Most healthy babies who have plenty of love and attention develop new skills in a completely natural and continually surprising way. So much development takes place in the first 12 months that this is an amazing process for parents to watch.
Babies grow and develop at tremendously different rates – and often with blissful disregard for what parenting textbooks say they’ll be doing!
Your instincts, plus knowing that your baby eats and sleeps well and doesn’t grizzle whenever she’s awake, tell you far more than a growth or development chart can.
Enjoy the variations. These variations are what make development so exciting and memorable.
Developmental achievements are called ‘milestones’. Growth and development milestones are a useful guide, but they aren’t something to get too worried about. Developmental milestones are grouped under headings according to the parts of the body they refer to:
Large body movements involve the coordination and control of large muscles and skills like walking, sitting and running.
Small body movements (or manipulation) involve the coordination and control of small muscles, and skills like holding a rattle, picking up crumbs and scribbling with a pencil.
Vision is the ability to see near and far, and to interpret what’s seen.
Hearing is the ability to hear, listen to and interpret sounds, whereas speech is the ability to produce sounds that form words.
Social behaviour and understanding is your child’s ability to learn and interact with others, including skills for play and connecting and communicating.
Developmental progress can be affected by delays. These delays might be temporary or, less often, permanent. Premature birth and illness are two things that might cause temporary delays. Some disabilities can cause permanent delay. A baby’s development can also suffer because of her environment.
Things to watch out for
Milestones are only a guide. Unless you’re seeing delays in a few different areas over several months, it’s unlikely there’s anything wrong if your baby seems slow to do some things compared to other babies. Try to resist the temptation to compare your baby with others, because this can lead you to worry when you don’t need to.
As a general guide, though, seek help if you notice your baby:
- doesn’t consistently respond to sounds
- doesn’t seem to see things, has white or cloudy pupils, or there’s something about his eyes that bothers you
- doesn’t look at you
- isn’t interested in what’s going on around her
- doesn’t move or use both arms and/or legs
- has an unusual cry (for example, a high-pitched squeal)
- is persistently crying for more than about three hours every day (babies cry on average for about two hours a day, peaking between 6-8 weeks), especially after 3-4 months
- can’t hold his head up by the time he’s reached 3-4 months
- isn’t sitting well by 10 months
- doesn’t want to bear her own weight by 12 months.
Development issues to watch out for
Babies do things at their own pace, particularly when it comes to walking and crawling. They develop in the same order, but at different rates.
There are still some key indicators that a baby might be experiencing a delay in development, as this video explains.
If you’re ever concerned about your baby’s development, or if you notice any of the signs explained in this video, talk to a professional. You know your baby better than anyone, and you’ll have a good feel for what’s happening.