet away to help them develop their fine motor skills. Offer them toys to reach for and grasp from when they are younger, and eventually, they will be able to start using the pincer grasp so they can grab small food bits to feed themselves.
You should make sure your child is full, whether you’re breastfeeding, using a formula, or a combination of both. The route you take to get to the goal isn’t important as long as you use one of these routes that are best for ensuring your child is full. Promote your child’s emotional and mental development by making sure there is consistency in your daily routine.
Child-proofing your home will help your child explore naturally and reduces the number of times you will have to say no to them.
Last but not least, get as many cuddles in as you can as it gives your baby security and comfort as you have a special bond with them - so be sure to strengthen it.
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