Baby Steps: 5 Infant Firsts and When They Should Happen
How fortunate for your child that you’re tracking their growth! Knowing the timeline of infant milestones is important for your child’s well-being. With your eagle eye alert for your baby’s achievements, you can celebrate and record those defining moments. On the other hand, if your child seems slow to progress, you’ll be prompt in seeking professional care.
This article highlights the significance of major milestones, along with tips for enhancing your child’s development. Let’s step into the magical world of your baby’s first year.
Your child’s sparkly laughter lays the foundation for speech. When a baby first starts laughing, the muscle tone of their larynx is weak, making it hard to control their vocal cords. As a result, your child’s laugh initially sounds squeaky and high-pitched.
With time, as laryngeal muscles strengthen, laughter sounds more natural. By age 1, the sweet sound of your child’s laugh will become music to your ears.
This is another forerunner of speech, occurring between 4 and 6 months of age. Blowing raspberries involves sticking the tongue between the lips and sending air across them. With this milestone, your sweetie is priming their mouth to form words.
However, don’t be concerned if your baby doesn’t blow raspberries. About 25 percent of children never do. Still, kids who blow bubbles and lick their lips tend to talk sooner than those who don’t.
If your child appears to be skipping this milestone, blow raspberries close to their face. This will spur them to mimic you, laying the groundwork for earlier speech.
Another building block of communication is babbling, starting around the same time as blowing raspberries. As a rudimentary form of talking, babbling includes tone variations that resemble adult speech patterns. With this activity, your child is building the fine motor skills required to speak clearly.
From 6 months to age 3, communication progresses quickly. By engaging your baby in babbling, you’ll speed their language development, promoting greater fluency later, when they start school.
To babble with your child, speak slowly, stretching your vowels. Also, vary your pitch and tone, in a sing-song manner. Next, allow a brief pause, giving Baby time to respond, before repeating your phrases. Then, start a new topic.
With this method, your infant learns to process sounds, gradually recognizing them. Scientists refer to this style of speech as “Motherese.”
You can use Motherese in three ways — for informal chatting, gaining your child’s attention, and sustaining their focus. While educational TV shows and videos will aid learning, communication skills require social interaction. This banter speeds information processing. Additionally, pausing while babbling is the blueprint for adult conversation.
To teach your child words, use the times they point to objects. Then, rather than responding with babble, state the actual word. Also, note when your child calmly furrows their brow. If they’re not upset, this frown means they’re interested, paying attention.
To build Baby’s vocabulary, read to them often. This practice also sharpens concentration and instills a love for reading, two skills that will help them progress in school.
By around 9 months, Baby should start uttering consonants, like “ba-ba” and “da-da.” Then, by age 1, babbling will evolve into using single words. Keep your ears tuned for the first time they say “mama” and “dada.”
First Pearly White
For most infants, the first tooth emerges between 4 and 7 months. The typical location of that cute little nub is front and center on the lower gums.
Tooth sighting also heralds the first dental visit! Schedule it within six months of initial teething. If your child’s teeth are slow to surface, bring them to the dentist by age 1.
If possible, see a pediatric dentist. Such a professional will have two years of specialized training in child growth and development, behavior, and children’s dentistry. If you can’t find a pediatric dentist in your area, do a Web search for general dentists who welcome young children. Or, ask friends, coworkers, and family members if they can recommend a dental clinic.
With a pediatric dentist, your baby’s first visit will likely be fun, giving a great first impression and preventing future anxiety. Pediatric dental offices have fascinating toys in their waiting rooms. Plus, the warm and welcoming staff members take a lighthearted approach to dental care, helping children feel calm.
Once your child seems relaxed, the doctor will examine their mouth, including their jaw, gums, oral tissues, and bite, looking for decay and other potential problems. If your child is frightened, try holding them in your lap while seated in the dental chair.
If indicated, the doctor will arrange for professional cleaning by the dental hygienist and possibly a fluoride varnish treatment, to help prevent cavities. The staff will also give you tips on home dental care, proper nutrition, and oral habits to discourage.
Before the first visit, list any questions or concerns you wish to discuss. For instance, you can obtain advice on managing teething or weaning your child from thumb-sucking.
To streamline the appointment, ask if you can complete the paperwork at home in advance. If not, come to the exam with all pertinent medical and insurance information.
Then, prepare your child for the visit by practicing mouth opening and reading a lighthearted story about seeing the dentist. Also, schedule the exam for a time when your child is usually at their best. Especially avoid nap time. On the day of the appointment, bring along a favorite toy, helping your child feel secure.
Schedule subsequent dental visits every six months or sooner if problems arise, such as developing a lisp, mouth breathing, or tooth grinding.
Gaining Fine Motor Skills
This developmental stage involves the coordinated use of the hands, fingers, and arms. The first year of life is crucial to acquiring fine motor skills, needed for daily activities such as playing and eating.
This process begins around age 2 months, when your infant discovers their hands. Intrigued by them, Baby will learn to make a fist and touch their mouth. By 3 months, they start holding objects. A month later, your child will be swiping at items. However, since the arm movements aren’t controlled, it’s just swinging practice.
