Baby Milestones: 0-12 Months Old

Martyn Bryson

Martyn Bryson

Medically reviewed by Mark Arredondo, M.D.

Updated on June 13, 2023

mom lying on her stomach on white rug with baby on their stomach playing with a soft rainbow ball
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TUESDAY, June 13, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- In the first year after a baby is born, it’s common for parents to wonder if their child is hitting key developmental milestones, such as:

  • Cognitive milestones
  • Movement milestones
  • Communication milestones
  • Emotional milestones
  • Social milestones

In most cases, there’s no need to worry if your child isn’t meeting all of the baby milestones by month.

While most do meet these baby developmental milestones—about 75%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—every baby develops at their own pace and in their own way.

However, if you’re concerned, don’t hesitate to speak to your child’s pediatrician and seek resources in your area that may help you spot and get help for developmental delays.

Below, learn more about baby developmental milestones, plus tips for seeking help for any potential developmental delays and easy steps to take to help your baby learn and grow.

Baby developmental milestones: 2 months old

The CDC states that by the time babies are 2 months old, most will start noticing the world around them, paying attention to your behavior and making simple movements.

Common social and emotional milestones include:

  • Calming down when picked up or spoken to
  • Looking directly at your face
  • Looking happy when you move toward them
  • Smiling when you smile at or talk to them

Common language and communication milestones include:

  • Making sounds that aren’t just crying
  • Noticing and reacting to sounds, especially loud ones

Learning, thinking and problem-solving milestones (sometimes called cognitive milestones) include:

  • Watching and focusing on you as you move around
  • Focusing on a toy for several seconds at a time

Common movement and physical development milestones include:

  • Holding their head up while lying on their belly
  • Moving both arms and both legs
  • Opening hands for short periods of time

Baby developmental milestones: 4 months old

By the time most babies are 4 months old, they will start responding to you, actively trying to get your attention and using their body to interact with the world in basic ways, according to the CDC.

Common social and emotional milestones include:

  • Smiling to attract your attention
  • Chuckling when you try to make them laugh, but not fully laughing yet
  • Looking at you, moving around or making noises to attract or hold your attention

Common language and communication milestones include:

  • Cooing (making “ooh” and “aah” sounds)
  • Making sounds in response when you talk to them
  • Turning their head toward your voice

Learning, thinking and problem-solving (cognitive) milestones include:

  • Opening their mouth at the sight of a breast or bottle when they’re hungry
  • Taking an interest in their own hands

Common movement and physical development milestones include:

  • Holding their head up on their own while being held
  • Holding toys when you put them in their hands
  • Swinging toys around
  • Putting their hands on or in their mouth
  • Supporting themselves with elbows or forearms when lying on their belly

Baby developmental milestones: 6 months old

When babies are 6 months old, the CDC states that most babies will start to recognize familiar people, learn their own reflection, exchange sounds with you and roll and move around more on their own.

Common social and emotional milestones include:

  • Recognizing multiple familiar people
  • Enjoying looking at their reflection in a mirror
  • Laughing fully

Common language and communication milestones include:

  • Making sounds in response to sounds you make and taking turns
  • Blowing raspberries (sticking their tongue out and blowing to make a rasping sound)
  • Squealing

Learning, thinking and problem-solving (cognitive) milestones include:

  • Putting things in their mouth to learn about them
  • Reaching out for a toy they want by themselves
  • Closing their mouth to indicate they’re not hungry

Common movement and physical development milestones include:

  • Rolling from their belly onto their back
  • Pushing themselves up with their arms when lying on their belly
  • Supporting themselves with their hands while sitting

Baby developmental milestones: 9 months old

The CDC notes that, at 9 months old, most babies will start expressing defined emotions more clearly, forming more complex sounds and moving around more independently. The American Academy of Pediatrics also says that most babies form their taste patterns by 9 months, so it’s important to offer them a wide variety of tastes and textures once they start eating solid foods to help prevent picky eating later in life.

