The speed at which babies develop is both amazing and scary. While you’re just getting used to having a new life in the family, your little one will change constantly right before your eyes, presenting new wonders and challenges each day as they blossom through their infancy into their early toddler years. And while for the most part, each developmental milestone is something to celebrate, they can also present a number of concerns for parents.
Among the questions you might ask yourself as your baby grows are: is my baby achieving important milestones? Is my baby growing fast enough? And, when should babies start to roll over? The last one might sound funny to you if you're not familiar with this particular milestone, but it’s an important question many parents have.
So, to help prepare you for what’s to come, we’ve created a short guide about important milestones for your baby, gathered from research and official guidance offered by organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), so you know exactly what you need to be aware of, from your baby rolling over to crawling and walking.
We’ll aim to cover a broad range of development stages, so if you want to skip to a specific section, feel free to do so below:
• 0-4 Months Old
• 4-8 Months Old
• 8-12 Months Old
• 1 Year Old and Beyond
What are Baby Milestones?
Babies tend to follow a similar set of development steps, which are often referred to as baby milestones or infant milestones. In a technical sense, they include a combination of motor development, language, and social skills.
During your baby’s first year, you’ll be astounded by the amount of growth that takes place, and one of the best ways to benchmark these changes is to compare them to common milestones that all baby’s experience.
If you really want to dig deep into the theory behind developmental stages, you can check out the works of experts in this field such as Jean Piaget or Lev Vygotsky. Otherwise, we’ll do our best to give you a practical crash course in this article.
It’s also worth noting now that no two babies achieve their milestones at exactly the same rate. While research has documented that motor, language, and cognitive development follow specific schedules that are comparable across different cultures, specific developmental stages will be accomplished at different times depending on the individual, as well as certain environmental factors — so don’t worry if your little one hits their baby milestones at a slower or faster pace than others.
Research has documented that motor, language, and cognitive development follow specific schedules that are comparable across cultures
You’ll be astounded by the amount of growth that takes place during your baby’s first year, which can be tracked by benchmarking their progress against some common baby milestones, like your baby rolling over!
0-4 Months Baby Milestones
The earliest years of development involve a number of automatic ‘reflexes’ as well as a few areas where your child will show signs of more conscious actions and behaviors.
Mouthing, or sucking, reflexes are important to help a baby find sources of food. This reflex will kick in when the baby’s mouth is touched or stroked and they will then proceed to suck or swallow automatically. Your baby will also move their head towards your hand if you touch its cheek, which helps them to find the nipple for feeding.
The Moro Reflex (Startle Reflex)
If your baby suddenly bursts into a loud cry at the sound of something loud or a sudden unexpected movement, this is a good thing. It is a sign that their moro (startle) reflex is working. The moro reflex is usually characterized by your baby crying and throwing their head back while extending their arms and legs out instinctively. It could also be the reason your child wakes up unexpectedly at night.
For more information on the moro reflex and baby sleeping problems, check out our blog post: Moro Reflex: How to Stop It So that Your Baby Can Get a Good Night’s Sleep
The Grasp Reflex
Stroking the palm of your little one's hand will cause them to grasp your finger in a tight grip. It will usually be quite a strong instinct during the first 2 months and will then fade after they have reached the 5-month mark.
When your little one kicks out their feet in a stepping or dancing motion, they’re actually pilot testing their walking skills.
When you hold your baby upright, they’ll likely kick out their feet in a stepping or “dancing” movement. As well as being adorable, this is a sign that they’re pilot testing their walking skills in mid-air. Lasting until about the 2-month mark, they’ll also perform this reflex if you hold them over a flat surface. Try it out, but be careful you don’t let go as they’re not ready to hold up their own weight yet!
Your baby should be able to lift their head up when they’re about one month old and will be able to hold it in a position for a short time when they’re lying down, or in a sitting position when they’re about 4 months old. However, their neck and shoulder muscles won’t be strong enough to offer much control until they’re about 6 months old.
As your baby’s awareness of the world evolves through the development of their core senses and mental capacities, you’ll see a number of changes in how they behave. This will include eye blinking, smiling, acting startled and showing signs of enjoyment.
This baby milestone covers several small changes that are particularly special, as you’ll be able to see for the first time what your little one does or doesn't like, as well as observe their first strong attachments to people and objects.
Additional Milestones at 0-4 Months Old
• Opens and shuts their hands
• Brings their hands to their mouth
• Grabs objects and shakes
• Swipes at nearby items and dangling objects
• Turns their head and eyes to follow moving objects
• Recognizes familiar faces and smiles
4-8 Months Baby Milestones
During this phase, your little one will start to gain some serious strength and muscle control. As such, you’ll start to see some of those famous baby movement milestones being ticked off, such as your baby rolling over for the first time!
Greater Neck and Back Strength
Once your baby can lift its head up, it will gradually build up its ability to hold it there. This will also aid the development of their back muscles as they’ll start to push themselves up off the ground with their arms while holding their heads up and arching their spines.
Your Baby Starts Rolling Over!
With a stronger back, neck, and legs, your baby will soon start rolling over on its own. Following a collection of arm extensions and leg kicking, your little one should be able to roll over from stomach to back and the other way around.
As long as your baby’s arms and legs are not restricted with a tight wrap or baby swaddle, they’ll simply be able to roll back into another position. And if you’re infant isn’t ready to leave the comfort of the swaddle just yet, consider using a swaddle transition product like the Zipadee-Zip that gives them added mobility while retaining the cozy comfort of a swaddle.
