Developmental Milestones

0-6 months

Congratulations! Your precious bundle has arrived, and you’re about to embark on the most exciting journey of your life. Over the coming months, you’ll see your baby develop and grow into a sturdy little person with a personality all of his or her own. All babies develop at different rates, and it’s important to remember that it is not a race. There are certain milestones that a baby will reach over the coming months – some will reach them more quickly than others. In particular, premature babies may reach their milestones closer to their adjusted age (the age they would be if they were born on their due date), or even later. Our month-to-month guide is simply an indication of what to expect. Your public health nurse will be able to help you gauge your individual baby’s development.

It’s quite normal for a newborn to sleep most of the day, waking only for feeds. As your baby grows, you may find that your baby is more likely to wake for longer during the night. Again, this is normal, but your baby will settle into a proper routine before too long. The key is to be patient and to sleep when the baby sleeps.

At birth, your baby can see objects close up – especially your face – and will shortly learn to recognize your smell. A gentle touch and soothing voice will help calm your baby, and you will see your baby react to bright light and noises.

One of the biggest issues during the first few weeks is your baby’s weight. It is normal for your baby’s weight to drop up to 10 per cent over the first couple of days after birth, often while you are still in hospital. Your baby’s weight will be monitored by both your doctor and your public health nurse in your regular checkups, but you can help by noting down feeds and keep an eye on your baby’s nappies – regular wet and dirty nappies mean your baby is feeding well and thriving.

By the time your baby has reached its one month birthday, you might notice that he or she is more active and alert and is sleeping a little less. Your baby’s routine might feel exhausting at the moment, but remember that this won’t last forever. Over the course of the coming weeks, your baby will grow and develop and may even start stretching sleep time during the night.

At this stage, your baby will be able to lift his or her head when lying on the stomach. Short and frequent bursts of tummy time are important to encourage this development. You may even hear sounds from your baby other than crying, such as cooing. And this month you may even be rewarded for all your hard work by a smile!

By the end of the first month, you may feel as though you’ve got the hang of feeding, and your baby has settled into a routine – but suddenly baby wants to be fed all day long! This is a growth spurt, and will pass within a few days to a week. Babies hit their growth spurts at different times, but generally, there is one between six and eight weeks, then at three months, six months and nine months. You may find that after a growth spurt your newborn baby doesn’t feel so newborn after all, and may even be bursting out of his or her clothes!

Your baby is getting increasingly active, and expanding his or her horizons beyond eating, sleeping and crying. Hopefully during this month your baby will show signs of staying alert for longer during the day and playing – which should eventually lead to longer sleeping times at night. You may feel that you can interact more with your baby too, as smiles, coos and eye contact become more plentiful.

This month your baby is showing more signs of being able to control his or her head. When on his or her tummy, your baby will be able to lift its head a little higher, and may even be showing signs of pushing the chest off the ground. Your baby may be showing more smiles and interacting with you during playtime and changing time.

The first few weeks may feel like your baby will never settle into a routine. But following a simple routine such as eat/change/play/sleep can help in the early days, and noting down when your baby wants to eat and sleep can aid you in understanding your baby’s natural routine. Then, establishing a simple bedtime ritual will help your baby distinguish between day and night. Regular events like a walk in the afternoon or tummy time on the playmat can help too.

Congratulations – you’ve made it through the first three months! Many babies start to really settle down after three months, which may even mean something resembling a full night’s sleep for you – although this might be hugely different to your definition of a full night’s sleep before baby! Parents of colicky babies will also find that the symptoms are thankfully beginning to ease.

Your baby is becoming more alert and sociable, and happy to smile and coo at anyone in vision. His or her head is becoming more sturdy, and by the end of this month, your baby may be able to hold its head steady when upright. Your baby may even be able to reach for and grasp a rattle.

While African, African-American, Hispanic and Asian babies are generally born with brown eyes that stay brown, Caucasian babies are born with dark blue or grey eyes that may change several times before their first birthday. The final colour depends on the amount of melanin in the baby’s irises, which is dictated by genes. The more melanin in the irises, the darker the eyes will be. When your baby is born, the natural light kickstarts the melanin process in its eyes, which leads to the colour changes – this is the same process that turns your skin brown when you go into the sun. Most babies’ eye colours are established by the time they’re a year old, but some continue changing until they are three, and a few even into adulthood!

Month Five

This is really a lovely time for you and your baby. Every day your baby is discovering more about his or her world, and is happy to share all the new discoveries with his or her favourite person – you. Baby’s attention span is getting better too, and something as simple as a rattle or a toy (or even hands!) can captivate. You may find that your baby is putting toys and rattles into his or her mouth, so be careful to keep small objects out of reach.

Your baby is getting stronger by the day, and should be able to support his or her own head when upright. When put on the tummy, your baby should be able to start pushing up on his or her arms – this may happen later, depending on the amount of tummy time the baby gets. Watch out too – the first sign of mobility is your baby being able to roll over, and this will come any time from the end of this month onwards.

Your baby is developing his or her own personality, and is becoming even more sociable. But be aware that some babies may develop anxiety around strangers at this stage. This is nothing to be alarmed about, and will pass in time. At home, games like peekaboo or a toy that makes noise can provide endless delight, as can exploration, such as pulling your hair and taking your glasses. Your baby is also becoming more vocal – encourage this by talking to your baby and answering his or her coos and babble.

By the end of this month, your baby will be able to keep his or head level when pulled to sitting. He or she will also be able to make vowel-like sounds and gurgle. Some babies may even be able to sit without support and bear weight on his or her legs when held upright. This can be encouraged by standing your baby on your lap as a game – just remember that your baby will tire easily.