Common social and emotional milestones include:

  • Reacting to strangers with expressions of shyness or fear
  • Showing a wide range of facial expressions, including happiness, sadness and surprise
  • Recognizing and responding to their own name
  • Reacting to your actions more, such as crying when you leave and laughing when you play with them

Common language and communication milestones include:

  • Making a wider range of basic, repetitive sounds, such as “mamama” and “bababa”
  • Lifting up their arms to ask to be picked up

Learning, thinking and problem-solving (cognitive) milestones include:

  • Looking around for things that fall out of sight
  • Banging objects together

Common movement and physical development milestones include:

  • Sitting up by themselves and without support
  • Moving objects from one hand to another
  • “Raking” food toward themselves with their fingers

Baby developmental milestones: 12 months old

According to the CDC, at 1 year old, most babies will begin to have complex interactions with you and objects around them, using basic words to refer to you and moving around much more independently. They may also be able to see just as well as an adult, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

A common social and emotional milestone is:

  • Playing simple games with you and others

Common language and communication milestones include:

  • Waving goodbye when you or another person leaves or moves away from them
  • Calling their parents a special name consistently, like “mama” or “dada”
  • Recognizing when they’re being told no, such as by stopping

Learning, thinking and problem-solving (cognitive) milestones include:

  • Placing objects inside containers, like cups or buckets
  • Looking for objects that they see you hide

Common movement and physical development milestones include:

  • Standing under their own power
  • Walking with support from you or furniture around them
  • Drinking from lidless cups
  • Picking up small objects with their thumb and index finger

What to do if you’re concerned

Not every baby will hit the same milestones at the same time, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s a problem if your baby doesn’t. In the end, however, no one knows your baby better than you do. If you have any doubts at all about your baby’s development, don’t wait. Acting quickly may make all the difference when it comes to managing any problems that may come up.

The first step is to talk to your baby’s doctor. They’ll be able to tell you if there really is something to address and what to do. You might also want to fill out the CDC’s Milestone Checklist before you see the doctor. This will help you track development over the long term and make it easier for the doctor to see any patterns that come up.

If you or your baby’s doctor think there might be a developmental issue, the next step is to get a referral to a child development specialist. The kind of specialist depends on what the doctor thinks the problem might be. Developmental pediatricians, child neurologists and child psychologists are all common referrals for developmental issues.

While you’re waiting for the referral you need, it’s a good idea to request a free evaluation from your state’s public early childhood system. This is known as a Child Find evaluation in some states and could help you figure out if your baby qualifies for certain special services. These services cover a wide range of offerings, including assistive devices and counseling. The services you qualify for will depend on the nature of your baby’s condition and, usually, a screening from a specialist service provider.

How to help your baby develop

As the American Academy of Pediatrics notes, “children grow faster in their first year than at any other time in their lives.” There are a number of things you can do at home to help your baby develop:

  • Respond in a positive way to things your baby does. Try acting excited, smiling and talking to them when they make noises.
  • Regularly talk, sing and read to your baby. They almost always enjoy the interaction, and it’s a great way to develop their language skills.
  • Regularly hold and hug your baby. This helps them feel safe, secure and cared for. Feeling loved is essential for your baby’s physical and emotional health.
  • Limit how much screen time you have around your baby. Being present with and focused on them helps them learn. Less screen time for you also means that they’ll be less inclined to overuse devices when they’re older.
  • Accept and be sensitive to their unique personality. Even the tiniest infants have their own personality, and it may be different from your own or from what you expected. Try to adapt their environment and your interactions with them to their personality. For example, even if you use music to relax, if your baby gets overstimulated with too much noise, try to keep it to a minimum.
  • Look after yourself, too. As a parent, it may be hard to find time to relax, and it’s always hard work. You’ll find it much easier to enjoy your time with them—and respond in the way they need—if you also feel good. As much as possible, prioritize sleep, healthy eating and enjoyable activities. Plus, don’t forget to make use of your support network.

References:

Pediatrics: Evidence-informed milestones for developmental surveillance tools.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Important Milestones: Your Baby By Five Years.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Important Milestones: Your Baby By Two Months.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Important Milestones: Your Baby By Four Months.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Important Milestones: Your Baby By Six Months.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Important Milestones: Your Baby By Nine Months.

American Academy of Pediatrics: Healthy Habits to Master in Your Baby’s First Two Years.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Important Milestones: Your Baby By One Year.

American Academy of Pediatrics: Infant Vision Development. What Can Babies See?

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Concerned About Your Child’s Development?

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Milestone Moments Checklist.

American Academy of Pediatrics: How Do Infants Learn?

Center for Parent Information & Resources: Overview of Early Intervention.

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