Baby developmental milestones
As a proud parent, it’s hardly surprising that you want to know everything about your little one’s growth – and whether they’re hitting those baby development milestones. It’s important to remember that all babies are unique and will develop at their own pace. Still, if you have any concerns about your little one’s development, you should speak to your healthcare professional.
These baby development milestones are a guide to what you can expect in the first three years.
Your baby is getting used to life on the outside! They can recognise familiar voices and love looking at human faces. To begin with, they can only focus on things that are 15-25cm away, so get up close and personal. By the time they’re around 7 days old, babies can see the colours red, orange, yellow and green – something to consider if you’re planning to buy soft baby toys.
Crying is the only way your baby can communicate at the moment. In time, you may notice different cries for different needs (milk, cuddles, nappy change).
Your baby’s eyes may follow you (or a toy, pet or other interesting object) around the room. They may move their head from side to side when they’re on their tummy. Or wiggle their little arms and legs when they’re on their back. They may even hold a toy for a moment or two before dropping it.
Your baby may make cooing sounds at you when you talk to them. You might get a smile too! They’ll hold eye contact, and cry when they’re hungry, tired, want a cuddle or need a nappy change.
At this point your baby may have doubled their birth weight and will be growing more than a centimetre a month. Now that they’re stronger, your baby may be able to sit up and hold their head steady. They may reach out for nearby toys, while they’re sitting. If they lie on their tummy, they may be able to lift up their head and look around.
Cooing, giggling, and squealing – your baby is finding their voice and learning how to use it. They’ll love looking at themselves in the mirror. They’ll get excited when they see you come back into the room. And they may make sounds when they look at toys or other people.
Thinking about weaning?1 Check out our weaning guide to see whether your baby is ready to wean.
1 The Department of Health advises that you don’t need to wean until 6 months, however every baby is different.
Babies of this age constantly repeat sounds, e.g. blowing raspberries, and love taking turns with you making noises. Their eyesight has developed sufficiently to see and focus on objects and people across a room. They may now roll from their backs to their fronts and are able to push up on their arms when they are on their tummies – getting ready to crawl!
If your baby has been unsettled, dribbling or chewing on everything, teething may well be the culprit. You'll know for sure the day a little white tooth magically appears!
Keep talking, singing and playing with your baby, and think about taking them to a baby group where they can enjoy the sensory stimulation and you can meet like-minded parents to share all the highs and lows of parenting.
Rolling over, getting up on all fours, grabbing toys – your baby is becoming more and more active! Now that they can sit up well when supported, and pick things up with their thumb and fingers, it’s definitely time to give weaning a go.
Even if your baby shows no signs of wanting to begin weaning, don’t delay introducing solids beyond 6 months, since this is an important step in their development. Delaying weaning may also mean that your baby doesn't get enough of some important nutrients such as iron. Head on over to our weaning section for lots of practical tips on making weaning a big success for both of you.
Your little one may hold their arms up when they want you to pick them up. They’ll still love admiring themselves in the mirror and they may be making sounds like ‘da’, ‘ga’ and ‘ka’. An activity centre with lots of different flaps, levers, noises and music will probably fascinate your baby, or just give them things they can shake or bang together. They’ll be happy!
At 7 months, your baby will be making different and repetitive noises such as “da da” (it's unfair, we know, but “da da” usually comes before “ma ma”!). They’ll often chat away to themselves and in ‘conversation’ with you. Talking to your baby, playing and singing together helps with brain and body development and communication skills, while clapping and action rhymes help to develop co-ordination.
They’re getting ready to crawl now, so make sure your house is safe. You can help build your baby’s muscles by standing or bouncing them on your lap.
This is the perfect time to start introducing foods with more texture. Learning to chew is important for babies’ development (and has an effect on speech development, too).
Clear the decks for action! Even when babies are not yet crawling, they still manage to get around, grabbing everything within reach. You may also want to invest in ear defenders – for you! – as between the chatting and the ‘bang bang bang’ of toys or hands against hard surfaces, this is a noisy age.
Most babies of this age will really enjoy finger foods. Make sure you never leave your baby alone when they’re eating, though.
Keen to please, your little one may respond to ‘can you give it to me’ or ‘please put it back’. They may be babbling sounds like ‘mama’ or copying sounds they hear. They’ll recognise members of the family, probably have a favourite toy, and may be clingy if they see an unfamiliar face.
Now’s also the time many parents start saying ‘no’ a lot. Distraction is usually a better tactic than constantly saying no, however, and you’ll soon become skilled at offering your baby a lovely toy to gnaw on instead of your mobile phone!
If your baby has started ‘cruising’ around the furniture, always do a quick check to make sure there are no overhanging tablecloths, hanging cords, unstable coffee tables, ornaments, etc.
Joining in with family mealtimes is an important part of a baby’s social development. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to time your meals around the baby, but it's a good idea to eat together when you can.
Babies of this age may be walking around while holding on to the furniture and may be able to stand, bend over and even squat down. They will probably respond to their name, wave bye-bye and clap to a song.
When you're looking at picture books together, you can help your baby identify various objects by saying things like ‘Look, there’s a ball. Where’s the ball? There it is.’ You can also play at covering things up and then revealing them - this helps babies realise that things don’t disappear just because they're out of sight.
