Baby's First Year Developmental Milestones | Mommy Academy

A New Mom’s Guide to Baby’s First Year Milestones

by

Janey Strong

It’s surreal bringing your baby home from the hospital, isn’t it? You’ve read the books, taken the classes, and your mom intuition is revving up—bring on parenthood!

The first year is a whirlwind of love, diapers, snuggles, and growth! You spend less time sleeping than you thought was possible, and more time wondering (and Googling) whether your baby is hitting the milestones than you ever thought you would.

And…you realize that even though this baby is in fact your child, they don’t quite “do” schedules the way you do especially in the early days. (Yep, we’re clutching our pearls over this, too!)

Remember that your baby doesn’t know when they’re supposed to roll over— they do it when they’re ready. And know that they’ll choose to do it at the exact moment when you are not ready for it (forcing you to panic-grab your iPhone to capture video-proof).

The more you understand about development and how to nurture it, the more you will be able to let go. You will trust your baby and yourself, and get to peacefully watch your child develop all on their own time. If you’re not prepared, then just seeing another baby will call out your biggest new-mama opponent: comparison.

What you say: Oh my goodnesssss, he’s so cute! *Smile*

What you think: Her baby’s rolling over?! My baby isn’t rolling over. Should my baby be rolling over?! I’m a terrible mother!!

(I know that seems melodramatic mama, but trust us—in the mind of a new mom caught in the throws of self-comparison, things get dark fast!)

Our advice: stop the comparison game before it starts. Read up on what to expect for your baby’s first year, know that all milestones happen within perfectly normal ranges, and then let it be. Once you’re your own source of truth and knowledge on this stuff, what everyone else is doing starts to magically faaaade into the background.

This list is your roadmap to understanding each phase of your baby’s first year of development. (Helloooooo baby proofing!) It’s a smooth, full-bodied guide, rich with information and complete with subtle notes of sass. It pairs very well with your new-mom intuition. And, it’s the confidence boost you need to defeat any new-mom slump!

Baby First Year Milestones : 0-3 Months

Within this range, you can expect to see your baby develop in the following ways:

Growth & Motor Development

New skills arrive every day:

  • You’ll see your baby lift their head and hold it up once they gain muscle strength
  • They go from flailing their hands to having opening and closing their fingers with control
  • Once they discover their hands, you’ll notice those little fingers moving to their mouths
  • They’ll start to push up on their arms during tummy time
  • At a few months old, excitement will make them kick their legs and flail their arms
  • They can also hold and shake toys (and they love the ones that make noise!)

What You Can Do:

Make sure to include tummy time, infant massage, and bicycle legs in your daily routine. Give your baby toys to grasp (think: rattle), and make sounds they can track visually. Consider a play gym with hanging toys for swatting and batting! Download free play ideas HERE.


Sleep Development

Not gonna lie, mama! The first few days, weeks, and months are pretty sleepy! Newborns can sleep up to 16-20 hours out of 24 hours. Enjoy these quiet moments of slumber, because around the two-month mark their wake periods start to get longer!

Just be advised that sometimes, newborns get their days and nights mixed up. In this case, expect them to want to party in the middle of the night!

  • Babies stay awake for 45 minutes to 1 hour at a time for the first three months
  • Your baby will nap around 5-6 times a day at this age from 30 minutes to 2.5 hours at a time
  • At night, they’re up often for feedings, but they still manage between 8-14 hours of sleep (and hopefully you do, too!)

What You Can Do:

Pay attention to wake windows, watch for tired cues, and create a soothing sleep environment. Swaddling helps many babies sleep better, as does a calming, wind-down routine that teaches them the “it’s time to fall asleep” signal!


Feeding 

At this age, your baby latches onto a nipple or bottle, moving their little tongue forward and back to suck. They also swallow well during feeding. (Don’t stress if this doesn’t happen right away, though—it can take practice!)

  • In baby’s first month, they feed every 2-3 hours, drinking 1-3 ounces at a time
  • After a month, feedings get longer as baby can take 3-4 ounces at a time

What You Can Do:

  • Breastfeed on demand or give formula every 2-3 hours.
  • PRO TIP: Try to get in full feedings for better naps and baby’s best night’s sleep!

