Child Development Milestones
Child Development Milestones
Scott Cohen (Pediatrician, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center) gives expert video advice on: What are the developmental milestones for babies within the first 2 months?; What are the developmental milestones for babies 2 to 3 months?; What are the developmental milestones for babies from 3 to 4 months? and more...
What are the developmental milestones for babies within the first 2 months?
From zero to two months, especially in that first month, you shouldn't expect a lot of development from your child. It's very normal that your child stares right through you - maybe even a little cross-eyed, or stares up at a light or a ceiling fan, but doesn't watch you when they move. This is very normal. This doesn't mean that anything is going wrong with your child's development. But at around six to eight weeks of age, we want to see the child to start to fix on you, on your face and watch you move. Now I'm not suggesting that they should watch you move across the room, it should be more like when you move from here to here - just fixing and following. And also maybe smiling in response to you, which is called a "social smile". Babies will smile in their sleep or with gas, but at around six to eight weeks is when you start seeing a social smile, another sign of development. This is also the time where babies start cooing and making little cute noises when they're awake. And when you put them on their stomach they'll start lifting their head 45 degrees above their back. So the four big development milestones I look at around 2 months are: a social smile, fixing and following, cooing, and lifting their head.
What are the developmental milestones for babies 2 to 3 months?
Well, the 2 to 3 month development is actually one of my favorite months of development, because so many things happen. When parents come back at that 3 month-old visit, this is when they say, "I really feel like my child's interacting with me, they're not just a lump-on-a-log anymore," - no offense to the babies out there. But, basically what happens is development goes from peripheral to central. And at 2 months, and before, your child actually doesn't know their hands and feet exist. They don't know they have their body. Their world is all out here. And that's why you see them laying on their back with their arms and legs splayed out. Sometimes they hit themselves in the face, sometimes they get their hand in their mouth, but, for the most part, development is peripheral. Well, from month 2 to month 3, and beyond, development becomes central. So, their posture changes - it goes from out, to now more in, where they hold their hands and their body in toward the center. They start looking at their hands, perplexed, like, "Ooo, what are these?" And they start purposely sticking their hands and their fist in their mouth. At first, they're going to choke and gag themselves, and they're going to start drooling like crazy, and everybody's going to say, "Oh, look how cute, Johnny's teething," - and, again, he's not teething most likely, he's just finding his mouth for the first time, and he's exploring it. From there on out, he's going to drool like crazy, and gnaw on everything he can get in his mouth. He's going to find his ears for the first time, and he's going to yank them, and pull them, and twist them. And everybody's going to say, "Oh look, Johnny has an ear infection," - and he doesn't have an ear infection. It's just he's finding this body part, and it's self-soothing, especially when he's tired you'll see, "Oh," just massaging his ears. You're going to find your son or daughter grabbing the back of their head and their hair, if they have it, and yanking their head back, and you're going to think, "Oh, something must be wrong!" But, again, they're just exploring these parts of the body and finding it for the first time. Then their vision is going to become much better, and instead of just fixing and watching you a little bit, a 3 month-old will watch you as you walk all the way across the room. So a lot more interactions. And then vocally, they're going to interact more, too. And these cooing noises are going to become full-belly laughter, and screaming, and 3 month-olds come back and they just scream all the time. And parents say, "My child doesn't stop screaming!" But, they're happy screams, and fun screams: the "Aah, Ooo!" So many things that you see at 3 months of age!
What are the developmental milestones for babies from 3 to 4 months?
In terms of developmental milestones for babies, at the age of 3 to 4 months, your child is aware of different parts of their body and they have been sticking their hands in their mouth like crazy. The typical vision of the four month old is of the feet coming in the mouth - the feet are going in there and the baby is chumping on them and drooling on them like crazy. They are also more visually responsive at 3 to 4 months, so instead of just following a lot in a horizontal plane, they are watching a lot more in a vertical plane. They're going to love the mobiles, the shapes and the movements of things, because the age of 3 to 4 months is the first time in their life that they are really much better at watching things in all different directions. They're going to continue cooing, they're going to have much better neck control. 3 to 4 months is the age when we pull a child from a laying down on their back to see the position they're going to start leading with their head, because their head and neck are much stronger and they can now sit with support pretty well. The other thing that is going to happen at 3 to 4 months is you are going to see their hands stay open much more. They are not as clinched so they are going to grab things - your shirt, your hair, your face, etc. At 3-4 months, your child will not be purposely reaching for things, but they'll have developed to grabbing.
