Baby’s First Year: How Infants Develop

From the WebMD Archives

From helpless newborn to active toddler: It takes just 12 short months for your baby to undergo this incredible transformation. Babies grow and change at an astounding pace, and every month brings new and exciting developments.

New moms and dads often wonder what to expect next and how to know if their baby’s development is on target. Instead of focusing too much on developmental milestones, however, it’s important to remember that babies all develop at their own pace. There’s a fairly wide “window” for when it is normal for a baby to reach a particular developmental stage.

“If your baby reaches one milestone sooner, she may reach another one later, because she’s so busy perfecting the other skill,” says Jennifer Shu, MD, pediatrician and co-author of Heading Home with Your Newborn.

Some babies may say their first word at eight months, while others don’t talk until a little after the one-year mark. And walking may start anytime between nine and 18 months.

Keeping those kinds of variations in mind, here’s what your baby may be doing during each three-month stage of the first year.

Baby Development: One to Three Months

During this first development stage, babies’ bodies and brains are learning to live in the outside world. Between birth and three months, your baby may start to:

  • Smile. Early on, it will be just to herself. But within three months, she’ll be smiling in response to your smiles and trying to get you to smile back at her.
  • Raise her head and chest when on her tummy.
  • Track objects with her eyesand gradually decrease eye crossing.
  • Open and shut her hands and bring hands to her mouth.
  • Grip objects in her hands.
  • Take swipes at or reach for dangling objects, though she usually won’t be able to get them yet.

Baby Development: Four to Six Months

During these months, babies are really learning to reach out and manipulate the world around them. They’re mastering the use of those amazing tools, their hands. And they’re discovering their voices. From 4 to 6 months old, your baby will probably:

  • Roll over from front to back or back to front. Front-to-back usually comes first.
  • Babble, making sounds that can sound like real language.
  • Laugh.
  • Reach out for and grab objects (watch out for your hair), and manipulate toys and other objects with her hands.
  • Sit up with support and have great head control.

Continued

Baby Development: Seven to Nine Months

During the second half of this year, your little one becomes a baby on the go. After learning that he can get somewhere by rolling over, he’ll spend the next few months figuring out how to move forward or backward. If you haven’t baby-proofed yet, better get on it!

  • During this time period, your baby may:
  • Start to crawl. This can include scooting (propelling around on his bottom) or “army crawling” (dragging himself on his tummy by arms and legs), as well as standard crawling on hands and knees. Some babies never crawl, moving directly to from scooting to walking.
  • Sit without support.
  • Respond to familiar words like his name. He may also respond to “No” by briefly stopping and looking at you, and may start babbling "Mama" and "Dada."
  • Clap and play games such as patty-cake and peekaboo.
  • Learn to pull up to a standing position.

Baby Development: 10 to 12 Months

The last development stage in baby’s first year is quite a transition. She isn’t an infant anymore, and she might look and act more like a toddler. But she’s still a baby in many ways. She’s learning to:

  • Begin feeding herself. Babies at this developmental stage master the “pincer grasp“ -- meaning they can hold small objects such as O-shaped cereal between their thumb and forefinger.
  • Cruise, or move around the room on her feet while holding onto the furniture.
  • Say one or two words, and "Mama" and "Dada" become specific name for parents. The average is about three spoken words by the first birthday, but the range on this is enormous.
  • Point at objects she wants in order to get your attention.
  • Begin “pretend play” by copying you or using objects correctly, such as pretending to talk on the phone.
  • Take her first steps. This usually happens right around one year, but it can vary greatly.

Your Baby’s Development: When to Talk to a Pediatrician

What should you do if you think your baby is not meeting growth or developmental milestones, when he should? First, says Shu, trust your instincts. “If you really feel like something’s wrong, then talk to your doctor about it because if there is a problem, we want to catch it as soon as we can," she says. "Early intervention is best, and you know your child better than anyone.”

Remember, however, that it is not exactly when your baby sits up by himself or says his first words that is important; it’s that he’s moving forward in his development. “Don’t look at the time as much as the progression, and see that your child is changing and growing,” says Shu. “It’s not a race. Nobody’s going to ask on a college application when your child first walked or said ‘da-da.’”

Continued

Your Child’s Development -- Month by Month

This table shows common developmental milestones that babies reach each month during their first year, in four major categories. Keep in mind that all babies are different and every baby grows at his own pace. There's no precise time that most of these skills first appear. If your child hasn’t reached a milestone by the month it is listed on this chart, it is usually a perfectly normal variation in child development. Watch for progress, not deadlines.

Gross Motor

Fine Motor

Language/

Cognitive

Social

1 month

Moves head from side to side when on stomach

Strong grip

Stares at hands and fingers

Tracks movement with eyes

2 months

Holds head and neck up briefly while on tummy

Opens and closes hands

Begins to play with fingers

Smiles responsively

3 months

Reaches and grabs at objects

Grips objects in hands

Coos

Imitates you when you stick out your tongue

4 months

Pushes up on arms when lying on tummy

Grabs objects -- and gets them!

Laughs out loud

Enjoys play and may cry when playing stops

5 months

Begins to roll over in one or the other direction

Is learning to transfer objects from one hand to the other

Blows “raspberries” (spit bubbles)

Reaches for mommy or daddy and cries if they’re out of sight

6 months

Rolls over both ways

Uses hands to “rake” small objects

Babbles

Recognizes familiar faces --caregivers and friends as well as family

7 months

Moves around --is starting to crawl, scoot, or “army crawl”

Is learning to use thumb and fingers

Babbles in a more complex way

Responds to other people’s expressions of emotion

8 months

Sits well without support

Begins to clap hands

Responds to familiar words, looks when you say his name

Plays interactive games like peekaboo

9 months

May try to climb/crawl up stairs

Uses the pincer grasp

Learns object permanence -- that something exists even if he can’t see it

Is at the height of stranger anxiety

10 months

Pulls up to stand

Stacks and sorts toys

Waves bye-bye and/or lifts up arms to communicate “up”

Learns to understand cause and effect (“I cry, Mommy comes”)

11 months

Cruises, using furniture

Turns pages while you read

Says “mama” or “dada” for either parent

Uses mealtime games (dropping spoon, pushing food away) to test your reaction; expresses food preferences

12 months

Stands unaided and may take first steps

Helps while getting dressed (pushes hands into sleeves)

Says an average of 2-3 words (often “mama” and “dada”)

Plays imitative games such as pretending to use the phone

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Renee A. Alli, MD on October 18, 2011

Sources

SOURCES: 

Jennifer Shu, MD, pediatrician and co-author, Heading Home with Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality.

The American Academy of Pediatrics: "Developmental Stages."

© 2009 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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