Baby Development: See How She Grows

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Congratulations! You’ve just embarked on a delightful journey. Truly, nothing is more amazing and absorbing than watching a seemingly fragile infant grow into a confident toddler.

No doubt, every parent hopes that her newborn will be a quick learner — a Baby Genius who achieves milestone after milestone ahead of time. It is easy to get carried away, to obsess if Junior’s growth isn’t on par with ‘official’ standards.

However, developmental milestones should not be hurried. Remind yourself that babies learn many things very quickly. And a warm, loving environment that is generous with cuddles and cheerful encouragement is much more conducive to growth than a fretful one. During the first year especially, babies respond well to being held and having their cries answered promptly and patiently.

The following are guidelines on what to look out for each month of your baby’s first year, with some suggestions on age-appropriate parental input to encourage and delight your child.

By the end of month one:

  • Lifts head for brief periods of time
  • Moves head from side to side
  • Singles out and gazes at human faces compared to other objects
  • Focuses on objects 20cm to 30cm away
  • Brings hands to face
  • Turns toward familiar sounds or voices
  • Recognises parents’ voices
  • Startles at loud sounds
  • Blinks at bright lights

By the end of month two:

  • Smiles
  • Follows objects with eyes
  • Makes other noises apart from crying
  • May attempt to make or repeat vowel noises such as “ah” and “ooh”

By the end of month three:

  • Raises head and chest when put on tummy
  • Lifts head up 45 degrees
  • Kicks and straightens legs when on back
  • Opens and closes hands; brings hands together
  • Pushes down with legs when placed on a hard surface
  • Reaches for dangling objects
  • Grasps and shakes hand toys
  • Begins to imitate sounds
  • Recognises familiar objects and people, even at a distance
  • Begins to develop hand-eye coordination
  • Kicks legs energetically
  • Holds head up with control

By the end of month four:

  • May sleep about six hours at a stretch (night) before waking
  • Rolls over (stomach to back first is more common)
  • Sits with support
  • Lifts head up 90 degrees
  • Can follow an object moving on a 180-degree arc with eyes
  • Babbles and amuses self
  • Responds to colours and shades
  • Explores objects with mouth
  • Recognises a bottle or breast

By the end of month five:

  • Pays attention to small objects
  • Begins to understand the concept of cause and effect
  • Can see across the room
  • Begins to use hands to bring toys near
  • Begins teething

By the end of month six:

  • Keeps head steady when pulled to a sitting position
  • Begins making vowel-consonant sounds
  • Sits by self with minimal support
  • Opens mouth for spoon
  • Reaches for and grabs objects
  • Rolls over and back
  • Drinks from a cup (with help)
  • Able to hold a milk bottle
  • Copies some facial expressions
  • Makes two-syllable sounds

Encouraging her in the first six months

As most of a baby’s first six months are spent lying on her back, give her plenty of room and time on a mat on the floor. This freedom will allow her natural and unencumbered use of her arms, legs as well as stomach, neck and back.

This is also an essential time to reinforce communication skills. To promote face-to-face communication, get on the floor with her if you have to. Speak to her softly, using her name often. Vary your voice to include both baby talk and everyday speech. Praise her when she tries to imitate you. Responding to her vocalisation and smiles heightens her confidence and encourages her to continue expressing herself. Don’t get impatient if she is constantly fretful, especially when she is teething.

Talk and sing to your baby as often as you can. Tell her what you are doing when you bathe her, change her diaper or perform other tasks. Such an environment will be instrumental in enriching both her cognitive and communication skills, as well as your parent-child bond.

Babies at this stage are also learning about eye coordination. You can help her out, for instance, by establishing eye contact and moving your head from side to side to encourage her eyes to follow you. To encourage her to turn her head, place some brightly-coloured toys next to her, on each side. To strengthen her motor skills, bend and straighten her legs in a cycling motion and massage her body gently after her bath.

By the end of month seven:

  • Able to self-feed some finger food
  • Turns in the direction of a voice
  • Plays peek-a-boo
  • Imitates many sounds
  • Distinguishes emotions by tone of voice

By the end of month eight:

  • Chews on objects
  • Turns head away when finished eating
  • Rolls all the way around
  • Sits without support
  • Gets on arms and knees in crawling position
  • Has specific cries for various needs
  • Babbles enthusiastically
  • Enjoys dropping objects over edge of high chair
  • Responds to own name
  • Has different reactions for different family members
  • Gets anxious when away from parent

By the end of month nine:

  • Reaches for toys
  • Tries grabbing the spoon during feedings
  • Goes from tummy to sitting by self
  • Picks up tiny objects
  • Begins to recognise a mirror’s reflection

By the end of month ten:

  • Understands the concept of object permanence
  • Gets upset if toy is removed
  • Transfers object from hand to hand
  • Stands while holding onto something
  • Pulls self to standing position

By the end of month eleven:

  • Able to distinguish between “ma-ma” and “da-da”
  • Understands “no”
  • Claps hands
  • Waves goodbye

By the end of month twelve:

  • Birth weight triples
  • Bangs two cubes together
  • Puts objects into containers and then takes them out
  • Shakes head “no”
  • Able to open and close cabinet doors
  • Crawls well
  • ‘Cruises’ using furniture
  • Walks with adult help
  • Says “ma-ma” and “da-da”
  • Interested in books and may identify some things when named
  • May understand simple commands
  • Fearful of strangers
  • Shares toys but wants them back
  • May become attached to an object
  • Pushes away what she doesn’t want
  • Understands use of certain objects
  • Tests parental responses to behaviour
  • Extends arm or leg when getting dressed
  • Identifies self in mirror
  • Begins using objects correctly (drinking from cup, brushing hair)

Encouraging her in the next six months

Spend as much time with your baby as you can, for this is when many exciting developments take place. Your baby is discovering that she has hands and that she can do things with them. She is also learning to coordinate her movements. Leave her without her diaper for as long as possible so that she is able to move about more freely. Limit the time that she spends in baby chairs or baby jumpers as these impede her natural desire to move around.

It is also an essential time to baby-proof your home if you haven’t already done it. Never leave your baby alone, and ensure that a responsible adult is always around.

Play simple games like peek-a-boo or stuff small pieces of colourful cloth into a Kleenex box and watch her pull them out. Let her play with a baby mirror. Reinforce her sense of self and family by preparing a baby-safe photo album and leaving it near her for her to look through. Anything you give your baby should be safe for her to put in her mouth, as this is her natural way of exploring the world around her.

Encourage social skills, as well as her ability to notice little details she may otherwise miss, like a bird chirping or car starting. If possible, record some of the sounds she makes or her reactions to these stimuli with a video recorder. Or keep a baby journal. These moments are truly precious, and will be difficult to recall as she gets older.

Remember…

While most babies reach certain milestones at similar ages, no two babies are exactly alike. Celebrate if your baby races ahead of others, but don’t expect too much from her either. These guidelines begin from your child’s due date, so if yours is a premature baby (born before 37 weeks of pregnancy), be prepared to see her develop more slowly.

It is also not unusual for a normal birth and healthy baby to fall behind in some areas, so do not worry if she achieves a milestone later than average. As long as she is healthy and happy, she will soon catch up. If you are however, worried that she is lagging far behind, consult your paediatrician as soon as possible.

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