Baby developmental milestones: from birth to 18 months

·5-min read
Photo credit: AJ_Watt - Getty Images
Photo credit: AJ_Watt - Getty Images

As a new parent, you’re probably aching for your little one to start hitting those all-important baby milestones – after all, that first smile can make those early weeks of sleepless nights and constant crying feel worth it.

There are many other milestones that your baby will reach over the coming months, including lifting their head independently, rolling over, crawling, walking and feeding themselves – and watching your baby achieve these momentous steps is part of what makes parenthood so exciting and rewarding.

Tracking your baby’s development

But aside from being simply a proud moment, it’s important to keep track of these baby milestones from a developmental point of view, too.

‘While all babies develop differently, it helps to know if your baby is meeting certain milestones to ensure you can support their healthy development,’ says Dr Yiannis Ioannou, Consultant Paediatrician at The Portland Hospital (part of HCA Healthcare UK) and Childhealthy.

When it comes to your baby’s development, according to Dr Ioannou it’s important to track the following:

  • Fine motor skills: small movements, such as grasping a spoon or picking up food between two fingers.

  • Gross motor skills: movements involving the whole body, such as learning to sit or stand.

  • Social skills: for instance, learning to play and make eye contact.

  • Language skills: starting to babble, through to forming short sentences.

Photo credit: Copyright Crezalyn Nerona Uratsuji - Getty Images
Photo credit: Copyright Crezalyn Nerona Uratsuji - Getty Images

When will your baby reach these milestones?

Babies tend to reach particular milestones at similar times, so it can be easy to predict, for example, when to start watching out for that first cheeky smile. But don’t panic if your little one is slightly behind what all the books say.

‘Milestones for babies are usually quite predictable, although some develop at a slightly slower or quicker pace than others,’ reveals Dr Ioannou. ‘For instance, even two siblings from the same family may reach certain milestones, such as crawling, rolling over or walking, at different rates.’

If for any reason you are worried about your baby’s development, make sure you keep a note of when they have reached certain milestones (or of any they are yet to hit), so that you can discuss it with your health visitor or paediatrician.

‘It is useful to monitor your baby’s progress, so that if you do have any concerns you can take all the relevant information to your paediatrician or development specialist,’ agrees Dr Ioannou.

And make sure you know what to look out for, in terms of infant development. ‘I would suggest familiarising yourself with the average timeline for developing cognitive and physical skills, so you can use it as a general guideline,’ suggests Dr Ioannou. ‘Bear in mind that if your baby was born prematurely, they may need a bit more time to reach the various developmental stages.’

Photo credit: Digital Vision. - Getty Images
Photo credit: Digital Vision. - Getty Images

Key baby milestones

Here are some of the key milestones you can expect your baby to reach during the first 18 months of their development, and roughly when you might start noticing them:

0-3 month baby milestones

  • Lifts their own head off the floor during tummy time – one month

  • Turns their head towards the light – one month

  • Stares at faces – one month

  • First social smile – two months

  • Laughs – two to three months

  • Holds their head steady – three months

  • Recognises you – three months

4-6 month baby milestones

  • Can hold their head up steadily – four months

  • Rolls over from front to back – five months

  • Plays with their feet – five months

  • Rolls over from back to front – six months

  • Teething may begin – four to six months

7-9 month baby milestones

  • Grabs for and holds objects – seven months

  • Can sit unsupported – eight months

  • Starts crawling – eight to nine months

  • Pulls themselves to standing, while holding onto support – nine months

10-12 month baby milestones

  • Uses a pincer grip (with finger and thumb) to hold objects – ten months

  • Crawls confidently – ten months

  • Cruises around furniture – ten to 11 months

  • Can say ‘Mama’ and ‘Dada’ to the correct parent – 11 months

  • Points, claps and waves – 12 months

13-18 month baby milestones

  • Can stand alone for a few seconds – 13 months

  • Can bend down to pick up an object – 13 months

  • Walks – 13 to 14 months

  • Can understand simple instructions/sentences – 14 months

  • Turns pages of a book – 15 months

  • Runs – 17 to 18 months

  • Can build a tower of four or more blocks – 18 months

  • Enjoys scribbling with crayons and painting – 18 months

Delays in hitting baby milestones

Of course, this timeline is merely a guide – you may notice your baby is actually a little faster or slower to reach these milestones.

If you notice your baby is slightly delayed in reaching one or two, it is not necessarily cause for concern, but it’s important to keep an eye on the situation.

‘Neurological development in children can be quite varied, so if your baby is a little behind in one area, it most likely won’t be a cause for concern,’ says Dr Ioannou. ‘However, if progress is very slow, if your baby isn’t meeting multiple milestones or developmental delays seem to be ongoing for long periods of time, this could be a cause for concern.’

If you have any worries at all, you can raise them with your health visitor or GP, who may refer you for further investigation and support.

‘Early intervention can make a huge difference, and missed milestones can be a red flag that points to a more serious complication,’ says Dr Ioannou. ‘Your paediatrician can investigate further and assess whether there is an underlying reason or condition behind the delays, or advise on the therapies and support that could be provided to help your baby’s progress if required. They may also consult a developmental paediatrician, who will perform formal testing to check if your child needs further assistance.’

This could take the form of therapy services, such as speech or occupational therapy, depending on the concern.

Last updated: 27-05-2021

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