In the first year of life, your baby learns faster, and more, than he or she will ever do again. First and foremost, remember that every baby is different. Some babies will walk much earlier than others, others will not crawl but shuffle on their bottoms, others won’t babble much and others won’t keep quiet. Just like grown-ups, babies are all very different. So don’t worry if your baby doesn’t meet all these milestones exactly as they’re written here – look at the ranges of ages instead.
Also remember that if your baby was premature, it’s a good idea to count their age from their due date, instead of their earlier birth date. These little babies have a lot of catching up to do, and are very unlikely to reach the developmental milestones attained by full-term babies.
If you’re in any doubt, or have concerns, ask your GP, health visitor or Children’s Centre to have a look at your baby and give you some advice.
Your baby can’t control her head position at birth. She may be able to lift her head briefly when lying on her tummy on a flat surface though. The grasp reflex is present at birth. Your baby can see from birth and make eye contact straightaway. She can even focus on your face. Within a few days, she can turn to a big light source like a window, and close her eyes to sudden bright light. Her eyes will be drawn to moving objects. Her eyes can focus only at around 30cm – ie the perfect distance to Mum’s face when she’s being held. This is called ‘fixing’. Your baby’s hearing is as good as an adult’s. If your baby doesn’t respond to a sudden loud noise like a clap or a bell, see your GP.
By six to eight weeks your baby can track slow side-to-side movements about 15cm away from her face. This is called ‘following’. She can smile in response to your smile and make little cooing or babbling noises.
She can lift up her head for a little longer and a little higher while lying on her tummy.
Her controlled grasp develops and she can raise her head right up for a short time from lying on her tummy. She can now laugh too.
Your baby can hold her head up and keep it steady, raise her body on her arms from lying on her tummy, roll over in one direction, reach for things and grasp a rattle. From five months onwards, she may begin to start sitting up.
She might say a few more babbly words and keep her head level with her body when gently pulled up from lying on back to sitting. She might be getting around in some manner – on all fours (classic crawling), on her tummy (commando), sideways (the crab) or bottom shuffling. But don’t worry if she’s not – usually it’s more like seven to eight months and some babies don’t crawl at all, they just start walking!
She can sit without support and feed herself (messily…) using her hands.
By now she can turn in the direction of a voice and pass a small toy from one hand to the other.
She’ll start trying to move towards a toy that’s out of reach.
She can pick little things up with her thumb and forefinger – but is not yet left- or right-handed – and can stand holding on to someone or something. She can say something like ‘Mama’ or ‘Dada’ and play peekaboo.
Your baby can move into a sitting position from lying on her tummy.
She can walk holding onto furniture or you – this can start as early as nine months but the average is a year.
And finally… attachment!
Remember the most important thing for your baby’s social and emotional development in the first two years is ‘attaching’ them to you, and you to them. You can do this by talking to them a lot, singing, listening, lots of cuddling, and lots of skin-to-skin contact. The more love you can pour into your little baby in those first vital two years, the stronger and more independent your baby will be as a grown-up.