Language Development

You’re your baby’s guide to the world right now. Isn’t that amazing? At this age, your baby makes eye contact with you to connect. They know the sound of your voice and when you speak, you’ll notice they grow quiet or smile. They’ll also start to make little heart-melting coo sounds, and have distinct cries for different needs.

What You Can Do:

Talk to them as much as you can. Learn baby cry language (it’s a thing!), narrate what you’re doing to help them learn words (use verbal routines if you’re not sure what to say!), sing soft nursery rhymes, and read together (starting to read early pays off big time!).


Cognitive Development

Babies learn a lot by watching and playing. At this age, your baby can:

  • Imitate some movements and facial expressions
  • Recognize familiar people and objects
  • Visually track toys or people moving side to side
  • Turn their head when they hear a sound (once neck muscles are strong enough!)

What You Can Do:

Stimulate baby’s cognition and vision with high-contrast books or images within their range of vision (which is only 8-10 inches right now). Let them study your face (it’s truly their favourite toy!), and give them a rattle or something noisy to play with. Download free play ideas HERE.

Check out some of our favorite 0-6 month old toys – HERE.


Emotional Development

At this age, your baby enjoys being cuddled. When they’re upset, they can often be calmed with rocking, touching, or gentle voices and sounds. A social smile starts to develop around two months.

What You Can Do:

Tune in to their different cries and what they mean (AKA baby cry language) so you can respond to their needs like a total pro!

Other Milestones

Babies at this age prefer movement over staying still, and soft textures over rough ones.


0-3 Months At A Glance:

Newborns are incredible. Your sweet, tiny baby comes out of the womb actively seeking information—about you, their surroundings, and themselves.

Emotional: One thing is for sure, they want to be snuggled close to you as they discover this new and exciting place! 

Cognitive: Babies realize they can make noise, communicate and that their arms and legs move. They can see high-contrast images close to their face.

Language: Their sense of hearing is fully developed. You can calm and soothe them with your voice. They love to hear you talk and sing!  

Motor: In time, they start to support their head, turn it from side-to-side, and push up on their arms in tummy time.

Growth: They will probably fly through their newborn diapers and newborn clothes! Be sure to have the next size on hand.  

Feeding: We’ll take a bottle of the house white [;)] Babies are milk-a-holics right now! They need breastmilk or formula every 2-3 hours.

…and keep a lookout for that first real smile. You’ll know it when you see it—it’ll be the one that leaves you in a puddle on the floor and makes all the sleepless nights worth it!


Baby First Year Milestones: 4-6 Months

Within this range, you can expect to see your baby develop in the following ways:

Growth & Motor Development

They’re using their hands to support themselves while sitting, starting to roll over both ways, and even starting to support their entire weight on their squishy little legs—with your help! Their hands are busy! They’re reaching for nearby toys and passing objects back and forth. By now, they’ve also discovered their feet which they find very interesting!  Download free, easy, brain boosting play ideas HERE.

What You Can Do:

During tummy time (still a big thing we’re doing for months 4-6!), hold a mirror at their level, move them in different positions, and encourage play by rolling balls or stacking blocks (which they will very likely just knock down!). If the weather cooperates, try playing outside in the grass!


Sleep Development

Brace yourselves, mamas. The 4-month sleep regression is likely to rock your world but don’t be afraid of it – just be prepared! After that and until month six:

  • Baby’s wake windows go up to 1-2 hours at a time
  • They’re taking 2-3 naps a day that range from 30 minutes to 2 hours
  • Nighttime sleep is about 8-13 hours per night, (more like 9-12 hours after five months)
  • You’re most likely still getting up to feed them through the night – if you choose to sleep train this is a good time to start!  (pssst…it doesn’t have to be cry-it-out!)

What You Can Do:

Try to get the first nap of the day happening in their crib. Be consistent with wake windows and nap timing (even during a regression)—and don’t be afraid of an early bedtime! You got this, friend!


Feeding 

Your 4-6 month old is drinking around 4-8 ounces up to 6 times a day, which should be about 32 ounces overall.

You can start looking for cues that your baby is ready for solids. Watch for things like great control of the head and neck, sitting upright, an interest in food, and the loss of the tongue thrust reflex. Then, start learning about the different methods of feeding your baby: baby led weaning and traditional spoon feeding. Most families end up somewhere in the middle, using a combination of the two! Do what feels best to YOU.

