Infant Discovery Series: First Year Milestones

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In this month’s Infant Discovery Series we’ll touch on some of the major milestones in the first year of your baby. All milestones in your baby’s first year are special, but some are especially sweet. Moments like smiling and blowing kisses are also worth tracking on your infant development chart. But what are these milestones and when do babies reach them? Read on.

Smiling: 8 Weeks

What parents could possibly forget the first time their baby intentionally flashes a gummy grin? These “social smiles” (as opposed to the fleeting grimaces infants make when they’re gassy) are heartwarming, but they’re also a sign that the parts of your baby’s brain that control eyesight and muscle movements are booting up.

A smile also shows off your child’s newfound social savvy. She’s starting to understand the positive emotions a happy face conveys—and that making one can get her plenty of attention. Encourage her by smiling at her as often as you can and, of course, acting surprised and pleased when she smiles back.

Rolling Over: 4 – 5 Months

During tummy time (which you should supervise), your baby may lift herself into a push-up position and then start to rock back and forth or kick her feet. Then, if she’s strong enough, those movements will send her rolling over. (She may get startled and cry the first time!) Flipping from back to front often takes until around 5 months because it requires more coordination and strength. You don’t need to coach your baby to roll, though; just make sure she has a safe place to try it out if she wants to.

Laughing: 4 – 6 Months

Laughter is instinctive, but it’s also something your baby has to learn. By this age, he’s heard other people laughing many times, and he’s gained enough control over his vocal cords to realize it’s something he can do too.

Blowing Raspberries: 4 – 6 Months

Babies love to do the Bronx cheer, even when your favorite baseball team doesn’t lose the playoffs. What gives?

It’s part of learning how to talk. Your child is experimenting with different ways to move her lips and tongue: Sooner or later, she’ll probably make a raspberry—and love it. Go ahead and egg on your little blowhard, maybe with some raspberries of your own. It will encourage her to try other sounds, which is great practice for forming consonants, vowels, and—eventually—words.

Eating His Feet: 4 – 8 Months

Sooner or later, you’ll probably find your baby happily sucking on his toes. Yes, this is strange, but it’s still an important milestone. His hands aren’t very coordinated yet, but he’s jonesing to learn more about the objects around him. So he explores things by putting them in his mouth—including his own feet, once he’s found them.

Brushing His Hair or Teeth: 8 – 10 Months

Imitation is one of the best ways for your child to learn about the world. Now that he can grab things, he’s bound to try to use some of your stuff. His fine motor control isn’t developed enough to let him do delicate tasks, but he can hold your comb or brush up to his hair and try to drag it through his fuzzy mop.

If he can get his hands on a toothbrush, he’ll attempt to give his gums and teeth a once-over too. In fact, he may scour his mouth for hours once he realizes how good the bristles feel on his gums.

Wanting a Lovey: 10 – 12 Months

Not every baby becomes attached to a comfort object, but many do around this time. You may have to lug a stuffed teddy along on every outing. Grin and, uh, bear it. Your baby is mastering a few milestones that bring some big changes right now, like learning to cruise and take his first steps—away from you. He’s bound to feel insecure at times, which is where his stuffed animal (or blankie or cloth diaper) comes in. Its cuddliness reminds him of the affection he gets from you, and it gives him something to hold onto, literally, as he faces up to the new challenges in his life.

Blowing Kisses: 10 – 12 months

You’ve sent plenty of smooches your baby’s way. Now she may blow one back. Just being able to bring her hand to her mouth is a big development. At birth, her arm muscles were contracted and her hands were in fists. By about 8 months, everything had loosened up enough so she could hold a bottle. Now her control’s so good that she can put her palm to her lips and flick it away with bravado.

There’s more. She’s showing that she likes giving affection—a sign of healthy emotional development. Try merely saying “Blow a kiss!” and see whether she does it; if she does, she’s also got a great understanding of spoken language.

Playing Peekaboo: 12 – 15 months

You’ve probably been trying to play this for months—first to blank stares, then to polite “I’ll humor Mom and Dad” smiles. But things are about to change: Your child will join in, or even start, the game.

It’s more than just mere imitation: She’s learned about “object permanence.” Before, if something was out of sight, it was out of mind too; she thought it had simply ceased to exist. Now, if something suddenly disappears—say it’s you, ducking around the corner of the couch—she wonders where it’s gone and tries to find it. Popping out and gently saying “aboo!” will give her a thrill.

Going Bottoms Up: 13 – 15 Months

Why do toddlers sometimes put their hands on the ground, then look upside down through their legs? As they start to master the whole walking thing, their balance becomes much more refined. It’s interesting to challenge themselves in new and exciting ways. A topsy-turvy look at the world stimulates their visual development too. Oh, yeah, and then there’s also the most important reason of all. It’s fun!

Dancing: 14 – 16 Months

Don’t expect to see the moonwalk or the Macarena just yet—actually, the most your child will probably do is bop up and down while keeping her feet planted on the ground. She may even hold onto a chair or your legs for support. But as she rocks out, she’s showing off her growing motor skills and her ability to pick up the pattern of the music’s beat. Dance along to encourage her.

Hugging and Kissing: 16 – 18 Months

Your baby may have thrown his arms around you before or given you a kiss on command. But there’s no mistaking the day he toddles over and does both on his own for no reason at all—or so it seems.

Actually, as your little one starts exploring the world, he can feel torn at times. One part of him wants to be fiercely independent; the other part wants reassurance that Mom and Dad are still there. The best thing to do is also the easiest: Hug him right back.

Walking: 10 – 18 Months

First steps represent a huge developmental leap. Walking requires muscle strength, coordination, balance—and a certain level of emotional maturity, too. After all, when you’re crawling, your center of gravity is just a few inches off the ground. To walk you need to have a bit more confidence. That’s why some beginning walkers are content to cruise along the furniture for weeks. The more eager hike away and never look back.

Sources: James Gaylord, M.D., and Michelle Hagan, M.D., coauthors, Your Baby’s First Year for Dummies; Alan Rosenblatt, M.D., neurodevelopmental pediatrician in Chicago.

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