Written by Caroline Meyer
There is nothing more exciting that watching your baby turn into a little person with their own personality and quirks. Many parents worry that their little one isn’t hitting their milestones as soon as they should or are not on exact par with the parenting books or with your best friend’s child or to what your sibling remembers their child doing. This does not mean that your child has a problem or has any physical or mental issues. Here are a few tips to help you allay your fears and get help if you need it.
VISIT YOUR PAEDIATRICIAN OR CLINIC REGULARLY
Your doctor or clinic nurse will be able to assess your baby’s development and whether she is reaching the milestones she should within the age range. They keep records of height, weight and development. They will discuss her progress with you as well as the milestones that are coming up and what you need to be doing to help them. This will include allowing floor time for sitting, crawling and exploring. They will also advise when you should start offering solid foods and how to introduce different foods in to their diet. You do need to realize that the usual developmental guidelines that are laid out are only guidelines and are not set in stone. They are based on the average age of the average child. This means that some children will reach the milestones a lot faster and some a lot later. Infants tend to develop at their own pace and because they may be slow to reach one milestone does not mean they will not be on par for the rest of them.
MENTAL AND PHYSICAL MILESTONES
Remember that most development starts in the brain. The physical development follows on from this and each physical skill needs to be developed before they can move on to the next. Each skill will also need the mental development to be in place before the physical side can occur. While you cannot force a child to reach a milestone, you can stimulate them and give them the opportunities they need to develop. They will still develop at their own pace and when they are ready but you can help. Listening to your baby and talking back to them helps mental development. Sing songs, read to them and sound out nursery rhymes in an interactive way. Allow floor time in a room that is properly baby-proofed so they can explore and learn. Babies also learn and grow from physical touch. Baby massage, gentle tickles, hugs and skin on skin time can help your baby develop well.
WHAT HAPPENS IF THEY DON’T HIT MILESTONES CONSISTENTLY?
There may be reasons why your baby is consistently much later than usual in reaching the normal milestones. If you find this happening for each and every milestone where it is extremely delayed, you should consult your doctor to discuss the situation. You doctor can then test for physical issues such as hearing loss, inadequate sight, muscle or skeletal problems and so forth. Quite often, once a physical problem is discovered, it can be remedied and your baby will quickly catch up to her peers.
New-born babies do not do very much to start with and have no head control and only primitive reflexes. They can see up to about 25cm away and respond to light and sound. They tend to feed up to 8 times a day for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. You can help her development through talking to her while looking into her face, offering skin-to-skin contact and just showing her lots of love.
At around 6 weeks she should be able to hold her head up for very short periods. She is able to turn her head towards voices she recognises. When lying on her tummy she can usually life her head and her chest a short distance. She can follow a moving object with her eyes. Her back is stronger and she can usually keep her head in line with her spine when propped in a sitting position. At this age you can play gentle tickle games, sing, talk and read to her.
At 3 months her knees will bend when she is held upright in a standing position. She may learn to hold a rattle and shake it briefly herself. She may also reach out for nearby objects. This is when the teeth usually start coming in but may be delayed until 6 months for some little ones. She may start making little noises when you talk to her as if she is responding. She may smile, laugh and shriek in reaction to situations. She is starting to remember people. Her range of sounds will start to increase incrementally. She will start showing some sensitivity to emotion and tone of voice.
Around the 6 month mark she will be able to bounce gently on her legs if held upright. She will also reach for objects and generally put them straight in to her mouth. She is also able to transfer objects from one hand to the other. She is able to roll from ling on her tummy to lying on her back. She can sit when propped and can lift her chest up when lying on her tummy. You can usually start introducing solids at this age. Encourage exploration and keep the verbal and physical communication with your baby going. She should start making the basic “Ka”, “Da” and “Ba” sounds around this age as well.
By 9 months your little one should be able to sit unsupported and may be wriggling like a worm or starting to crawl as well. She will be able to follow a sound to see where it comes from. She can eat finger foods at this point. She should be able to recognise herself in a mirror or photo and will also remember people. She may develop some stranger anxiety at this point as well. She should be able to understand basic words such as bye and no. If she drops a toy she will usually look to see where it went.
At 12 months she should be crawling well and sitting without assistance. She may even start pulling herself up on furniture into a standing position. She may be able to walk with assistance and some babies are even able to walk on their own at this point. She can pick up small things with forefinger and thumb in a pincer movement. She will point to something that she wants. She can go from her stomach into a sitting position unassisted. She can hold an object in each hand at the same time. She should be sleeping through the night at this point as well. She should be able to eat everything that the rest of the family eats (just cut smaller). Just watch out for allergies, especially if there is a history of allergies in the family. She should recognize and respond to her name
From 12 to 18 months babies start developing faster emotionally, socially and verbally. She will start showing signs of actual speech in the rhythms of her babbling. By 15 months she should also be able to climb up stairs. She may be possessive and will show affection with hugs, smiles and joy. She also may start to imitate you and other members of the family. She may start to use some actual words such as Mama and Dada. She is able to follow 1 step, simple instructions. She is able to listen well and comprehends a lot better. She will purposefully drop and throw things. She is especially receptive to reading at this point and will want to be more interactive. Let her look at the pictures and turn the pages and work on basic comprehension at this stage. She is able to help when getting dressed by lifting her arms for you to put a shirt on. She will demonstrate frustration when she is not able to do something.
By 18 months she should be able to point to ears, eyes, nose, lips etc. She should be able to pick up small objects and be able to build a 3 level block tower. She should be able to hold 2 small items in each hand and also scribble with a crayon. She should be able to go downstairs backwards. She should be walking properly and may have started to run. She should be using a lot more words (around 20 plus) as well as being able to understand a lot more. She will understand basic instructions but may start showing stubbornness in carrying them out. She may be able to put together 2 words in short phrases that are easily understood.
By the two year mark she should be able to climb and will be running properly. She should be able to walk backwards as well. She should be able to kick a ball as well as throw overhand. At this point she will start demonstrating left or right-handedness as well. By this stage she should be showing more independence and a willingness to interact with other children. While she may not play with them directly, she will want to play near them. You may also see more tantrums as frustration increases. She should be using from 50 to 300 words at this point and be able to make multiple 2 to 3 word sentences. She should be able to use a push bike and complete basic puzzles.
If you find that your child is not reaching these milestones consistently, make sure you discuss your concerns with your doctor. Many developmental issues are caused by physical issues and can be resolved. If there are mental problems causing the developmental problems, your doctor will be able to advise a way forward to ensure the best outcome for your little one.