Baby Development: Your 1-Year-Old

Medically Reviewed by Amita Shroff, MD on November 28, 2022
5 min read

Your baby’s first big birthday has arrived! As you get ready for the celebration, think back on the last 12 months as a time of incredible growth and development. In just one year, your baby has transformed from a completely helpless newborn into an independent little person.

In this portion of WebMD’s month-by-month guide, you’ll discover what baby milestones you can expect your child to achieve now that they are 1 year old.

Your baby’s weight has likely tripled since birth. At month 12, babies also have grown by 50% -- about 9 to 11 inches -- and their brain is about 60% of its adult size. After an incredible one-year growth spurt, your baby’s weight gain will start to slow down as their activity level increases.

Your 1-year-old should be standing alone and “cruising”-- walking while holding onto furniture. They may even have taken those first tentative solo steps. If they haven’t, hopefully you’ll have your video camera ready to capture the moment when they do.

One-year-olds are pretty good at doing a few things for themselves, such as eating with their fingers, helping their parents dress them, and turning the pages of a storybook. Your baby should be starting to use a few everyday items correctly, including a spoon, telephone, and hairbrush. Although their aim with these things might not be perfect, they certainly have the right intention.

You can help them develop their hand-eye coordination by introducing songs with simple hand motions, like "Itsy Bitsy Spider," playing patty-cake, and giving a "high five."

By one year, your baby should be sleeping less during the day and more at night. Most children at this age still need an afternoon nap, but their morning nap may be a thing of the past or the naps may have fused into a longer one in the middle of the day.

At one year, you can make the transition from breast milk or formula to cow’s milk. Start with whole milk. Your baby needs the extra fat for healthy brain growth and development. Don’t transition to low-fat milk -- or any other low-fat foods, for that matter -- until after your baby’s second birthday, or when your pediatrician advises it.

If you’ve been breastfeeding, you might decide that one year is the time to start weaning your baby. It tends to be easier on both mother and baby to wean gradually, dropping one feeding at a time. The bedtime feeding is usually the last one to go. To replace nursing, you can give your 1-year-old a cup of milk, a snack, or something to suck on.

Now that your baby is eating more table foods, be very careful about choking hazards. Avoid giving your 1-year-old whole grapes, pieces of hot dogs, popcorn, or any other foods that could get stuck in their throat. Always stay close by your baby during mealtimes. You can now give foods that contain honey. Eggs and nut butters are also acceptable.

Your baby’s vocabulary is expanding quickly. You’ll probably hear a few words, like “Mama,” “Dada,” “no,” or “uh-oh” on a regular basis now. One-year-olds learn language by imitating their parents’ speech, so expect that your baby will turn into a little mimic, if they haven’t done so already. At this point, mama really refers to mama, and dada really means dada.

By one year, babies are becoming more social. They are starting to understand what people are saying to them, and they are using their newfound language skills to get the attention of those around them. In month 12, your baby will also start testing the limits, which can include responding to your requests with a “no” or even throwing a tantrum. Be firm and let your child know that these behaviors are not acceptable. Meanwhile, reward good behaviors with praise or a treat.

Pay close attention during play dates. Kids at this age may not realize they’re poking or squeezing too hard. Have plenty of toys available. Sharing isn’t a concept 1-year-olds understand, but you can start teaching it.

Your baby will prefer certain people to others now. You can see them becoming shy or anxious around strangers, and clinging to you when you try to leave. Both stranger and separation anxieties will pass. For now, be sympathetic to your baby’s worries. When you have to go out, make leaving as quick and painless as possible and assure your baby that you will return soon.

Now that your baby may be starting to walk, it’s time to think about buying that first pair of baby shoes. Though you might be tempted to reach for the cutest shoes on the shelf, comfort and fit are the most important priorities for your baby’s first pair of shoes. Go to a store that specializes in children’s shoes and ask a salesperson to measure your baby’s feet. Look for:

  • Soft, lightweight, breathable material
  • Soles with rubber grips to prevent slipping
  • Enough room in the shoes for your baby’s feet to grow

You’ll probably need to go shoe shopping again in 2 or 3 months as your baby’s feet continue to grow.

  • One-year-olds love to explore. Provide plenty of opportunities for safe exploration by filling cabinets with unbreakable Tupperware containers, wooden spoons, and whisks or by putting large, different textured items inside a box. Use a firm ‘no’ when something is off limits and redirect your baby's attention.
  • If your child is a good climber, think about dropping the crib mattress  so that they don’t get a leg-up and fall over the top of the crib railing. There should be no crib bumpers.
  • At your one-year visit, check with your pediatrician to make sure your baby is up-to-date on all vaccinations.
  • Make sure that the house is still baby-proofed with stairways gated, no blind cords hanging down where your baby can reach them, pots and dishes put back away from counter edges, and household cleaners out of reach. Keep bathroom doors and bedroom doors closed.
  • Make sure your baby is in a rear-facing car seat.  When your child reaches the recommended weight/height, they can sit in a front-facing car seat.  
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no ”screen time” at all for children under the age of 18 months, apart from video chatting with relatives. Studies have shown that TV at this age can negatively affect a child's language development, reading skills, and even contribute to problems with sleep and attention.