You can also start to introduce an open cut at around 6 months. Put just a tiny bit of water in at first, until they get the hang of it!

What You Can Do:

At around 6 months old, depending on what methods feel best for you, start offering larger chunks of food to your baby or serve up baby-friendly spoons pre-loaded with banana or avocado. Focus on iron-rich foods like chicken, meats, beans and eggs.


Language Development

When you speak, your baby listens and responds with an expression or the world’s cutest baby babble. They’re starting to express their feelings with different sounds, and they’re using consonant sounds!  Get used to hearing ma, ma, ma, ma. *Swoon*

What You Can Do:

Your baby is ready and able to communicate with you!  Eeeeek, so exciting!! 

Teach your baby a few simple baby signs to support them until they start speaking. It’s best to start with words that help them communicate a need, like milk, more, up, down, and tired (to name a few!). Keep narrating your day and using verbal routines, and keep reading those books together!


Cognitive Development

By now, your baby responds to sudden noises and notices which of their toys makes sounds. They use their hands and mouth to explore and understand the world around them. Reaching for and mouthing objects they want becomes part of every day! They’re able to uncover partially hidden objects, and they’re very interested in the mirror. (Can you blame them? I mean, look how cute the little person starting back is!)

What You Can Do:

Play games! Peek-a-boo is a classic. Another option: make sounds with a toy and see if baby can figure out where it’s coming from. Or, say their name to get their attention! And, give your little researcher new objects to hold with different textures, weights, and temperatures. 

Check out some of our favorite 0-6 month old toys – HERE.


Emotional Development

Your baby is ZERO percent shy about telling you how they feel at this age. They show happiness by smiling and excitement by waving arms and legs. When they’re upset or need something they cry, but usually stop when comforted. Your smart baby will also star to notice, and may try to copy, your emotional expressions. 

What You Can Do:

Repeat their laughter and facial expressions back to them!

Other Milestones

At this age, babies can’t get enough of new movements, and they love being shown new people, places, and things.

What You Can Do:

Go exploring! Take your baby out for little day trips to places they’ve never been.


At A Glance:

Emotional: Baby expresses happiness with a smile, discontent with a cry, and excitement by flailing their arms and legs.

Cognitive: Babies can identify the sources of sounds, find partially-hidden toys, and they obsess over the little person they see in the mirror!

Language: They’re starting to get a better sense of what you’re saying, and they’re ready to learn a few baby signs to communicate with you! 

Motor: Lying still is a thing of the past! Baby’s rolling all over the place. At this age, it’s normal that everything they grab goes into their mouth!

Feeding: At 6 months, your baby is big enough to start their journey with BLW and solid foods. Prepare the bibs, mama. Messy times ahead!

Remember! They may seem fussy and drool like they’re teething, but teeth don’t usually come in for a few more months.


Baby First Year Milestones: 7-9 Months

Within this range, you can expect to see your baby develop in the following ways:

Growth & Motor Development

Your baby has graduated from needing hands to sit upright. They’re now sitting pros! The movements they’ve been doing up to this point are becoming more controlled, and they’re starting to pick up small objects with the thumb and fingers! Balance also improves a lot at this age, so expect to see your baby:

  • Reach for toys without falling
  • Easily transition from lying down to sitting
  • Push up into a pseudo-plank during tummy time
  • Crawling or creeping along

What You Can Do:

Encourage crawling!  Put your babe’s favorite toy just a little out of reach, and then pulllll them along as they move toward it. Or get a fun tunnel for them to crawl through!  You can also show them how to put toys into a box, or have them remove the top block from a stack of blocks. They’ll be oh-so please with themselves when they nail it! There are so many easy simple play ideas you can set up with household items – check it out here!


Sleep Development

Time to switch from Grande to Venti because another regression hits around eight months! Prepare yourself for some early mornings and interrupted naps.

After the regression, look forward to:

  • Waking windows around 2 to 3-hour increments
  • Naptime happening 2 or 3 times a day for 1-2 hours at a time.
  • If it works best for your family to keep night time feedings – do it or you can choose to sleep train at this stage (it’s totally your call!), but your little one should be sleeping 9-12 hours overall

What You Can Do:

Keep doing what you’re doing, mama! Follow a bedtime routine, and encourage them to sleep in their crib for all naps and overnight. 

Some babies may benefit from sleep training if they’re not going to sleep well or staying asleep for long periods through the night.


