MILESTONES: WHAT ARE THEY & WHY THEY ARE IMPORTANT?
Born completely helpless, newborns rely on their parents for everything with crying as their only form of verbal communication. Yet by their first birthday, most babies are able to communicate their needs using words, sign language or gestures, feed themselves (albeit in a crude, messy fashion), and get around via crawling or even walking! This development involves reaching numerous “milestones” which are defined as behaviors or physical skills a child achieves as they grow up.
This article is written by Tranquilo Mat
For more on this topic, check out the full Baby’s First Year collection
There are several different kinds of milestones:
Physical – Involving use of baby’s body to achieve a task, e.g., crawling or grasping an object
Cognitive – Solving problems or understanding the world around them, e.g., peek-a-boo as a fun game vs. their parent’s face disappearing unexpectedly
Social/Emotional – Understanding how to interact with others, e.g., learning to play with other children or smiling as a positive reaction vs. a reflex
Communication – Learning how to communicate using words or gestures, e.g., saying “dada” or learning how to use simple signs to ask for “more” or “milk.”
Why It Matters
Milestones are important markers of normal human development and they are often achieved within a specific age range. For example, most babies learn to crawl between 7 and 10 months, but some may accomplish this feat at 6 months, while others may lag behind until 11 months. This variation can be completely normal.
If, however, your baby is very delayed in reaching a specific milestone, or isn’t reaching several important milestones, it can be a sign of a developmental issue which likely requires intervention. Sometimes the issue is something that is an easy fix, such as practicing their fine motor skills with special games, while other issues may be more serious and require a specialist. Always communicate with your pediatrician about any concerns you have regarding your baby’s developments and / or failure to meet milestone achievements.
Every Child is Unique
Of course, the most important thing to remember regarding milestones is that every child is different and will develop at their own pace. This is why milestones occur in a general age range or timeframe, not an exact day or month. Every child is unique and even siblings and twins can develop at dramatically different ways, reaching various milestones at their own pace. Often if a child excels in one area of development, they might be a bit behind in others. For example, one child may begin talking quite quickly but lag behind in fine motor skills while their twin may be the first to crawl around the room but be late to utter “dada.” Don’t rush your child’s development but if you ever have any questions or concerns about your child’s milestones, don’t hesitate to speak to your pediatrician.
So what can you expect your baby to master in the coming months? Below we’ve broken down the various milestones as a quick reference for parents:
- Playing peek-a-boo.
- Object permanence – knowing an object still exists even when it’s out of sight.
- Looking for hidden objects.
- Moving into cause and effect – filling a bin with toys and letting baby dump it out is a good game for this stage.
- Separation anxiety will start.
- It’s okay to hold and cuddle as much as you like.
- Separation anxiety at this age is not a sign that your child is shy nor is your soothing her any form of spoiling her.
- If you and your partner are going out for date night at this age, leaving baby with known family members or a caregiver can help reduce separation anxiety.
- Baby will begin to lift onto their hands and knees during tummy time.
9 – 10 MONTHS
- The word “no” becomes part of their vocabulary.
- They understand how to express what they want or don’t want with some verbal and physical cues.
- They will also start to understand images and their names – e.g., ask them to point to the cat in the room or a photo, and they will begin to understand how to identify this.
- Start imitating actions of those around her.
- This is a good time to start playing sing song games, like “head, shoulders, knees, and toes” so she learns some more language and cognitive skills at the same time.
- Start to creep along on their hands and knees without assistance.
- Some will start crawling rather quickly as well.
- Start pulling themselves up to stand.
- May not know how to sit back down and may need help in this phase.
- Begin to finger feed themselves.
- Introduce a variety of texture and taste foods now so baby can learn what he likes and how to correlate words with foods and tastes.
- Will start babbling a lot and may even start saying “mama” or “dada.”
11 – 12 MONTHS
- Learning problem solving skills.
- Shape oriented toys are good to incorporate into play.
- Begin dropping and letting go of things on purpose.
- Exploring things by poking things with their finger.
- A great game at this age is to ask baby to point to where something is – their nose, an object in the room, etc.
- Starts showing preference for certain people and toys.
- Attachment to a toy or blanket that they wish to carry around or sleep with can also start now.
- Fear of people or things is usually expressed at this stage.
- If this happens, it can help to talk them through items so over time they will learn to not be afraid of it.
- Walk with assistance or while holding onto furniture.
- Many babies take 2-3 steps on their own before their first birthday.
- Ability to scribble and draw if given crayons.
- Instead of coloring, some babies prefer to just tear the paper to pass the time, all while developing higher finger and hand skills and coordination.
- Can start helping you dress them by extending their arms and legs.
- Begin using exclamations and saying things like “uh oh,” “oops,” and “ta da.”
- Continue to try and imitate words from those around her.
As mentioned before, the above are simply guidelines for a baby’s development but your little one’s progress might vary slightly. If you are ever concerned, speak to your pediatrician who will be happy to allay your fears or make an appropriate referral.
A baby’s first year is a chaotic and busy time when they are learning and absorbing so much, so don’t forget to enjoy all these moments because you’ll be singing happy birthday to your once-newborn, now 1 year old, in the blink of an eye! Now that you know more about your baby’s developmental milestones, which of the above skills are you most looking forward to your baby learning? And which one do you hope they master first? Or maybe you saw a milestone you’re dreading your baby hits – “I thought using ‘no’ was more of a toddler thing and I don’t want my baby to start sassing me just yet.” No matter what it is, we’d love to hear from you!
Enjoy these free Developmental Baby Milestone printables to help guide you through your little one’s first year
For 0-6 month milestones, read our article Baby’s 1st Milestones 0-6 Months
For more on this topic, check out the full Baby’s First Year collection
Featured Contributor: Tranquilo Mat
Tranquilo Mat is the only portable soothing sleep aid that helps babies fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Invented by a nurse, mom approved, and baby loved. To learn more visit www.tranquilomat.com. As Seen on Shark Tank!