How To Know If Your Baby Is Developing In a Healthy Way

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African American mother holding her son.

If you’re a first-time parent, you’ve probably got lots of questions, and at Westchester Health Pediatrics, we’re ready with lots of answers. One of the most common questions we hear from our new parents is, “Is my baby developing normally?”

While there are wide variations of what is considered “normal,” we like to pass along to our parents these helpful guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics which describe what to expect and what to look for as your newborn progresses through his/her first year of life.

Remember, every child progresses differently

Lauren Adler, MD, FAAP

Lauren Adler, MD, FAAP

Certainly, every baby develops at their own pace but typically, by the end of the first month, a newborn should be becoming more alert and responsive. Gradually your baby should begin moving his/her body more smoothly and with much greater coordination, listening when you speak, watching you as you hold him/her, and starting to move his/her own body to respond to you or attract your attention.

Physical developmental delays, or early motor delays, are terms used to describe when children are not meeting critical physical milestones in the first months and years of life. These delays can be a sign of something more serious going on, so it is important to talk with your child’s pediatrician if you have concerns.

In your baby’s first year of life, here are some important milestones to look for:

By age 3-4 months, your baby should be able to:

Physical skills:

  • Raise head & chest when on stomach
  • Stretch & kick on back
  • Open and shut hands
  • Bring hand to mouth
  • Grasp and shake toys

Social skills:

  • Begin to develop social smile
  • Enjoy playing with people
  • Become more communicative
  • Become more expressive with face & body
  • Imitate some movements & expressions

Sensory milestones:

  • Follow moving objects
  • Recognize familiar objects and people at a distance
  • Start using hands and eyes in coordination
  • Prefer sweet smells
  • Prefer soft to coarse sensations

By age 7-8 months, your baby should be able to:

Physical skills:

  • Roll both ways
  • Sit with and without support of hands
  • Support whole weight on legs
  • Reach with one hand
  • Transfer object from hand to hand
  • Use raking grasp

Social skills:

  • Enjoy social play
  • Show interest in mirror images
  • Respond to expressions of emotion
  • Appear joyful often

Cognitive thinking:

  • Find partially hidden object
  • Explore with hands and mouth
  • Struggle to get objects that are out of reach

By age 12 months, your baby should be able to:

Physical skills:

  • Get to sitting position without help
  • Crawl forward on belly
  • Assume hands-and-knees position
  • Get from sitting to crawling position
  • Pull himself/herself up to stand
  • Walk holding on to furniture
  • Finger-feed himself/herself

Social skills:

  • Be shy or anxious with strangers
  • Cry when parents leave
  • Enjoy imitating people in play
  • Prefer certain people and toys
  • Test parental response

Cognitive thinking:

  • Explore objects in different ways
  • Find hidden objects easily
  • Look at correct picture when the image is named
  • Imitate gestures
  • Begin to use objects correctly

Together, we’ll take good care of your baby

At Westchester Health Pediatrics, we firmly believe that the strength of the parent-physician relationship is critical to your baby’s health and well-being — and to your peace of mind. As collaborators in your baby’s care, we look forward to working together throughout this first year of his/her life and beyond. Come in and see us with any questions or concerns you may have; when you need us, we’re here for you.

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By Lauren Adler, MD, FAAP, pediatrician with Westchester Health Pediatrics.

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About the Author: ML Ball