Feeding 

At this age, your baby is likely getting pretty good with an open cup! You might even introduce a straw. They’re also developing that pincer grasp (putting the fingers and thumb together), so they might be ready to grab and serve themselves slightly smaller pieces of food. (Think cubed avocado instead of long, skinny slices or cereal!) Even though they are eating solids now, milk is still the primary form of nutrition during the first year.

What You Can Do:

Put on your chef’s hat and introduce new foods often. Play with serving up baby-friendly versions of the same foods you eat!


Language Development

Baby babble has leveled up! Your little one’s vocabulary has expanded to include different sounds and new additional syllables. It actually sounds like its own language! Your baby can connect familiar objects and people when they hear them named, they’re starting to use simple gestures like waving and shaking their head no, they know the sound of their name, and they can follow some routine commands when gestures are used. (Smart little thing!!)

What You Can Do:

Your baby wants to experiment with language. Your job: let them! When they babble, respond as though you’re having a conversation with them.

  • Keep narrating what you’re doing and using your handy-dandy verbal routines. 
  • After you say something, pause and see if they respond in some way
  • Point out objects and name them on walks. 
  • Use gestures and baby sign language when you can. 

The name of the game is to keep introducing and using new words to grow 👏🏼 that 👏🏼 vocabulary 👏🏼


Cognitive Development

Your little one loves to explore, and they learn new things by picking up objects and using their hands and mouths to examine them! They can turn the pages of thick baby books, observe their surroundings from wherever they are, touch objects to feel their shape, size, texture, and even figure out the force needed to lift it! (Can we even do all that?! Geniuses!)

What You Can Do:

  • Teach your baby about different animals and their sounds
  • Hide toys for them to find
  • Get your baby to imitate actions like clapping or waving
  • Give your baby items with different textures and weights to pick up and touch

Check out some of our favorite 6-12 month old toys – HERE.


Emotional Development

At this age, your baby can respond to other people’s emotions, express their happiness or displeasure, and they’re often happy. They’re also very likely to struggle when you or other loved ones leave them, even just for a while. And, the Stranger Danger force is strong with these ones—expect your baby to be shy or anxious with unfamiliar people!

What You Can Do:

Keep on going with repeating baby’s laughter and facial expressions!

Other Milestones

Winter is coming err, we mean, teething is starting!

What You Can Do:

Pick up some baby chew toys to soothe irritated mouths and gums. Or try this frozen washcloth trick – (link to instagram video).  Also, fair warning: your baby may try to use you as a chew toy!


At A Glance

Emotional: Baby is pretty happy at this age, unless they’re left with a babysitter! Stranger danger is also real right now.

Cognitive: They’re exploring different textures, weights, shapes, and sizes of objects by picking them up with their hands and putting them in their mouths!

Language: Baby babble starts to feel more like conversation as baby learns new sounds and syllables they didn’t have before! *Heart Melts*

Motor: Go baby, go! A burst of new skills have started. They’re doing some version of crawling, and they’re reaching for and grabbing objects.

Growth: Prepare to revisit those newborn photos! When you see baby holding the furniture and standing, you notice they’re getting so big.

Feeding: They love food right now! At around 9 months, try giving small, soft chunks of food to work on their pincer grasp.


Baby First Year Milestones: 10-12 Months

Within this range, you can expect to see your baby develop in the following ways:

Growth & Motor Development

This is not a drill! Your baby is preparing to walk!   They might be standing unassisted and even taking a few independent steps. But, remember first steps may happen around 12 months but can take as long as 16 months!  They’re also very grabby, and anything within reach will be pursued!

Balance while sitting has improved big time—so a fun new development is that they’re able to throw items now! But, balance also means they can clap their hands and push up to a stand –  so, worth it! 

They are perfectly their pincer grasp to pick up small objects and start to hold out an arm or leg when you dress them.

What You Can Do:

Have fun with this phase!

  • Roll a ball to your baby and have them roll it back
  • Introduce crayons and draw on a large piece of paper or cardboard
  • Let them go through some safe kitchen items (wooden spoon, baster, potato masher)
  • Create an obstacle course in the living room
  • Move your couch cushions and spread toys at the perfect level for standing play

Sleep Development

Around 12 months (but can be later depending on the day), babies kick their morning nap which drops them down from two naps a day to one. Your baby stays awake from 3.5 to 5 hours at a time now, and sleeps 10-12 hours overnight. They could very well be sleeping through the night (if you went the sleep training route) or they may still be waking up a little bit at night.  Both are normal – do what works best for you.

