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First Year

Baby Development: The First Year

Baby Development: The First Year

Babies grow and develop dramatically during the first year. These changes are unique to each child and yet highly predictable at the same time. Here's a look at many of the developmental milestones you can expect during the first 12 months:

Birth to 3 months
Studies on infants have documented what parents have known for generations: Newborn babies like to be held and to look at faces. If your baby consistently does not like to be held or gazes away from your face much of the time, this behavior warrants further evaluation. Your child should also use her right and left sides equally. If your baby shows an early hand preference, or other unequal movements, it could be a sign of weakness on one side and should also be further evaluated.

Newborn babies typically have the appearance of being curled up. But as they adjust to life outside of the womb, they begin to stretch and move. Your newborn's hands will typically be held in closed fists and he'll have a tight grasp reflex. A baby will usually begin to open the hands increasingly after he's 2 months-old. It's around this time that babies develop a real social smile in response to another smiling person. They also acquire the ability to visually track an object moving from side to side. Head control is also becoming well-established at 2 months. By 3 months, a baby who's placed on her stomach will be able to lift his head and chest up. Your 3 month-old should also be able to grasp a rattle.

4 to 7 months
At 4 months, your baby's hands should be loosely open much of the time. She'll also begin actively reaching for toys set near her. By 6 months, watch as she begins to pass a toy from hand to hand and figures out how to hold her bottle,and other items using both hands. She'll start cooing at 4 months, progressing to some single syllable babbling sounds at 6 months. Between 5 to 7 months she'll start sitting on her own, which eventually leads to crawling.


8 to 12 months
With the new establishment of object permanence, babies will look for an object that you hide while they are watching. By 8 months your baby develops a heightened awareness of the special relationship with parents and caregivers. As a result, some babies, but not all, may experience some anxiety when in a new setting and with unfamiliar people.

At around 9 months of age, babies are beginning to pull to stand. After a baby is secure in standing, he or she will begin to take steps while holding on. A 9 month-old also plays more actively with toys, exploring them less with the mouth and more with the hands. Multiple-syllable babbling will progress to jargoning with the emergence of the first true word at around 12 months of age. About half of all babies walk by themselves at around the time of their first birthday. The fine motor pincer grasp, which allows your baby to use his thumb and forefinger to pick up small objects, also develops by one year. By 16 months, your baby should be walking independently.

If you have any questions or concerns about your child's development they should be discussed with your pediatrician.

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About The Author

Hillary Kruger, M.D. is Co-director of Behavioral and Developmental Pediatrics at Maimonides Medical Center, in Brooklyn, New York.

The content on these pages is provided as general information only and should not be substituted for the advice of your physician.


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