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First-time parents don’t get enough credit. In today’s culture of self-experts, it seems like everyone has an opinion about your child. And often well-meaning advice can cause some severe anxiety.  What is normal? Is my child okay? Should I be concerned? 

These questions have plagued new parents everywhere and resulted in the loss of some most precious sleep. 

And with social media feeding on beautifully framed photos for each discovery a child makes, it can be easy to assume that your kiddo is falling behind if you don’t share the same picture-worthy triumphs. 

In this article, we're going to cover some of the major baby milestones that most kids reach by their first birthday. However, keep in mind that your child's development may not fit nicely in this timeline. And that's totally okay. And normal. 

And unless your pediatrician tells you otherwise, you do not need to worry. 

Despite what TV and other parents will sometimes tell you...there is no magic formula that combines classical music, organic health food and magical sleep patterns and wah-lah! Your baby is a perfect specimen in the eyes of every facet of society. 

Each child grows and learns differently. And thus, each baby will reach developmental milestones at their own pace. Keeping that in mind, here is a general idea of what you should expect in your baby's first year of life. 

Physical Development  

Your baby's growth in the first year is astronomical. 

And while all your high school friends may not care about every little change your baby experiences...we are all about it. Here is a timeline of the major milestones your little one will reach physically and a general idea of when to expect them.  

Holding their Head Up 

Baby girl on the floor, holding her head up and smiling at the camera

When you look at a baby's head to body ratio, it's easy to see why this is such a struggle. Most babies can hold up their own heads when they are about four months old. However, some super babies have it down a bit earlier.

When watching for this developmental milestone, it's important to remember that this is a very gradual process. Many babies will begin lifting their heads in as early as a few weeks. However, their little neck muscles are still working on getting strong enough to fully support that noggin.  

What you can do to help 

Tummy time is a great way to encourage your baby to work those neck muscles. Just place a few interesting toys in front of your little one while they are on the floor in a safe spot and let their curiosity get to work. 

Tummy time is also a great way to help you babe roll over and begin to scoot–skills that will also help you when it comes time to start crawling. 

Sitting 

Baby sitting on the floor, laughing

Once your little one can maneuver their huge head, they are ready to start sitting up on their own. It will be natural for them to sit in laps and seats, both of which will help build this habit. But it is a special moment when you can put your kiddo on the floor, on their bottom and not watch them promptly head-dive to the ground. And for many babies, that happens when they are around six months old. 

What you can do to help 

Placing your baby in a sitting position will help your kiddo get used to working the essential muscles they need to stay upright. And seats like the Bumbo or the Fisher-Price Sit-Me-Up are great additions that will keep your baby's muscles working when your arms need a break. 

Although, if you don't have the budget or the space for specialty seats, you can get the same effect by propping your little one up with pillows, too. Just be sure to keep all seats on the ground and stay close by in case that head gets a little too heavy, and your kiddo takes a spill. 

Crawling

Baby girl crawling on the floor

Around nine months, something equally wonderful and terrifying happens. Your sweet little babe will become mobile. Most babies start out with that charming scoot or side-shuffle as a means to move around. But others start crawling right away, and as early as six months. 

If nine months come and go and your babe is still shuffling around, don't worry. 

Some kiddos don't start really crawling until closer to a year. And some even skip this milestone completely and move straight into standing and walking. However, crawling provides some very important bilateral coordination and neurological development and should not be skipped if at all possible. 

What you can do to help 

Because crawling helps your baby's brain, this is a milestone to spend some time on. It's probably no surprise that tummy time creates the building blocks for crawling. 

A few strategically placed incentives may be all your baby needs to find the motivation to start crawling. And once your babe has shown interest, you can encourage problem-solving skills through obstacles like pillows or stuffies. 

Side note: If you haven't yet, now is a good time to start childproofing your home. 

Related: The 13 Best Pop-Up Books For Kids & Adults

Standing

Baby boy standing in his crib

What starts as standing in a crib when it's time to wake up slowly progresses to pulling up on chairs and couches. And before you know it, your little one will be practicing standing all throughout the day. Most babies will begin pulling themselves up on things around 6 1/2 months. 

And by 8-10 months, many will be able to balance themselves in a standing position for at least for a few seconds.

What you can do to help 

You can always assist your babe by helping them stand on your lap or getting a fun exersaucer. However, fancy devices are an absolutely unnecessary addition to your home. Your little one will utilize anything in sight to pull themselves up. 

And keep in mind that the American Academy of Pediatrics warns that “infants who spend too much time in confining equipment such as car seats, swings, bouncy seats, exersaucers, strollers may experience delayed motor skill development." 

So let them explore their world a bit. It’s free, good for their development, and you don’t have to manage bulky exersaucers.  

