*This is a collaborative post.
Many parents will spend hours and hours reading books before the baby arrives. You want to be as prepared for as much as you can. When they cry a lot (relatively speaking) is it colic or is it something else? When they sleep and hour longer? What about those hours spent breastfeeding with no end in sight?
It is exciting and confusing, and so it makes sense people turn to books written by experts for the answers. After all, was that a smile or was it wind?
It is essential to know that each baby will do things at their own pace, and while you’re wondering what to do if your baby doesn’t start crawling, or when that tooth is finally going to pop through here are the rough guidelines for their first year.
Birth to Three Months
This is often the most challenging time for many parents. No one can prepare you for just how exhausted you’re going to be. The long nights where you are awake, but the baby is asleep – but only if you hold them. The feeding that never ends, or the spit up that seems so much it can’t be right.
Their little reflexes are growing every single day. At first, they will mostly be curled up, with tight tiny fists. Only relaxing when that milk kicks in and that little belly is full and warm. When you brush your finger across their cheeks, they turn their heads in that direction. When their hand is open, if you place your finger in their palms, they’ll grip you tight.
Those are all reflexes at work.
Although it might happen earlier or later for some babies, around 2 months, you’ll start seeing those big smiles. They will begin to react to your facial expressions, and in many cases, copy them.
They will also start holding their heads up, although they will be wobbly for a short while so will need support.
3 to 4 Months
There are babies who are so eager that they will start rolling around now. But don’t worry if your little one doesn’t start that yet. It is more common to see those rolls somewhere around 4-6 months. More often they will be trying to roll, and that pesky arm will get stuck, frustration sets in and the crying starts. Your little one should be having plenty of tummy time to help strengthen those core muscles too. It is better if their favourite thing – you – is on the floor with them. They will be much more likely to enjoy the time and hang out there a bit longer. You can use toys too, just place them a little out of their reach to help them start working those little leg muscles.
You have probably noticed by now that baby can bear some weight on their legs and will often bounce up and down like Tigger. They will turn their head to look for you when you are talking but not holding them and may start grasping at what they want.
Many people talk about a sleep regression that may kick in around 4 months, their brain is growing, and they are learning at an incredible rate, and sometimes that means a lack of sleep for everyone.
5 to 6 Months
You might find that out of the blue, you get a ‘full’ night’s sleep. This doesn’t happen for everyone, though! They will lengthen their night sleep anywhere between 6 and 8 hours. Which is going to be quite a surprise if you are breastfeeding. You’re likely to feel very full when you wake up. You baby will now likely be babbling with you, smiling and laughing. They are a bundle of fun at this age.
It is possible that you might see the first stages of upset when you aren’t in the room with them now. They are learning about distances and sequences. So the routine that you have been working so hard on will begin to make sense to them, and they also know that you can move away from them.
Many babies will also cut that first pearly white around now, but many don’t have teeth for a few more months. You might even start hearing those wonderful ‘Mama’ and ‘Dada’ noises. Interestingly ‘Dada’ is typically first because it is easier to say!
They will be much more eager to move around now, lunging from their seated position and using their feet to push them across the floor. Keep encouraging them by playing on the floor when you have the opportunity to.
7 to 8 Months
You probably have a little sitting up babbling superstar by now. But if you don’t, don’t worry! Many get there in their own time, and once they do, there is no stopping them. They can roll with ease, and sit up – making it the perfect time to try some soft foods. Between 7 to 8 months, they become more balanced and won’t need as much propping up when they are seated. You might notice that they often get into the crawling position but just don’t quite have the core strength for it yet. That said, some babies are trying to pull themselves up to stand already!
Both are perfectly fine.
Their fine motor skills are kicking up a notch now, and a great way to help them is to put small soft (cooked) peas on their high chair for them to practice the pinching grip on. This also helps with hand to mouth coordination – although many babies get very, very messy before they work that one out.
They are likely much more interested in toys now, and if they have siblings, they will be an endless source of wonder too.
9 to 10 Months
If you have the telly on, or maybe you are out and about, and people start clapping you might notice your baby start to join in. It can be a significant source of amusement for them and you. They might do it sporadically at first until they begin to recognise that there are times when clapping is most likely to occur. You can help encourage that with clapping games, and counting while you clap too. They will also be waving hello, and goodbye – all of these are copied from what they see around them, so the more you do it, the more likely it is that they will copy.
They will be very mobile by now so if you haven’t already got stair gates and some babyproofing you might consider it around now. They are very inquisitive, and if they can get to drawers and cupboards, they will gladly empty them for you.
Some babies prefer to shuffle around on their bottom than crawl or walk, all of them are going to require you to keep a keen eye on them.
It is usually around now, while they are learning to pull themselves up to that they have a little fall, or lose balance and bump their heads.
11 Months to a Year
It might begin to feel like your baby is doing something new every day now. They will be able to hold a cup, and although often the liquid will end up all over them, they are learning each time. Pointing or waving their hand towards the people they want to go to, or what they want to get to will be pretty common, and they might be even more vocal than before. Mama and Dada will have more meaning, or of course, whatever you call yourself and your partner.
They are probably standing more often unaided and have maybe even taken a few tentative steps too. Cruising along furniture is the most typical form of transportation too.
Don’t be surprised if your little one is still waking during the night, they still want cuddles and warmth from their parents and who likes to wake up in the dark alone.
Your baby will understand a few instructions now and will be much more vocal about what they and do not want to do.
Although these are the general guidelines, as mentioned many times, not all babies will fit in these milestone groups. Some will be walking before they hit 11 months old, and others won’t have teeth yet. It is always essential as a parent to interact and teach your baby how to do things. Some are more inquisitive and manage to get into a lot of trouble very early on, while others are happy to play with a soft book and some teddies. Personality also plays a big part in how they learn and grow. If you are ever worried about their development, have a chat with your paediatric doctor or your GP so that you can get some peace of mind or answers. And while all of this is going on, remember to take care of yourself too. The first year of their life is a big learning curve for everyone!