Developmental Milestones for Babies in the First Year

Walking, talking, grabbing, holding, smiling, laughing... it's all coming. But when? Photo by Tatiana Syrikova, via Pexels
Walking, talking, grabbing, holding, smiling, laughing... it's all coming. But when? Photo by Tatiana Syrikova, via Pexels
2/2/23 - By Vanessa Leigh

What are the normal developmental milestones for babies? When it comes to baby milestones, there's a wide range for normal! But that doesn't stop new parents from worrying. What should my baby be doing at X months old? Is it normal for my baby to...?

While these baby milestones—like rolling, crawling, laughing, babbling, talking, and walking—follow a general timeline in most children, each baby is a unique individual. So if there's a milestone that they achieve way early or much later in their growth, that is normal. Enjoy each gurgle, giggle, and coo. They'll be walking, running, and even driving before you know it!

When you have a baby, that's all you can see or think about. So, we've got a whole Baby and Maternity Guide filled with everything from helpful tips, like how to get free baby stuff to debates on the latest types of parenting styles (like, what on earth is a panda parent?).

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The CDC groups milestones into 4 categories: social/emotional, language/communication, cognitive, and movement/physical development. The CDC says that developmental milestones are things that most babies (75%) can do by a set age. Some babies are verbal earlier, while some acquire language skills later. The same goes for physical development. There's a wide range of what's "normal" for a baby's play, movement, speech, and learning developments.

Don't worry if your little one hasn't achieved the next milestone quite yet – they'll get there! If you're at all concerned about your baby's development, don't hesitate to reach out to your pediatrician.

Developmental Milestones for Babies – 2 Months Old

Mostly, these first few months are all about eating, sleeping, and enjoying lots of cuddles. But there are a few fun baby milestones to look forward to in these early days, like first smile and tummy time sessions.

1. Social/Emotional Milestones

  • Able to look at your face
  • Appears happy when seeing you
  • Smiles when you smile or when you give verbal attention to him/her
  • Able to calm down when picked up or soothed

2. Language/Communication Milestones

  • Can make sounds (gurgles, babbles)
  • If there's a loud sound, has a reaction

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baby ofcusing on an object is a developmental milestone 
They're just starting to be able to focus for a few seconds. Photo by Rodnae Productions, via Pexels.

3. Cognitive Milestones

  • Can focus on an object for a few seconds
  • Watches you when you walk around

4. Movement/Physical Development Milestones

  • Can show movement of arms and legs
  • Begins to hold head up during tummy time
  • Opens hands

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baby waving hi is a developmental milestone 
Hi, Mom! Photo by Victoria Akvarel, via Pexels.

Developmental Milestones for Babies – 4 Months Old

Oh, this age is fun. They're becoming more aware of you and the world around them. Babies start to grasp at toys and gnaw on those cute little fingers.

1. Social/Emotional Milestones

  • Can smile independently
  • Responds to your play with a small chuckle
  • Watches you and moves to gain your attention

2. Language/Communication Milestones

  • Responds with sounds when you speak
  • Makes cooing sounds
  • Will turn head towards a familiar voice

3. Cognitive Milestones

  • Starts to notice and be aware of his/her hands
  • Shows hunger by opening mouth towards breast or bottle

4. Movement/Physical Development Milestones

  • Can grasp a toy when given to her/him
  • Can hold his/her head up when behind held
  • Learned to push up on elbows during tummy time
  • Her/his hands have found her/his mouth
  • Bats at toys with hands and arms

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babies can push up during tummy time in this developmental milestone 
Now babies can push up during tummy time to better see the world. Photo by Jonathan Borba, via Unsplash.

Developmental Milestones for Babies – 6 Months Old

This is when everything starts going in the mouth! It's also the age of raspberries. They can make that noise with their own mouths, and they can laugh and laugh and laugh when you blow raspberries on their cute little tummies. It's also teething time for most babies, and you may have already started on solids, or this may be the time you start experimenting with real foods. So much starts happening as babies turn half a year old.

1. Social/Emotional Milestones

  • Can laugh
  • Recognizes familiar faces (family, caregivers)
  • Enjoys seeing his/her face in a mirror

2. Language/Communication Milestones

  • Squeals
  • Makes "raspberries" with tongue and lips
  • Alternates making sounds with you

3. Cognitive Milestones

  • Grabs toys
  • Shows that he/she is full by closing his/her mouth
  • Puts objects in his/her mouth

4. Movement/Physical Development Milestones

  • Can roll onto his/her back
  • Uses hands for support when sitting
  • Can push up using her/his arms during tummy time
  • Teeth usually begin to appear around month 6, and it's typically those two bottom front teeth that come in first. However, teething can vary wildly, as some babies begin teething as young as 3-4 months, and some babies still won't have teeth for several more months.

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baby milestones include being able to play with toys 
Physical dexterity, aka playing with toys, is an exciting step. Photo courtesy of the Sanna and Child Baby Facebook page.

Developmental Milestones for Babies – 9 Months Old

Holy cow, she just said "mama." Or just burbled "mamamamamamama." Either way, we'll take it. This is also the age where they really learn to express desires and interests, can let you know what they like (and what they don't), and can start to feed themselves! Peek-a-boo also will become your go-to activity to induce fits of laughter that make you feel like the funniest person on earth. And many babies are creeping and crawling right around 7-10 months, so it's time to clear some floor space so babies on the go can explore.

1. Social/Emotional Milestones

  • Can recognize her/his name
  • Enjoys playing peek-a-boo, smiling, or laughing
  • Notices and shows emotion when you leave
  • Can show facial emotions (happy, sad, etc.)
  • Is unsure of strangers and may hold tightly to you or be afraid or shy

2. Language/Communication Milestones

  • Expresses wish to be picked up by raising arms
  • Babbles sounds like mamamama and babababa

3. Cognitive Milestones

  • Bangs 2 objects together
  • Notices when something drops or falls

4. Movement/Physical Development Milestones

  • Can sit up independently
  • Can get into a seated position independently
  • Are starting to creep and crawl
  • Switches an item from hand to hand
  • Brings food to herself/himself with fingers

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It's time to play games! Photo courtesy of the Sanna and Child Baby Facebook page.

Developmental Milestones for Babies – 12 Months Old

Time to get ready for that first birthday party! They're also mobile and on the go, starting to walk with help and even pull themselves up and stand. They're playing and waving and "No" is about to become their favorite word. And you're about to become the parent of a toddler...

1. Social/Emotional Milestones

  • Can play games with caregiver (pat-a-cake)

2. Language/Communication Milestones

  • Recognizes and responds to the word "no"
  • Waves bye-bye
  • Calls parents by a given name (mama, dada, etc.)

3. Cognitive Milestones

  • Can place an object in a container
  • Searches for things that he/she noticed you hid

4. Movement/Physical Development Milestones

  • Can walk with support (holding hands or furniture)
  • Can pull himself/herself up to a standing position
  • Uses thumb and index finger to pick up food
  • Can drink from a cup, as a caregiver holds it

Now keep in mind the fact that these are based on the CDC's general guidelines for when babies typically hit these milestones. While your baby may hit some developmental milestones early and others a little later than usual, that's normal! (And just ask your doctor if you're worried about anything; that's what they're there for, and all doctors are very used to questions from new parents.)

Whenever your child hits their milestones, I highly recommend keeping a diary (video or written) so you remember these special moments as they occur. You think these are the moments you will never forget, but time and sleeplessness can make these early months blur together, and as your preschooler waves goodbye to you, you'll love going home to relive these early baby memories.

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