              


Walking 

Dad holding his baby's hands, helping him walk

Many babies take their first, wobbly steps 2-3 months after learning to stand. But most kiddos reach this milestone between 9-18 months, so don’t be surprised if your little one isn’t quite there yet by the time they turn one.  

What you can do to help 

Assist your babe’s waking by holding their hands and helping guide their steps. You can also get a walker to help keep them balanced while they walk and give them something fun to do while resting. We are huge fans of wooden toys like this play kitchen trolley or riding a firetruck

Another way to help your little one keep their footing is to set them up with some good shoes. Once your baby starts walking, shoes stop being just a cute accessory and become a need to keep wobbly legs upright and tiny toes safe. Parent favorites include Stride Rite shoes and the MomoBaby leather footwear

First Tooth

Baby girl with two bottom teeth

Is it just me, or was the teething process a lot like pregnancy–full of crying and struggle for everyone in the house? Tooth pain is excruciating. And your little one is gearing up to grow an entire mouth of teeth. So remember that the next time you want to pull your hair (and that tooth) out. 

Teeth start coming in usually between 6-12 months. And if you're especially lucky like our daughter was, you could start teething around four months and not pop out a single tooth until well over a year. (Why thank you, calcium deficiency.)  

Your baby will give you quite a few clues when they’re ready to start sprouting teeth. Just watch for gnawing on just about anything they can get their hands on, excessive drooling and extreme crankiness that let you know a tooth is on its way.

What you can do to help 

Teething toys are a great option. Throw those puppies in the freezer, and you have some easy cooling relief options for your babe. Because we camped out in this season for what seemed like an eternity, we also had success with frozen milk popsicles, large carrots (none of those precut, easy to choke on ones. 

You need the full-sized, bertha carrots), and clove essential oil. I tested the clove oil on my own gums a few times and can confidently say that while it is intense for the first few seconds, it was successful in creating a numbing effect. However, like all essential oils, you will want to read up on the safest ways to dilute it for your baby. 

Language Development 

Your baby's growth isn't limited to their physical bodies. Their brains and language are developing as drastically as their height and weight.

Laughing

Mom and baby laughing in bed

While this isn’t a major milestone, it’s one that suddenly makes sleepless nights and dirty diapers worth it. A lot of babies will start smiling and making sweet, laughing noises around 12 weeks. But around five months is when your babe will really get a kick out of laughing and making you laugh.  

What you can do to help: Bring out some good old' fashioned games of peek-a-boo and raspberries. They work practically every time.  

              


First Words

Mom and dad sitting on the floor, reading to their baby

Okay. So while most babies will begin cooing at just 6-8 weeks, most kids start actually talking around 8-14 months. This may not technically be within the first year, but it’s worth mentioning.

Much to every mother's chagrin, your baby will likely utter "dada" first. But don't worry. That has nothing to do with who your baby loves more. Often, these first words are your babe's chance to get used to their own voice and speak more to the words most often heard around them. 

And once you get past the initial babble, it won't take long for your babe to start spewing out words and sentences. 

The first words your baby will speak are exciting and likely to be ones you remember. Although truth be told, I can't remember what my daughter's first word was. I just know that once she started talking, she never stopped. 

And our family likes to remember the first insult my daughter shelled my way instead. Say hello to Mother Gothel.

What you can do to help  

Babies are mirrors. They show us how they experience the world through the things they hear and see. So speaking and reading to your child will greatly influence their language development. (Shameless teacher plug– home literacy activities have also been associated with higher test scores and shape your child's perception of learning from a young age. So start reading!) 

Introducing Food  

Mom feeding her baby

Many families begin introducing first foods when their baby is anywhere between 6-9 months. You’ll notice that this is a pretty wide range. And the type of food you start with has just as much room for interpretation as the time you begin introducing foods. 

Some parents swear that six months is too early. Others feel their baby does okay with soft, mushy grains right about then. Others advocate for waiting until at least 7 or 8 months and starting with root vegetables. Still, others insist avocado is the best first food.

I’m not about to go into any of that. 

I know what worked for my daughter, but I also know that her body is uniquely hers. And everyone's experience and children are different. So when it comes to introducing first foods, chat with your doctor, do your research and trust your gut. You know your babe’s sensitivities and bodily functions by this point. You have all the resources you need to make the right choice for your family. 

Just don't forget to keep the liquids going. First foods are fun and exciting (and a great opportunity for timeless photos), but your child will still rely on mom’s milk or formula for the bulk of their nutrition. 

Despite the differences in this area, there are some general things to watch for that will clue you in to your baby's readiness for food. First, your baby should be able to sit up on their own. We don't want any choking babies. And most babies will have indicated an interest in eating by the time they are ready for solids. This can be as simple as opening their mouth when the spoon comes near. 

