During your baby's first year, they will learn more than at any other time in their lives. Watching your child learn and interact with you is a truly remarkable experience. At times they will move you to catch your breath, unwittingly smile at their expressions, draw unlimited admiration for their achievements and bring forth a trickle of happy tears! As one grandmother said....


"Babies!....you can sit and stare at your baby all day....their gorgeous expressions and movements are just mesmerising."


Your baby is born with many innate genetic characteristics (passed onto them by you and the many generations before you). They are also an 'open book', waiting to learn about their new environment and about you. They have natural abilities to communicate by crying, looking, listening and moving. They can grasp a finger placed into their hand, wriggle around and suckle to sustain their life. As their body becomes stronger, they learn how to hold up their own head, sit, talk, crawl, and eventually walk.


Many of the things babies learn are instinctual, given to them as a member of the human race through nature (as a baby deer instinctively knows run within minutes of being born). However, other learning is taught to our children through their environment (especially by their parents and those around them). How much of your child's learning can be attributed to your involvement and how much is nature's doing is still unclear. An issue that perpetuates the evolving 'nature vs. nuture' argument. Although, we do know that babies learn much quicker and more readily, if they are frequently loved, cuddled and interacted with.


Developmental stages and milestones


Your baby's development is a progressive process. As one skill is learnt and accomplished, they will move onto learning another. Babies learn in the same way as most adults learn - by seeing and doing something, then repeating the same thing over and over again!

It is exciting to see your baby do something for the first time, and babies will often pick up on the animated delight that parent's will display at their achievements. This encourages them to repeat the action again (and again!)


Most babies will experience 'phases'. Sometimes they will appear to be developing very quickly, and at other times nothing much can seem to be happening. Your baby may make quick progress in their speech development, but be slower in their gross motor development (like walking). Others may steadily develop fine motor skills (like grasping rattles and other objects) but appear slow in developing their speech.


Try not to compare your baby's development with other babies (as hard as this can be at times). It is much easier if you can simply enjoy your baby for where they are at, and not waste time worrying about where you would like them to be. Milestones can be exciting to reach, but they can also bring up emotions of grief for the 'loss of your little baby' in a sense, and achievements can sometimes bring up mixed feelings of joy and regret. (For example.... "Oh look they are walking...Oh no they are running away!")


NOTE: If you do feel very concerned about your baby's development being noticeably slow, or they are behind in two or more areas of development, seek the advice of your early childhood nurse or local doctor. Early detection and early intervention of true developmental delay can have a significant impact on a baby's potential for normal development.



At birth


• When lying on their tummy their knees are usually drawn up.

• When lifted, their head will fall forward and back when unsupported.

• Their hands will close involuntarily in the grasp reflex.

• They will startle at loud sounds.

• If you bring your face slowly across their line of vision, they may briefly focus and follow your face.

• They will show a primitive type of walking reflex, when held in an upright position.


By about 6 weeks


• Their body has 'unfolded' and tends to be more relaxed looking.

• When lifted, they have better (but far from complete) control over their head and neck muscles.

• Their hand or finger may be placed in their mouth to suck on, but they are not able to voluntarily hold objects yet.

• When a parent comes up close to their baby, their eyes may meet, and often you receive a big 'gummy' smile.

• They may follow a moving object with their eyes, if passed about 20 the 30 cms from their face from one side to the other.

• If your baby lies on their tummy, they may be able to lift their chin for longer than a few seconds.

• They will make cooing, gurgling and chortling noises.

• They will recognise and be comforted by your voice.


2 months


What most babies do at this age:


• Begins to smile at people

• Can briefly calm himself (may bring hands to mouth and suck on hand)

• Tries to look at parent

• Coos, makes gurgling sounds

• Turns head toward sounds

• Pays attention to faces

• Begins to follow things with eyes and recognize people at a distance

• Begins to act bored (cries, fussy) if activity doesn’t change

• Can hold head up and begins to push up when lying on tummy

• Makes smoother movements with arms and legs


Talk to baby's pediatrician if (s)he:


- Doesn’t respond to loud sounds

- Doesn’t watch things as they move

- Doesn’t smile at people

- Doesn’t bring hands to mouth

- Can’t hold head up when pushing up when on tummy


4 months


What most babies do at this age:


