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Your baby goes through a lot in their first year of life. Starting from ground zero, they trying to learn everything, including how to move their own bodies voluntarily.
In order to help you understand and be prepared, we are going to look at your baby’s first-year milestones from 0-12 months of age.
So, in a nutshell, what can you expect?
- Obviously, there are some major motor skills to be learned and physical development to go through. We are looking at neck strength, rolling, crawling, sitting, standing, and walking.
- You will also experience periods of growth spurts which are often accompanied by changes in appetite, sleep habits, and behavior. These typically only last about 2-3 days.
- Teething is a tricky thing to pin down. You can expect the first teeth anywhere from 4 to 13 months. Just keep an eye out for the signs and know what to do when those teeth start to arrive.
Now, let’s break this all down into a bit more detail.
From the Moment Your Baby was Born
For about the first month or so of life after birth, the majority of your baby’s behavior is reflexive. This means that they don’t voluntarily move and behave in certain ways but rather react to certain stimuli.
Babies are born with mouthing reflexes that are necessary for feeding. You will notice rooting – searching for the nipple – particularly when something rubs their cheek. They will immediately turn toward the source looking for food. Sucking and swallowing also come naturally to babies.
Your baby’s palms and the soles of their feet also respond to stimuli. You will notice that your baby will grasp something such as your finger when you place it in their hand. They also have a stepping reflex, which is when their feet move in a marching/walking motion when you help them stand or if they touch something while lying down.
Perhaps the most difficult reflex to cope with is the startle (Moro) reflex – when a baby flings their arms out in response to noise or the feeling of falling. Some babies are more sensitive than others, requiring swaddles to keep their reflex subdued to allow them to sleep better.
In addition to reflexive behavior, you will also notice that your baby’s eyes seem slightly out of focus. This is because they can only see about 8-12 inches away. Their eyes will strengthen quickly over the first few months.
You can also expect a lot of growth in the first 6 weeks. Most babies experience about 3 growth spurts during this time, occurring around 7-10 days, 2-3 weeks, and 4-6 weeks.
Even though your baby is adorable and easy to admire from the moment they are born, it’s around this time that they actually start to be a bit more fun.
You can expect your baby to be a bit more active at this point. They have a bit more control over their reflexes, unclenching their fists and starting to grab and swat at toys.
They also become more responsive to their surroundings, recognizing familiar faces and raising their head – thanks to stronger neck muscles – to look toward sounds. You may even notice that they start to coo in an attempt to communicate.
During this time, you may see their first attempt to roll over from their back to their tummy. If it doesn’t happen by 4 months, it will likely be coming soon after.
You may also experience about 2 growth spurts during this time around 3 and 4 months. If your baby is on the early side of tooth development, you may also notice a first tooth or two by 4 months.
During this phase, your little one starts to grow out of the newborn phase and into more of the baby phase.
They will be developing more strength as they start to push up with their arms while they are on their tummy, and they may even be able to start sitting up for a bit on their own.
Exercise is very important at this stage. Your little one will likely want to move a lot but they will need your help. Stand them upright to exercise their legs, which can now support the full weight of their body. Utilize jumpers and walkers (with caution) if you need a break.
Your little one is much more curious at this age and will start exploring and discovering even more. They may take an interest in their hands and feet as well as begin to put all objects in their mouth to try them out.
They are also much more interactive at this stage, laughing and babbling as you talk and play with them. It is likely that they prefer their primary caretakers (i.e. parents), but they also may smile at everyone they meet.
By about 7 months, most babies have their bottom two central teeth. You may also experience a growth spurt around 6 months.
This stage comes with multiple developmental milestones, and by your little one’s first birthday, they are going to seem like a completely different child.
In the earlier part of this stage, they can go from lying down to sitting up on their own. Then around 10 months, they may start crawling. And after crawling is established, they will begin to use solid surfaces like furniture to pull themselves to standing.
Their finger dexterity improves a lot in this phase and they will start to use the pincer grasp – using their forefinger and thumb to grab and pick things up. This makes it much easier for them to feed themselves finger foods.
Perhaps the biggest milestone they reach in this phase is the understanding of object permanence – realizing that objects and people continue to exist even they cannot be seen. This means that they can find objects that you hide under blankets as well as understand that when you leave the room, you’re still there around the corner.
This can trigger separation anxiety. Previously, when you would leave your child in their room to sleep, they would forget about you in a sense after you left. Now they may cry for you to come back knowing that you are still there and that you can hear them.
Interactions are much more advanced at this stage as well. They will try to repeat syllables and may even speak their first word. They can also communicate through gestures such as nodding, shaking their head, clapping, and waving.
By the end of their first year, you may see 8 shiny white teeth in their mouth, with the upper central teeth erupting around 9 months and the lateral incisors around 11 and 12 months for lower and upper respectively.
You may also notice another growth spurt around 9 months.
Congratulations! You made it through the first year! But that doesn’t mean your baby’s development is over. You can expect many more changes to come in the upcoming year. Enjoy every moment and in the hard times just remind yourself that it won’t last forever.