Warning: This age may come with minor sleep regression.

What You Can Do:

Consistency is key! If the sleep routine works, stick with it. Keep the lights off during naps, and use white noise for relaxation.


Feeding

The age of finger foods is upon us! Your baby can now eat an increasing variety of food with their fingers. Think: chunky soft-cooked vegetables and fruits, and foods like cooked pasta or bite-size pieces of toast.  Baby may be getting pretty good at using a spoon – if you introduced a preloaded spoon at 6 months.

Babies still need milk at this age, too—about 7-8 ounces up to 5 times a day.

What You Can Do:

Cut up soft foods and let your baby feed themselves with their fingers. And, if you think they’re ready to try feeding with a utensil, give them a preloaded spoon and show them how to use it. 


Language Development

Call grandma! Alert the aunties! Mama and dada are actual words now! 

At this age, your baby can:

  • Name you
  • Use a handful of words (this can happen around 1 but can be later, too!)
  • Respond to simple directions
  • Imitate speech sounds
  • Babbles in what sounds like sentences
  • Pay attention to where you look and point
  • Responds to the word “no”
  • Uses hand movements to communicate.

What You Can Do:

Sing songs, read books, and use pretend play to teach your little one new words. Point and gesture when you speak, and show pictures of objects when explaining them. Need some ideas of what to say – download free verbal routines and get started today!


Cognitive Development

Your baby now has decided preferences for certain people and toys. They’re starting to test how you respond to them in various situations (which is sometimes adorable, sometimes triggering!). They can find hidden toys easily, look at the right object when they hear its name, use objects correctly, and even imitate gestures. So basically, they’re ready for high school.

What You Can Do:

  • Hide toys under other toys or blankets and have your baby find them
  • Play peek-a-boo (they’ll try to hide behind their hands too!)
  • Sort colours
  • Ask your baby to pass you a specific item

Check out some of our favorite 6-12 month old toys – HERE.


Emotional Development

Your baby has officially bonded with you and at this age, they’re likely to cling on tight and cry when you leave. They’re still shy around strangers, and they’re getting better and better at expressing themselves.

What You Can Do:

Help them get comfortable around more people by arranging play times with new friends and supporting them as they get familiar. (Just start with short outings rather than leaving for hours at a time!)

Other Milestones

Your baby enjoys music and they’ll crawl to or away from objects they see in the distance.

What You Can Do:

Have a dance party! Turn up the music and dance with baby in your arms. Babies love all kinds of genres, so experiment to see what type of music they like best.


At A Glance

Emotional : Baby’s still grappling with stranger danger and not pumped about you leaving the house. Give them lots of time with other people so they’re not as sad to be without you!

Cognitive: They’re getting cleverer by the day and may start to test how you respond in certain situations, like dropping their spoon over and over. [Smiling devil emoji]

Language: You’re now officially called Mama, like on purpose! Language is coming along at a steady clip. Baby can say a few new words and understands sooo many!

Motor: Your baby has their sights set on walking! They’re confidently cruising on the furniture and may boldly go where no baby has gone before: from the couch to your arms without support!

Feeding: Finger foods are in the building! They’re starting to use a pinch-grip to feed themselves bite-sized finger food, and they’re still sippin’ on milk each day.

Remember!

Climbing may happen before walking. Keep an eye out to ensure that your baby hasn’t decided to turn your living room into a climbing wall/jungle gym behind your back!


Best. Year. Ever!!

You’re gonna have sooo much fun watching this happen! Remember that your baby is developing in their own perfect time. Focus on being with them, loving on them, and taking care of you. The rest will fall into place!

(And, know that if you’re ever worried about your baby’s development, you can talk to your pediatrician. They’ll refer you to specialists if they think it’s necessary!  Early intervention is an amazing service if your baby needs it.)

Track Your Baby’s Development With The Milestone Checklist

We made keeping track of your baby’s milestones SUPER easy to do by creating a free, downloadable, checklist version of this post that you can print or save to your phone!

Grab your copy now so you can easily track your baby’s development throughout the year.

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