• Smiles spontaneously, especially at people

• Likes to play with people and might cry when playing stops

• Copies some movements and facial expressions, like smiling or frowning

• Begins to babble

• Babbles with expression and copies sounds he hears

• Cries in different ways to show hunger, pain, or being tired

• Lets you know if she is happy or sad

• Responds to affection

• Reaches for toy with one hand

• Uses hands and eyes together, such as seeing a toy and reaching for it

• Follows moving things with eyes from side to side

• Watches faces closely

• Recognizes familiar people and things at a distance

• Holds head steady, unsupported

• Pushes down on legs when feet are on a hard surface

• May be able to roll over from tummy to back

• Can hold a toy and shake it and swing at dangling toys

• Brings hands to mouth

• When lying on stomach, pushes up to elbows


Talk to baby's pediatrician if (s)he:


- Doesn’t watch things as they move

- Doesn’t smile at people

- Can’t hold head steady

- Doesn’t coo or make sounds

- Doesn’t bring things to mouth

- Doesn’t push down with legs when feet are placed on a hard surface

- Has trouble moving  one or both eyes in all directions


6 months


What most babies do at this age:


• Knows familiar faces and begins to know if someone is a stranger

• Likes to play with others, especially parents

• Responds to other people’s emotions and often seems happy

• Likes to look at self in a mirror

• Responds to sounds by making sounds

• Strings vowels together when babbling (“ah,” “eh,” “oh”) and likes taking turns with parent while making sounds

• Responds to own name

• Makes sounds to show joy and displeasure

• Begins to say consonant sounds (jabbering with “m,” “b”)

• Looks around at things nearby

• Brings things to mouth

• Shows curiosity about things and tries to get things that are out of reach

• Begins to pass things from one hand to the other

• Rolls over in both directions (front to back, back to front)

• Begins to sit without support

• When standing, supports weight on legs and might bounce

• Rocks back and forth, sometimes crawling backward before moving forward


Talk to baby's pediatrician if (s)he:


- Doesn’t try to get things that are in reach

- Shows no affection for caregivers

- Doesn’t respond to sounds around him

- Has difficulty getting things to mouth

- Doesn’t make vowel sounds (“ah”, “eh”, “oh”)

- Doesn’t roll over in either direction

- Doesn’t laugh or make squealing sounds

- Seems very stiff, with tight muscles

- Seems very floppy, like a rag doll


9 months


What most babies do at this age:


• May be afraid of strangers

• May be clingy with familiar adults

• Has favorite toys

• Understands “no”

• Makes a lot of different sounds like “mamamama” and “bababababa”

• Copies sounds and gestures of others

• Uses fingers to point at things

• Watches the path of something as it falls

• Looks  for things he sees you hide

• Plays peek-a-boo

• Puts things in her mouth

• Moves things smoothly from one hand to the other

• Picks up things like cereal o’s between thumb and index finger

• Stands, holding on

• Can get into sitting position

• Sits without support

• Pulls to stand

• Crawls


Talk to baby's pediatrician if (s)he:


- Doesn’t bear weight on legs with support

- Doesn’t sit with help

- Doesn’t babble (“mama”, “baba”, “dada")

- Doesn’t play any games involving back-and-forth play

- Doesn’t respond to own name

- Doesn’t seem to recognize familiar people

- Doesn’t look where you point

- Doesn’t transfer toys from one hand to the other


1 year


What most babies do at this age:


• Is shy or nervous with strangers

• Cries when mom or dad leaves

• Has favorite things and people

• Shows fear in some situations

• Hands you a book when he wants to hear a story

• Repeats sounds or actions to get attention

• Puts out arm or leg to help with dressing

• Plays games such as “peek-a-boo” and “pat-a-cake”

• Responds to simple spoken requests

• Uses simple gestures, like shaking head “no” or waving “bye-bye”

• Makes sounds with changes in tone (sounds more like speech)

• Says “mama” and “dada” and exclamations like “uh-oh!”

• Tries to say words you say

• Explores things in different ways, like shaking, banging, throwing

• Finds hidden things easily

• Looks at the right picture or thing when it’s named

• Copies gestures

• Starts to use things correctly; for example, drinks from a cup, brushes hair

• Bangs two things together

• Puts things in a container, takes things out of a container

• Lets things go without help

• Pokes with index (pointer) finger

• Follows simple directions like “pick up the toy”

• Gets to a sitting position without help

• Pulls up to stand, walks holding on to furniture (“cruising”)

• May take a few steps without holding on

• May stand alone


Talk to baby's pediatrician if (s)he:


- Doesn’t crawl

- Can’t stand when supported

- Doesn’t search for things that she sees you hide

- Doesn’t say single words like “mama” or “dada”

- Doesn’t learn gestures like waving or shaking head

- Doesn’t point to things

- Loses skills he once had







*This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional. 

Baby Development



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