The Developmental Milestones of a Baby

The Developmental Milestones of a Baby

A huge amount of growth and physical development occurs during the first year of a baby’s life.

These early stages of development are critical in laying the foundation for the baby’s future.

It is important to be aware of the normal developmental milestones for a baby, and how to encourage his learning.

This is a long and serious post, reading it might be a bit hard so I’ve added a table of contents.

Table of Contents

What are Developmental Milestones for a Baby?

The attainment of different skills and abilities in babies are commonly known as developmental milestones, or developmental stages.

Different milestones are achieved on a month by month basis in the areas of motor skills, perceptual ability, cognitive ability, learning, personality, social and moral understanding, emergence of emotions, and the ability to form attachments.

A Baby’s Motor Skill Developmental Stages

Development of a baby’s motor skills refers to the physical component of infant development.

This includes gross and fine motor development.

Gross motor development refers to the developmental stages of holding the head up, sitting, pulling up and walking.

Fine motor development refers to stages of development such as eye-hand coordination, and reaching for and grasping objects.

Below is a summary of the motor skill developmental milestones for a baby on a month by month basis. The findings are based on a study of the age norms for a group of American infants (Anglo-American, Hispanic and African-American).

Half the infants were able to master the listed motor skill milestones at the following months:

  • 0-2 months: Survival and primitive reflexes
  • 2 months: Lifts head up when lying on stomach
  • 3 months: Rolls over from stomach to back, holds head steady when being carried
  • 4 months: Grasps a cube or other small object
  • 5 months: Sits without support toward the end of this month
  • 6 months: Stands holding onto something
  • 7 months: Rolls over from back to stomach, may begin to crawl or creep, shows thumb opposition
  • 8 months: Pulls self up to standing position
  • 9 months: Walks holding on to furniture, bangs two objects together
  • 10 months: Plays clapping games (for example pat-a-cake)
  • 11 months: Stands alone
  • 12 months: Walks well alone, drinks from a cup

Perceptual Developmental Milestones for Infants

Perception is the interpretation of sensory input through vision, hearing, taste, smell, touch, temperature and pain.

Perceptual ability is an integral part of infant growth, and the modern view is that babies are capable of perceiving a coherent world.

The developmental stages of perception are difficult to define in terms of milestones, due to the complex nature of assessing perceptual ability in infants.

Researchers, however, have been able to reveal a good deal about the early development of perception in babies.

Below is a summary of the month to month perceptual development in babies:

  • 0-2 months: Can distinguish different degrees of brightness, has difficulty seeing in color, vision is blurry unless objects are about 8 inches away or are bold patterns with light-dark contrasts (such as the face of the parent, black and white pattern picture cards), will blink when an object is moved close to their face, will look in the direction of an interesting sound, be startled by loud noises, sensitive to feeling warm and cold
  • 2-3 months: Color vision is mature, can recognize faces
  • 4 months: The ability to localize sound becomes more voluntary
  • 6-12 months: Visual ability has improved rapidly and by 12 months is the same as an adult

A Baby’s Cognitive Developmental Stages

Cognition refers to the ability of having knowledge, and the process of acquiring knowledge. The psychologist Jean Piaget called the development of cognitive ability in babies the “sensorimotor stage.”

Below is a summary of a baby’s month by month intellectual milestones, based on Piaget’s theory:

  • 0-1 month: Refining of inborn reflexes (for example: can change the way of sucking to fit different shaped objects in mouth)
  • 1-4 months: Will repeat interesting actions involving their own body (for example: repeatedly blow bubbles, kick legs or suck fingers)
  • 4-8 months: Will repeat interesting actions on objects (for example: swipe a mobile to make it move, repeatedly shake a rattle)
  • 8-12 months: Capable of combining actions to solve simple problems (for example: move something that is in the way in order to grasp an object)

Learning Developmental Milestones for Babies

Infants show a determination to master their environments, and this is known as mastery motivation.

This is an important aspect of infant development as the level of mastery motivation affects his or her later achievement in life.

Although mastery motivation appears to be innate in all babies, it is difficult to determine month by month learning milestones.

This is because the ability for learning differs greatly for each baby and some infants appear to be more mastery motivated than others.

For example, when given a new pushing toy, one baby may simply look at it whereas another may bang it and push it back and forth.

Infancy is a critical period for stimulating growing minds and parents can increase their babies learning ability by doing the following:

  • Provide sensory stimulation that arouses and amuses their baby. For example: tickling and bouncing them, playing games of pat-a-cake, and giving them stimulating toys.
  • Provide a responsive environment which encourages baby to understand they are capable of controlling their environment. For example: returning smiles and coos with your baby.

Personality Developmental Milestones for Baby

The development of personality in infants refers to the awareness that they exist, and that they are a distinct individual.

Most researchers believe that babies are born without a sense of self and that this ability is learned.

Below is a summary of the month by month development of the sense of self and personality in an infant:

  • 0-2 months: no sense of self as an individual
  • 2-3 months: discover they can cause things to happen
  • up to 6 months: discover their physical self, distinguish between the self and the world around them, and learn that they can act upon other people and objects
  • 6-12 months: realize that they and other people are separate beings with different perspectives. For example when a baby points at an object and looks to a parent to see what their reaction is

An Infant’s Social and Moral Development

Social cognition refers to the ability to think about groups of people and whole social systems.

Infants do not have the ability to understand the personalities of other people or to recognize that others have distinct motives, feelings and thoughts.

Infants do, however, learn to know their parents and other companions by appearance and are able to have expectations on how they will behave.

Moral development refers to the ability to determine right from wrong.

Babies are viewed as amoral, meaning that they do not have an understanding of right and wrong behavior.

It is through social learning experiences learned over many years that children come to understand morals.

Infants can, however, show signs of prosocial behavior and empathy for others. For example, if a baby sees another baby upset, she may become upset herself, or bring her own mother to comfort the other child.

Emotional Developmental Stages for Infants

The researcher Caroll Izard found that basic emotions play distinct roles in motivating and organizing behavior in infants.

The emergence of primary emotions generally occurs in all normal infants at approximately the same time.

Below is a summary of the month by month developmental stages of emotion emergence in babies:

  • 0-2 months: Contentment, interest and distress
  • 2-3 months: Contentment becomes joy or excitement (for example when they see their mothers face), interest becomes surprise, and distress becomes disgust or sadness
  • 4 months: Anger
  • 5-7 months: Fear
  • by 12 months: Able to regulate their emotions (for example actively seeking out a parent when they are upset in order to feel better)

Attachment Developmental Milestones for Baby

The journey of social development begins with the very first human bond – between the baby and their primary caregiver.

This bond is known as an attachment, and has been said to lay the foundations for all later relationships.

Below is a summary of the month by month development of attachment in babies:

  • 0-2 months: Responsive to voices and faces but there is no sign of preference for one person over another
  • 2-7 months: Starts to express preferences for caregivers and familiar companions
  • 7 months onwards: Form their first clear attachments, usually with their mother. Within weeks of their first attachment babies usually form attachments with other people as well such as fathers, siblings and grandparents.

A Final Note on the Developmental Milestones of a Baby

This article has outlined the average age of mastery infants have for each developmental area, on a month to month basis.

The information has been attained from various research conducted on infants.

Please keep in mind that many babies may achieve these various developmental milestones at an earlier, or later time.

If you have any concerns about your baby’s development, please consult your doctor or early childhood nurse.

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