Milestones to expect in your baby's first year

By Katerina Haka-Ikse, MD, FRCP(C), FAAP on April 03, 2019

A lot happens in your baby's first year. From weight gain to movements and the development of speech, here's a general timeline of when you can expect each milestone will happen.  

Your child's growth

Weight
A baby's weight usually doubles by the fourth month — and becomes three times the birth weight by the end of the first year.    

Height 
Babies are about 70 centimeters long when they reach 12 months.    

Head
The head size increases quickly due to the brain's fast growth which pushes the skull bones to expand.    

This growth rate is only a guide. If parents are unusually large or small, the baby may follow their growth pattern — and if the baby was smaller at birth for any reason, growth may remain smaller or show spurts.    

Call your doctor if your baby does not gain or loses weight over a period of days. Do this even if the baby presents no other unusual signs.

Your child's development movements 

Babies progress slowly to gain control over their movements.  

Neck 
The neck muscles become progressively stronger, and your baby will have full control over neck and head motions by about 6 months. 

Body  
The body muscles become stronger and can control many movements.  

  • By 3 to 4 months, babies can roll over, belly to back.  
  • By 4 months they can roll from back to belly.  
  • By 6 to 7 months, baby can sit for a few moments (with legs spread apart).  
  • By 8 to 9 months, the baby can sit steadily and change position from sitting to getting on the floor and back again

Arms and Legs  
Movements become stronger and more purposeful.

  • Around 5 months, the legs can go straight up when baby lies on the back.  
  • Around 6 months, the legs come up so far that the baby can get hold of a foot and bring it to the mouth.  
  • Around 8 to 9 months, arms and legs, assisted by body movements, make crawling motions to help the infant move on the floor commando style.  
  • Around 10 months, the arms and legs are strong enough to help the infant creep on hands and knees and pull to stand.  
  • Around 10 to 11 months, the infant cruises around the crib or coffee table, while holding to it.  
  • Around 12 months, the infant may take the first steps on its own.

Hands 
In the first 12 months, there is a fascinating progression from the reflex grasping of the newborn to a precise reaching out and grasping things as tiny as bread crumbs between the thumb and forefinger.

  • Around 4 months: will bring hands together in play.  
  • Around 3 to 4 months: will reach out to grasp a toy.  
  • Around 6 months: will hold a rattle or toy very well and is able to pass it from one hand to another.  
  • Around 7 months: starts to try to get hold of very small items.  
  • Around 8 months: can get hold of very small items using the whole hand.  
  • Around 9 months: will pick up very small items with thumb and rest of the hand.  
  • Around 11 to 12 months: can pick up with the tip of thumb and forefinger. 

Caution: Baby walkers do not speed up baby's development, and may even slow it down. Baby walkers are very dangerous because they can cause injuries. It is illegal to sell baby walkers in Canada. 

Speech and language

Babies have an urge to make sounds, just as they have an interest in the sounds parents or others make.

  • Around 1 or 2 months: recognizes parent's voice and pays special attention to it. As the muscles of the lips, tongue and other mouth muscles develop, baby makes more advanced sounds, cooing, squealing.  
  • Around 2 to 3 months: starts to make more sounds when mother talks to them. It's like the beginning of a conversation.  
  • Around 8 months: starts to make 'mama' and 'dada' sounds, but doesn't really make a connection to the sound and the parents.
  •  Around 9 to 10 months: uses these sounds as special signals to call mother or father or to greet the parent who comes in.  
  • Around 12 months: has other sounds that have meaning, like 'ba' for bottle and 'do' for dog. Just by the tone of your baby's sounds, you know if baby is pleased, lonely, angry or needs comforting.

Your baby understands the tone of voice, too, and will frown if your voice is louder or not as loving. Before 9 months, babies understand when parents call their name, but if they hear 'no' they are not pleased. By 12 months, your baby understands several names of people or objects and shows that understanding by looking at the person or object.

Consult a physician: If your baby does not show interest, does not turn the head to sounds and if the baby's own sounds do not get more mature.

Emotional development 

In the first three months, an infant learns that there is a world of things and another of people.  

  • Between the second and seventh months, baby discovers that there is one very special person that is always there when needed.
  • Between the fourth and twelfth month, baby discovers that this special person is separate but can be communicated with through looks, touch, and play.  
  • At one year, your baby is moving about, can get hold of things and starts to communicate by changing facial expressions and making gestures and sounds.

Important Milestones: Observe that baby is alert, smiles, looks at and plays with you - and shows some distress when you leave (and also may 'make strange' when meeting new people). 

Cognitive Development

Babies are curious to see, hear and touch. As months go by, their eyes follow people who move around. They learn to scan sounds — at the beginning with eye movements, later by turning their head.  

As soon as they can grasp, they get hold of everything that is near, look at what they hold, put it in their mouth, shake it, bang it, throw it and pass it from one hand to another.  If a toy they like is hidden, they remember and search for it under the blanket.  

They bang two toys together and try to fit one toy inside the other.

Development Chart

4 weeks
Rotates head when placed in prone position. Responds to sound by changing activity. Focuses eyes on bright object. Focuses eyes for a short while on a face.

8 weeks
Holds head erect. Briefly raises head and shoulders off crib mattress. Follows an object with eyes. Vocalizes single vowels (“ah,” “eh,” “uh”).

16 weeks
Raises self up on hands in prone position. Reaches for toy; grasps if it is near hand. Follows object with eyes up/down, side-to-side. Coos and laughs. Recognizes mother (more than anyone else).

24 weeks
Raises and extends legs. Touches feet with hands. Rolls over in both directions. Approaches/grasps objects. Uses both hands. Babbles. Aware of and/or apprehensive of strangers.

36 weeks
Sits, unsupported, for five to 10 minutes. Crawls on abdomen. Plays with two toys simultaneously. Says “Ma-ma,” and/or “Da-da” (no meaning intended).

44 weeks
Creeps on hands and knees and pulls up to stand. Grasps small objects with thumb/index finger. Imitates behaviour, claps hands, waves goodbye. Places one object into another. Says “Mama” and “Dada” (this time, meaning ‘mother’ and ‘father’).

12 months

Walks if one hand is held. Tries to pile two blocks after shown how to. Imitates words. Says “Mama” and “Dada,” and two other words. Responds to simple orders. Tries to feed self with fingers.

 

Taken from The Canadian Baby & Child Care Encyclopedia. Originally published in 2007. 


By Katerina Haka-Ikse, MD, FRCP(C), FAAP| April 03, 2019

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