There is so much to learn when you bring home your baby. As a new parent, you are probably worried about how you will handle everything. You may even be wondering how you will keep up with everything. It seems overwhelming at first, but you will learn, and one day you will wonder why you were this scared. You should first know that being scared is useful in many ways, so do not be too hard on yourself. Parents who are afraid in the beginning take the time to learn what their children need and ask lots of questions. This is why you are here. We will not cover every single developmental milestone here, but we will talk about a few cognitive, social/ linguistic, and motor skills that your baby should meet during the first year. Do not worry too much if your baby is at a slightly different pace because your baby cannot tell time yet. He or she has no concept of months and weeks. Milestones are given age ranges because all children are on individual paths.
Let’s begin with communications. Your baby will learn to communicate with you before he or she learns much of anything else. While your baby is not going to sit up and discuss last night’s survivor episode, the ability to communicate needs, wants, and discomforts begin quickly.
Response to Stimuli
Your child will begin to respond to stimuli. For example, he or she will turn to find a parent, grandparent, or sibling. He or she may not be capable of understanding family relationships, but your baby will know your voice, your partner’s voice, or those of other close loved ones. You will notice, also, that he or she starts learning to make noises to get needs met. Some suck when hungry. I have seen children grunt, cry, and gnaw their hands when hungry. Whatever your child does, he or she will find a way to communicate needs like hunger, temperature discomfort, loneliness, and soiled diapers.
Before long, your baby will become more expressive. He or she will begin smiling, frowning, making faces, and laughing. Watching you talk, even when you are talking to someone else, will become very entertaining. I never knew I was so funny until I had children. Babies listen to everything. Toddlers, on the other hand, do not seem to listen at all. Babies are trying to understand how to form words. They know that those sounds mean something. They are trying to figure out how to do that too. It looks much easier than it is.
Once your baby has started to watch verbal communication, mimicking becomes the name of the game. He or she will coo, babble, and blow bubbles. Voice play becomes the entertainment of choice for these guys. He or she will start playing with sounds and try to form them. Loud and soft noises will be fascinating. If he or she can get you to laugh or talk back, that is even better. Often children will babble more the more you babble with them. Never be afraid to communicate with your child.
What's Normal ?
Children should progress along this line. By 6-8 months old, you should start noticing word-like sounds from your child. If he or she is not progressing or not attempting to watch you when talking, mimic sounds or babble, you may want to speak to your doctor. Many babies undergo infant hearing tests, but hearing loss or other problems cannot be diagnosed in one single test.
Movement/ Physical Development
Physical development is rapid over the first year. Babies go from not being able to sit up to walking in the course of a year. Note, however, that your baby may not be walking at 12 months. That is perfectly fine. Walking does not always begin by the first birthday.
Holding the Head Up ?
When you first bring your baby home from the hospital, he or she will not be able to hold his or her head up. You will notice movement and wiggles, but your baby’s neck strength is not enough to hold the head up yet. Very quickly, your baby will hold his or her head up and suddenly start pushing up with the arms. It will seem as though your baby was pretty stationary, and now, he or she is trying to move around. Tummy time is great for building strength in the baby’s arms and legs.
Within the first six months or so, your baby will begin to roll over. One way only at first, but the back to tummy and tummy to back skills will both develop quickly. Then your baby will really be on the go! He or she will sit, push up on all fours, and rollover. Some babies learn they cannot walk, but they can roll. They will roll around the room to get places.
The last movement milestones for the year are often crawling and walking—many physical therapists and doctors precaution parents on letting your baby walk before they crawl. Crawling first helps with cognitive function. It allows your baby to develop problem-solving skills.
When To Worry ?
Do not worry too much if your baby does not reach milestones on time. However, if your baby is still startled easily, not reaching for toys, or trying to roll by nine months, you may want to discuss these concerns with your doctor. Not all babies will be able to roll by nine months, but your baby should be shifting weight in an effort to do so.
Babies are very social beings. While each baby has his or her own personality, you should notice a tendency to gravitate toward people and an attempt to communicate.
Babies will often develop a fondness for their parents first. These are usually the voices that he or she has heard since the sense of hearing developed in utero. These voices feel safe and comfortable. When a baby is startled, uncomfortable, or frustrated, often a parent voice and touch is most soothing.
As wonderful as mom or dad may be, the baby will often begin to self-soothe by sucking on hands, rubbing his or her hands on something, or other self-initiated movements. This does not mean that the parents are not as important, but it means that the baby is secure enough to understand that mommy or daddy is here, and things are okay.
Separation Anxiety is Normal
If you start to notice that your older baby starts to cry every time you walk away, this is normal. Babies have no conservation of space and time capabilities. When you walk away, he or she may have no idea what happened to you or why. When you return, he or she will often be instantly soothed. Stranger anxiety also begins to set in.
What Should I Watch for?
Disinterest in people or things by six months or so is unusual. While interest may be passing at first, babies should be concerned when parents or caregivers are not around, or they cannot see or hear them. If your baby is not showing any reaction to people coming or going, you may want to discuss your concerns with your doctor.
Much of the baby’s cognitive development will be wrapped up in observation. He or she will watch your movements and behaviors.
Looking at Your Face
At first, the baby will spend much of his or her time watching your face. Movements, expressions, and facial features will be exciting stuff. Other objects will become more interesting, but for much of the first few months, faces will be the key to development.
Boredom and Contentedness
Babies will want to be stimulated. They may like to shake or hold toys, watch you, or see other objects. No matter what they like doing, they will crave stimulation. Once they realize they can affect an object, they will continually do that. If cooing makes you laugh, they will keep doing it to make you smile.
Babies may not have a sense of permanence at first, but they will begin to realize that things and people do not disappear. They will also become excited when they can do what you do. Mimicking becomes a game. You do something, and the baby will do it back. Sometimes they will find it funny when they do it. They begin to associate certain people with specific tasks. Mommy may be the comforter, and big brother is hilarious. Babies often realize they have the power to manipulate you into doing things like picking up dropped toys. This is a very entertaining game.
What Should Concern Me?
If your baby does not start watching faces and toys by four or five months, there may be cause for concern. Babies’ slower cognitive development will often fail to develop a sense of permanence by the end of the first year. If you notice any delays, do not be afraid to talk to your doctor.
These are just a few of our recommendations and thoughts on the baby’s first year. If you want to see more of the milestones, you may be interested in our Milestone Checklist. Let us know what you think.
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