Baby’s first year milestones
Not all babies achieve their milestones according to a strict timetable. If your friend’s son giggled for the first time at 6pm last Sunday, don’t expect your baby to pull the same trick bang on time next weekend.
Instead, there are loose markers we can put down around which times are babies tend to start on the next big adventure in their development.
The first expressions of happiness might turn out to be grimaces due to wind or a filled nappy, but soon enough the exchange of genuine pleasure will happen. This usually starts by about eight weeks.
Focus and play
Your baby’s first movements will not be controlled and it does take a few weeks for any baby to be able to focus on anything further than the distance roughly measured as being between a baby’s head at the breast and his mother’s face. But by about three months your baby may be able to show some understanding of you handing a little toy to him, even if his ability to play with it in a coordinated manner is still some time off. Give him toys that he can touch and feel but which have no parts small enough to fit in his mouth.
Rarely you might find a baby who is born with a tooth, but for most babies the first signs of teeth breaking through the gum happen at around five to six months. Unfortunately this is also the time he will try new experiences such as eating, so it’s all going on in that mouth of his!
It is not recommended that children younger than six months be given anything other than breastmilk. But in cases where parents feel they have a very hungry baby, a health visitor may say that some earlier weaning is worth trying. Some babies will quickly be able to start feeding themselves but this usually happens a couple of months later (see *Good finger foods for ideas on what to offer your baby).
If you encourage your baby to play on his tummy regularly enough, by four to five months he will be trying to push up. By six months he may well be able to look around whilst supporting his top half on his hands.
Peek a boo
Your baby will enjoy this game from an early age, but by about seven months he might be able to join in grabbing a scarf from your face or from his own face. If your baby does not enjoy this game, improvise something less upsetting as some babies get anxious when they can’t see your face.
As soon as your baby can support his own head with his neck strength then you can start to prop him up for short periods at a time. But always stay with him. By about eight months he should be able to sit up unaided and now he will take more interest in picking things up, dropping them, enjoying having a ball rolled to him and interacting with toys and baby books. For more, see Sitting up.
Crawling and shuffling
These can happen gradually, with weeks of your baby either sitting in one place and bouncing like he’s raring to go, or on all-fours rocking back and forth as if waiting for the engine to start. This can happen anytime around the seventh to ninth month.
Before your baby can walk he needs to stand. Offer him encouragement but don’t force him to do this before he’s ready. This will develop in the last three months of your child’s first year and might lead to confident cruising and, in a few cases, the first steps of walking at around a year to 14 months. For more on this period, see Walking.
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