Maximum growth and development of a child’s brain occurs during the first year of life. Therefore, monitoring his growth and development during this period is very crucial. Knowledge of important physical development milestones can help parents identify any developmental issues and seek timely guidance from their paediatrician.
What are developmental milestones?
Skills that babies learn during the various stages of their growth, such as smiling, crawling and waving, are called developmental milestones. Achieving these milestones indicate progress in various domains of development such as physical (gross motor and fine motor), social, emotional, and speech and language.
Let’s look at some important physical development milestones that babies attain within a year of their birth.
0 to 1 month
Newborns spend most of their time feeding and sleeping. Over the coming weeks, they start recognising their mother’s face, voice and touch. As their vision is not fully developed, they can’t focus beyond a distance of more than 1 feet.
1 to 2 months
Once babies are a month old, they start fixing their gaze on the eyes of whoever holds them. Their hands, which are usually fisted at birth, start opening up within the first two months. But their head continues to lag behind when being picked up from a lying position, as they are still unable to hold their head upright. During this period, babies also start developing a bond because of being cuddled and held close.
3 to 4 months
Usually by the third, or fourth, month, babies start gaining control of their head movements. Some babies even try to stretch their forearms and lift their head up when made to lie on their stomach. They start enjoying playtime and reciprocate when people smile at them. At this time, mothers should try to establish and maintain eye contact while talking to their babies. Sound-producing toys like rattles should be strung across the crib.
By four months of age, babies start trying to understand the world around them. They start by inspecting and touching their own hands and then inserting them into mouth. During this time, babies also learn to roll over from their back to their stomach. So, special care should be taken to ensure they don’t hurt themselves by falling when trying to roll on couches or sofas. Parents should make sure that they don’t leave babies alone. Shaking a bell or a squeaky toy over a baby’s head will make him turn his head to try and locate the source of the sound.
6 to 8 months
By the time babies turn six months old, they start sitting up with some support; however, without the support, they will still be wobbly. They now roll over without any problem. While some babies start crawling by seven to eight months, others are just able to shift their bottoms. By this time, babies can also transfer objects from one hand to another.
9 to 12 months
By nine months of age, most babies can pull themselves up to a standing position and keep standing without support for a few moments. They can move sideways by supporting themselves against things such as a piece of furniture or the wall. This type of movement is called cruising. During this time, their fine motor skills, such as grasping objects, also improve. They can probe objects with their index finger and sometimes pick them up using the index finger and thumb. This grasp, known as pincer grasp, becomes better and stronger during the next couple of months. They also learn to throw objects to the ground. This act is called casting.
By the end of the first year
By the time babies turn one year old, most of them can crawl, and rise up from a lying position and sit without support. They can take a few steps by holding the hands of adults around them. They can also hold a spoon and try to drink from a cup with some help. They are able to express their joy by clapping their hands and giggling.
While these are some general milestones of physical development in babies, parents should remember that each baby is unique and grows at its own pace. So, there may be variations in the pace of development. For example, a baby who starts turning over weeks before her peers could be the last one to start walking. The pace of development can also vary in different domains. For example, a baby who achieves physical milestones such as crawling and walking faster than others can take a longer time when it comes to speech development.
With this information in mind, you can track your baby’s physical development during the first year of her life. But if something about your baby bothers you, do not hesitate to seek advice from an expert.
Dr Suresh Birajdar is Consultant Paediatric at Nanavati Super Speciality Hospital, Mumbai.
For more articles on social, cognitive and motor skills milestones, click here.