What are the developmental milestones for babies from 4 to 6 months?
The four to six month period of development is a lot of fun because babies' head and neck control get much, much better. They go from sitting with support at four months to sitting without support at six months. Now, they won't be able to get into that position on their own, but if you put them in the seated position they may hold themselves leaning forward on their arms and then more upright as they get stronger. This is also the time where they're going to purposely reach for things and rake them in toward them; a raking grasp. They also begin something called transferring objects, where they transfer objects from one hand to the next. Remember again, everything is going to go in the mouth. Now everything in their circle, meaning anything in their arm's reach, they're going to get a hold of and put in their mouth. So, a lot of fun, but something to watch out for with safety. The other thing is that vocally they're just going to be talking a lot more. A lot more babbling, squealing, and screaming.
What are the developmental milestones for babies from 6 to 9 months?
The six to nine month part of development is all about mobility. This is when we usually talk to parents about safety proofing because the six-month old develops quickly going from sitting up without support, to when they are on their stomach and start scooching backwards or rotating around on their stomach and becoming mobile. And then eventually, around eight months, more development in learning to get their knees underneath them, sitting and then starting to crawl. Once that crawling starts, beware as anything in the house is accessible to them. So mobility development starts around eight months with crawling. This is also when their grasp develops and becomes more refined. It starts to become more of a pincer and two fingers and they start picking things up. As a result, this is around the time where we start finger foods, because for the first time they can pick things up with two fingers. At first it is going to seem like a claw and then two fingers. And this is also when hard consonant babbling starts, at around eight to nine months. So, the 'da, da, da', the 'ma, ma, ma' and the 'ba, ba, ba'. And remember, the 'da, da' is a little easier, so for mothers out there, don't be upset if 'da, da' comes first, as 'ma, ma' will come. So hard consonant babbling, crawling and a lot more refined motor abilities signal development.
What are developmental milestones for babies from 9 to 12 months?
9 to 12 months is a lot more mobility. Now your child is crawling; they may start pulling up to stand around 10 months. With pulling up on objects, remember that once they're doing that this is the time you want to lower your crib to the lowest setting and take all the bumpers out if you haven't done that already, because they're going to use these things to climb on. They may even start cruising which is moving from one object to the next to move around. They may start slowly letting go and standing on their own, very wobbly at first, and by a year they may even be taking a couple of steps. Again, a lot more mobility. This fine pincer grasp is going to get much more refined by a year; it'll go from more of a chopsticks to a fine pincer grasp. Now they also may be saying more words discriminately, so whereas at 8 or 9 months they're saying da-da-da, ma-ma-ma, ba-ba-ba to everything, now at a year, they're looking at you and saying ma-ma, da-da; more discriminately, maybe one or two other words, maybe not. Remember, if they don't hit these milestones right on, it's okay, because if we're heading in the right direction, that is the key.
What is "stranger anxiety"?
Stranger anxiety often looks similar to separation anxiety, but it peaks between 9 and 12 months. I think it's a little bit of a misnomer, because it's often people that you knew, like the grandparents or the next door neighbors, who will walk in the room, and, all of a sudden, your child will look at them and start screaming, even if they were fine with them before. You have to reassure the grandparents especially that there's nothing wrong with the baby apart from stranger anxiety. You comfort your child as much as possible, but if you have to leave them with somebody, it's OK. They're going to be fine shortly after you leave.
Is it normal for my child to skip a milestone?
A lot of children often skip milestones. So if you skip the milestone of rolling over, but you can sit up without support, we're not worried. Because it takes a lot more strength and tone to sit up than it does to crawl. We only worry that you can't crawl if you don't have the strength and tone to pass that milestone. If you are running around but you never crawled, I'm not as concerned. Maybe that's just a better way, a faster way for you to get to that position. It's interesting that I see a lot of children with older siblings skip these milestones. I think maybe one of the reasons they skip milestones is they see their older siblings running around, they're strong enough to pull up and stand - forget crawling, I'm just going to pull up and move from one object to the next. So don't worry about skipping milestones, as long as the net gain is in the right direction.