If your baby is rolling over and you want to know more about what this means, take a look at our article: Is Your Baby Rolling Over? 6 Tips for Your New Baby Milestone
Following your baby rolling over, and if their neck is strong enough, they may be able to start sitting up on their own. Maintaining their posture in a sitting position will give your baby a strong foundation for all future movement milestones, so this is an important one to watch out for!
Control Over Smaller Muscles
With more control over larger muscle groups, your little one will be able to develop some fine motor skills, allowing them to perform some pretty nifty tasks such as reaching out for their favorite objects and shaking them with joy.
Develop Consistent Sleep Routines
Finally having some consistency in sleeping patterns is an important milestone for all babies! However, you’ll have to be patient here. While they’ll start to develop some regular sleeping patterns at this development stage, they’ll still need to be trained in the art of sleep.
After your baby has started to build up its larger muscle groups, they’ll develop better control over smaller muscles and be able to perform some pretty nifty tasks like reaching out and shaking their favorite toys!
Additional Baby Milestones at 4-8 Months Old
• Supports their whole weight when on legs
• Handles different objects with their hands and mouths
• Explores objects by banging and shaking them
• Laughs at familiar people and external stimulus
• Shows more emotional awareness
8-12 Months Baby Milestones
Some huge leaps are made during this period and you’ll see some serious milestones being ticked off, such as crawling and even walking!
Better Support of Weight and Limbs
By 8 months, most babies can sit up without support; roll down onto their stomachs, and finally return to the sitting position, enjoying this newfound mobility by remaining in a constant state of movement. With stronger neck and back muscles, they’ll also be able to rotate their bodies and explore their immediate surroundings without help.
Greater Social and Emotional Awareness
It’s a great thing when your child can purposefully engage in one-to-one interactions with people and learn that their actions have an impact on those around them. You’ll see this happen as they show interest in certain activities, such as smiling at family members or staring at people they don’t know.
After seeing your baby rolling over for the first time, crawling is one of the most important movement milestones. All their physical activity to date has been preparing them for this skill, which is usually achieved between 7-10 months. But don’t be concerned if your baby is not actually “crawling” in a traditional sense. If they’re scooting around on their bums or sliding around on their bellies, this also counts!
After seeing your baby rolling over for the first time, crawling is one of the most important movement milestones.
Standing and (Sometimes) Walking
After crawling is mastered, babies begin to pull themselves up to a standing position. They then start to put into practice their stepping skills, often with the support of an adult or a nearby piece of furniture. As their balance improves, they’ll soon be cruising around your whole house.
Many babies will take their first steps around 12 months, but some will start walking a few months later so don’t worry if your baby seems to be enjoying the crawling phase a little too much — it’s only a matter of time!
Throughout your child’s first year, they’ll be building up their language abilities. From babbling incoherent sounds and words to mouthing shapes with their mouths, they’ve already been preparing for their first words. Around 8 months and older, your little one will be able to utter their first full words as well as show clear signs that they can understand basic communication from others.
You’ll see them experimenting with different sounds at this phase, using a combination of gestures and movements to signal to adults their immediate wants and needs. According to the CDC, during this stage, babies also are developing bonds of love and trust with their parents and others as part of social and emotional development.
Additional Baby Milestones at 8-12 Months Old
• Can manage objects more accurately, such as placing objects in containers or holding utensils and coloring pencils
• Offer basic exclamations of surprise and joy
• Can say “mom” and “dad’ to their parents
• Easily finds hidden objects when searching for them
• Learns how to be shy around people they don’t know
1 Year and Beyond
After your baby’s first big birthday arrives, the last 12 months will probably seem like a blur of both small and large baby milestones. Once completely dependent on you for survival, you’ll now see some clear signs that they’re able to act independently in certain situations, such as moving around and exploring their environment, or feeding themselves with their hands.
Babies can now use a combination of different gestures, sounds, basic words and facial expressions to communicate with you about what they are feeling, including what they need and want. The bond between parents and siblings will be strong at this stage, and meaningful one-to-one interactions can take place that will form the foundation of your little one's early years socialization.
The bond between parents and siblings will be strong after their first year, and meaningful one-to-one interactions can now take place that will form the foundations of your little one's early years socialization.
Walking and Running
After they’ve developed the ability to stand and walk, your once stationery baby will be able to traverse your whole house alone, exploring different rooms and objects on their own. They’ll gradually pick up pace too, with some intermittent running, which will increasingly improve as their coordination and balance get better.
As well as basic vocabulary, your child will soon be able to string together simple sentences and engage in short conversations with parents and siblings. They’ll also start learning the fundamentals of language, such as turn-taking and matching appropriate responses to questions.
Impressive Cognitive Functions
Solving problems for themselves and understanding how the physical world works is a gradual process from birth, but after the age of one, you’ll start to see a great deal of independent discovery. Whether it’s objects, people or emotions, you’ll see your little one develop greater cognitive functions at age one, as well as a greater awareness of what’s happening around them.
Baby Development Concerns?
Using the baby milestones above, from your baby rolling over to their first steps, you’ll be able to chart a general progression through your child’s first year.
If you’re worried that your baby might not be meeting certain milestones, be aware that each individual is different so your own baby might meet “normal” milestone targets at a different rate.
This is nothing to worry about, but if you’re still concerned, take a look at the useful scientific guidance offered by organizations such as the CDC or WHO on the topic, or consult your GP or pediatrician about your baby’s milestones.