At around 5 months, Baby can clasp their hands and transfer objects between them. Additionally, swiping is more precise. However, since the thumb isn’t involved, grasping is still challenging. With motor development starting at the pinky, thumb-man is the last to join the action. Still, Baby can bang a spoon and shake a toy.
Between 6 and 9 months, your child can poke at objects with their pointer finger. Especially help for you is the ability to grasp, squeeze, and hold objects, such as a baby bottle. Your child is even starting to multitask, looking for one item while holding another!
A new raking grasp is handy for bringing objects closer. By putting things in their mouth, Baby explores textures.
From 9 to 12 months, movements become more purposeful. Baby can now eat finger foods. They can transfer objects into a cup or other container. A pincer grasp emerges, using the thumb and pointer finger.
Now, the excitement mounts! While reading to your child, they’re turning the book pages. With a fist, they’re holding crayons or two objects in one hand. During this time, you’ll notice Baby showing a preference for one hand, the start of becoming right- or left-handed.
By age 1, Baby has mastered grasping and releasing, by which they can stack a four-block tower. They’re also playing cute games with you, such as patty-cake, strengthening your bond and communication.
Acing Gross Motor Skills
Equally thrilling is seeing your child gain mobility. The first milestone is sitting up. At 2 months, if you support your child, they stay upright. Within two months, this stability improves.
Next comes rolling over. At 4 months, they can go in one direction. By 6 months, look for rolling in two directions, from stomach to back and reverse.
Also at 6 months, once positioned, Baby can sit independently. By the age of 9 months, your child assumes sitting on their own, staying in place for up to 10 minutes.
Moving Right Along
With the onset of crawling, it’s time to baby-proof your home! This milestone, occurring at 7 to 9 months, strengthens your child’s lower extremities, preparing them to stand.
Upon seeing your baby pull-to-stand, you’ll be grinning ear-to-ear. This feat happens at the end of 9 months. Plus, with Baby holding a stationary object, they can stand in place. Now, put on some catchy music, and watch your little one dance!
The next progression is cruising, at 11 months. While holding onto furniture, Baby is having a blast, taking wobbly steps.
By age 12 months, your child is standing without support. Between 12 and 18 months is when they should be walking. If this doesn’t occur, seeing a physical therapist may help your child achieve this milestone.
Your cutie should start smiling around 2 months of age. This momentous event is both delightful and telling. Smiling upon seeing people indicates that a child is developing socially, making connections. When a baby doesn’t smile, it can signal autism or another developmental disorder.
Social smiling also indicates brain development in the areas controlling eyesight and muscle movement. Until babies reach 2 months of age, they have trouble focusing and tracking motion. Smiling shows that their eyes can now follow movement.
At 4 months, your baby should be returning your smile and showing interest in your facial expressions. Baby learns that producing a smile draws lots of your loving attention. Who can resist such charm!
By 6 months, the fun kicks up a notch — while playing with you, Baby is all smiles. They’ll also laugh when you tickle them. Your heart will melt a month or so later, when just seeing you makes them smile and giggle. And, your heart will leap when Baby mirrors your facial expressions.
Laughing is a sign that brain development is on target. It means a child’s understanding of the world is evolving.
The ability to play this game is a strong indication of proper child development. A baby under 6 months can’t participate since they have no concept of “object permanence.” When the face of mommy or daddy disappears, they look startled, shocked, or downright distressed. They don’t realize that peek-a-boo is a game and their parent will return to view.
Object permanence is the understanding that something continues to exist, even when you can’t see it. This dawns on children between 6 and 8 months of age, knowing that peek-a-boo involves temporary hiding. The fun is anticipating mommy or daddy coming back.
And, when they do, laughter blooms. Peek-a-boo has now become funny!
Here are more endearing milestones that will tickle your funny bone.
Admittedly, the above information is a lot to process at once. At this point, you can probably use a cheat sheet. For an overview of infant milestones, see this slideshow by WebMD.
If anything seems amiss with your baby, promptly bring them to your pediatrician and voice your concerns. In response, the doctor will conduct a developmental screening. This entails your completing a checklist or questionnaire, evaluating your child’s language, thinking, emotions, movement, and behaviors.
The doctor will also talk and play with your child. If the pediatrician suspects a developmental issue, you’ll be referred to a specialist for in-depth evaluation.
The risk of developmental problems is greater in children of premature birth and low birth weight. Even if Baby is reaching milestones on schedule, ask your doctor to perform a developmental screening at 9 months of age.
Be sure to record your baby’s glorious achievements, using a camera, video recorder, and scrapbook. Preserve those precious moments of your child blowing raspberries, babbling, and speaking their first words. Document that gummy grin, showing the first pearly white.
Videotape the two of you playing patty-cake and peek-a-boo. Catch those first bites of finger food. Especially celebrate the amazing progression of your child’s mobility.
May your infant meet all their milestones, stay healthy, and thrive!