Once your babe has been successfully introduced to foods, you can help develop fine motor skills through finger foods like Cheerios or Puffs. (Is there anything more adorable than that ET-like pincer grasp scouting around for goodies?)  

What you can do to help 

Try, try again. Foods can be frustrating. So don't be discouraged if your baby doesn't take to it right away. If the texture is a little too....much, you may do well to add some milk to the food to get a more liquid-like consistency. 

Another thing you can do to make mealtime a little nicer for everyone is getting your little one a good high chair. The Abiie wooden high tray is basically the high chair of our dreams. 

It’s easy to clean, won’t leave you fighting with rickety plastic, and will grow with your child all the way up to adolescence. 

              

Sleeping through the Night 

For some reason, parents everywhere have made this the universal milestone in which to base all others. Maybe it’s because a glorious 5 hours of interrupted sleep will change your world. Or maybe it’s because getting enough sleep is the first sign of hope that you are doing something right. And similarly, if your kid is not sleeping through the night, it feels like all hope is gone, you will never return to a life of normalcy and you must be doing something wrong. 

Before we get any further in this topic, it’s important to note that experts consider your baby as “sleeping through the night” if they can get 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep. And I don’t know about you, but I would love to know the person who decided 5 hours was a good marker for a night of sleep. Because it sure isn’t me. 

But there was definitely a time when I would have given anything to keep my one year old from waking up every 2 hours on the dot while I juggled going back to work.  

Most babies start sleeping through the night between 3-6 months. And what glorious days those will be. 

What you can do to help 

Establish a clear and consistent schedule and bedtime routine. Your baby spent nine months getting swayed every day in the womb, so it’s natural for them to get a bit mixed up on sleep and awake times. That will sort itself out over time. But you can help it along with consistency and a dark room stocked with a noisemaker and sleep-inducing essential oils

Also, pay attention to your baby’s sleep cues and remember that every baby is different. Sleep is such a huge part of your baby’s development, and we all know what it’s like to be overly tired. So try not to be too concerned about nap time. Sleep sometimes begets more sleep. And if your baby has been running on adrenaline for days, any sleep is good sleep. 

Related: The Beginner’s Guide to Essential Oils

Screen Time

Baby in his highchair with the TV on in the background

With more time than ever spent at home, thanks to COVID-19, it is so easy to rotate equal parts coffee, wine, and tv throughout the day in a small attempt to ease the insanity. I get it. 

And while I can’t speak to the coffee or wine, because hey– a moms gotta do what a moms gotta do– I strongly advise you to fight the temptation and steer clear from screen time. The neurological ramifications that stem from early and excess exposure to screen time does not outweigh the hour of peace you need every day. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics spoke to this issue  "In summary, for children younger than two years, evidence for benefits of media is still limited, adult interaction with the child during media use is crucial, and there continues to be evidence of harm from excessive digital media use, as described later in this statement." 

We all know that too much screen time can greatly increase your child's risk of developing ADD, ADHD, and other learning and behavioral disorders. But studies are now showing that the same effects are prominent in babes who start watching TV under the age of 2. 

Now, am I saying that throwing on some Bubble Guppies or Peppa Pig makes you the worst parent ever, and your kid is never going to recover? Absolutely not. 

But with the risk of schooling from home being higher now than ever, do you really want to put yourself in that situation in 5 years? Yikes!

What you can do to help 

If you are in a position that absolutely requires some screen time, okay. Take a deep breath and remember that there are much bigger fish to fry. And if all you can do is keep your child fed and clothed and bathed once in a while while you juggle work and all the other responsibilities in this world--you're doing great.  

But if you do find yourself turning to the TV, consider swapping for slow, live-action shows that are geared towards the younger ages. Baby Einstein is another great option as they just show items around the house with some classical music in the background. 

Related: Shows For Toddlers That Won't Make You Crazy

Define Normal

I know I already said it, but it’s so important to remember that these timelines are just rough guides designed to help you learn what to expect from your growing babe if your baby does not say their first word until after a year, okay. If your child simply refuses to walk. Fine. There is no shame in letting your kiddo reach their developmental milestones at their own pace. And everyone in your house will be better off by it. 

And honestly, your little one is only a baby for a short time. 

So enjoy the extra months that your kiddo isn't mobile. Soak in the snuggles if your babe is just not ready to give up milk hour. 

And take deep breaths as you remember that life is just a continuous change of seasons. So find ways to enjoy the season you are in because it won’t always be this way. 

You might also be interested in: Building A New Mom Care Package [29 Gifts Ideas To Show Her A Little TLC]

Milestones: 

  • Hold Their Head Up
  • Sitting
  • Crawl 
  • First Foods
  • Stand 
  • Walk 
  • First Tooth
  • First Word
  • Laughing 
  • Sleeping through the night 
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Posted 
Aug 25, 2020
 in 
Parenting
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