Happy birthday to your baby – and big congratulations to you! You've made it through that first year, and your baby has grown and learnt so much!
They might be crawling (backwards, forwards or a bit of both), bum shuffling or cruising around the furniture – holding on for balance. They may pull themselves up from a sitting position and sit down again, all by themselves, and even help turn the pages of a book or throw a ball.
At this stage, pointing is pretty popular. They’ll point at things they don’t recognise (so you can tell them what they are) and they’ll point at the things they want you to give them. Your baby will almost certainly get a big kick out of a simple box filled with different toys, stacking cups, blocks, soft toys, etc. - many babies just love putting things in the box and emptying them out again! Another great game is to build a tower of blocks or stacking cups and see if your baby can knock it down. (Most babies this age can't build with blocks just yet.)
By their first birthday, babies have usually trebled their birthweight. The average weight for a one-year-old boy is 10.04kg (22lb) and 9.5kg (around 21lb) for a girl.
Children of this age have good manual dexterity and can often stand unaided and take a few steps. They will likely use those skills to go after ‘forbidden’ things.
Once babies learn to walk, the world literally opens up to them, and being able to explore is essential for their physical development and confidence. Is there a ‘soft play’ group near you where little ones can climb and bounce safely? Or a playground with baby swings? These activities will give you a chance to meet up with other mums and dads, too.
Many babies still have a bedtime bottle at this age, but it's a good idea to try replacing it with a beaker instead – it's far healthier for those new little teeth!
Children of this age may be toddling around – usually with feet wide apart and arms held high! (Don’t panic if they’re not walking – some children don’t walk until they are a couple of months older.) They can generally hold two things in one hand and might be able to start stacking objects.
Children’s brains are like sponges, soaking up experiences, knowledge, speech and memories and developing at a very rapid pace. To encourage this development, don’t feel you have to buy expensive toys or fill every minute with activities – ordinary, everyday experiences such as shopping, watching birds feeding, posting letters, and playing with saucepans are all rich learning opportunities.
Your baby isn't such a baby anymore! You'll probably find that the personality traits you notice now will still be there in your son or daughter in 20 years’ time. Make the most of this lovely time with your child - every age has its good points, but only when they are little do you see such rapid change and development.
Children of this age are demonstrating new skills every day. They may be able to stand up from sitting unaided, will probably be feeding themselves (however messily!) and often want to undress themselves - taking off socks is fun!
Children of this age are quickly improving their dexterity, especially when it comes to handling objects and pressing buttons. They’ll enjoy looking at books with you, and love rhyming stories and games like ‘Ten Little Fingers’.
All children develop at their own pace. Some 16-month-olds will be walking, some talking, and others will take their own sweet time to reach those milestones. Don’t worry, it all happens eventually!
At this age, your little one may understand and respond to simple instructions. They may know a few single words (not phrases or sentences) and even try to join in with songs or nursery rhymes.
Confident on their feet, they’ve probably mastered walking and are now attempting the stairs. They may hold your hand going upstairs and cautiously descend on their bottom. They’re increasingly independent and may be able to get a spoon into their mouth (the right way up!), turn the pages of a book and stack blocks on top of each other.
Your baby is a real little person now. But, of course, real little people want independence, so don’t be surprised if you have some tussles as they try to assert themselves.
They’re really busy now! Able to run, jump (with both feet off the floor at the same time) and even kick a ball, life indoors and out is a lot of fun. Their motor skills may be developed enough for them to thread beads on to a string or hold a pencil between their thumb and first two fingers. They may even be drinking from an open cup – how very grown up!
Your chatty little one may be able to put two or three words together in the right order. They’ll understand, ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘mine’ – and probably won’t be afraid to shout it! They may be able to name a number of well-known objects, dog, cat, car, perhaps. And they may be interested in role play or ‘let’s pretend’ games.
Between the ages of 2 and 3, your child will grow, on average, about 8cm (just over 3”) and gain about 2kg (just under 4½ lb) in weight – so you’re justified to keep saying ‘They’re getting so big!’. They will have all their milk (primary) teeth by the time they’re about 2½, ten on the bottom and ten on the top.
We’ve all heard about the ‘terrible twos,’ and this can, on occasion, be a very demanding time. But it’s also a magical age, when your toddler is making great strides when it comes to talking, thinking and growing (both physically and emotionally). During the course of this single year, most 2-year-olds learn to play imaginatively, learn colours and start learning to count, among many other things - so much is happening!
Supporting those baby development milestones
It's all too easy for parents to worry, but try not to fret about whether your baby is reaching all the developmental milestones at the ‘right’ time. Every baby is different, and your baby will probably be ahead of others in some things and behind in others. One baby may be walking at 10 months; another may still be crawling at 15 months. Remember, it’s not a race. The key is taking the time to enjoy every stage as it comes!
Whatever stage your little one’s at, there are lots of things you can do to enhance their physical and mental development. Our baby sensory at home article is full of ideas for things to do indoors. Or you could check out articles from our play expert. Both are great for stimulating their senses, and helping them meet those developmental milestones.
Remember, all the little things you do, like talking, cuddling, smiling and encouraging them to discover their own personality, will play a huge part in each of the baby development stages