Head raising. Smiling. Grasping. Rolling over. Sitting up. Crawling. Pulling up. Cruising. Walking. Talking. It’s a non-stop milestone checklist and it runs like a dialogue in the back of almost every mum’s head.
Why can’t he sit yet? When will she finally say her first word? Shouldn’t he have reached this critical milestone by now? Is there something wrong with my child?
Oh, and then you add in the well-meaning child health nurse. “We usually like to see them crawling by nine months.”
The braggy mum in mothers’ group. “My little Isaac has been rolling both ways since he was three months.”
The concerned grandparent. “I’m sure you were already walking at her age.”
Oh, and the husband who just. Doesn’t. Get. It. “He’s fine. Stop worrying so much.”
It’s enough to drive anyone to the point of distraction. Milestones feel so big when your kiddo is so little.
And yes; sometimes missed or significantly delayed baby milestones can point to a bigger problem. But more often than not, they point to a perfectly healthy baby who will get to said milestones in his own time.
5 facts about baby milestones every mum needs to know
Fact 1: Every baby’s development is different
Sure, they often (not always!) follow a set order of things, but they do it in their own time. And yes, there are a million guides that break down month-by-month milestone expectations, but chances are most babies won’t nail all of them. There’s a perfect time for every baby to develop every milestone. Unfortunately we’re not privvy to their complex little schedules!
And not only are their schedules different, but the way they present their milestones can be unique too. One baby might begin walking by taking tentative steps and falling regularly. Another baby might not even attempt walking until she knows she can do it, and her “first steps” are a shaky (but unbroken) lap around the living room. Babies are wonderfully unique and are designed to keep us guessing!
Fact 2: Babies generally work on one milestone at a time
Babies’ brains are still forming connections, and there are only so many connections that can be formed at one time. Maybe bub’s crawling is delayed because she’s still mastering solids. Maybe his speech is yet to progress beyond farm animal sounds, but he’s running and climbing and jumping non-stop. This focus on one thing at a time is good and we shouldn’t try too hard to push them into the baby milestone we think they should be achieving. The last thing we want to do is distract them while their brain is putting the finishing touches somewhere else.
Fact 3: Gender really, truly can be a factor
It’s a generalisation and it doesn’t always apply but many times, it can ring true. Boys often hit their physical milestones in a timely manner, while girls focus more on language development and problem solving. So while we shouldn’t use our babies’ genders to restrict or place limits on them, we can manage some of our expectations of them based on their gender.
Fact 4: Your baby WILL hit those milestones
Barring a significant reason for developmental delay (for which there are usually other tell-tale signs and symptoms), your baby isn’t going to be stuck in developmental limbo forever. Sure, he might be a late bloomer but he’s not going to be belly crawling his way into his first high school class (you know, unless he’s a little quirky).
Milestones that are particularly drawn out can often be corrected (or at least greatly improved) with intervention therapy, such as physio or speech therapy. And often, these delays are isolated incidences that have no bearing on a child’s overall development.
Fact 5: The milestones that feel so significant now won’t always
Sure, hitting those milestones feels like a big deal when your child is a baby. But give it a few years and you won’t even remember how many weeks she was when she started chuckling, or picked up a toy for the first time. Your child will be running around, playing, chattering… and probably driving you a bit crazy. Just like every other kid in their class.
Instead of wondering when the next milestone will hit, enjoy that beautiful baby of yours.
Stop Googling. Don’t be tempted to compare your tot to everyone else’s babies. Take others’ comments with a grain of salt – unless those comments are “Your kid is awesome! He will be totally fine!”
But marvel in those tiny little changes that you get a front row seat to witnessing day after day. Take lots of photos. Write down all those precious moments you want to remember forever. And when those milestones do come, cheer your little one on and let that mumma pride flow.
While we’re talking baby milestones, here’s how to tell for sure if your baby is teething.