15 Developmental Warning Signs The Doctor Needs To Know About

As soon as one becomes a parent, one will start to read about developmental milestones. While important, these can drive any parent crazy with worry.

As soon as one becomes a parent, one will start to read about developmental milestones. A mother will wait excitedly to see when her baby will smile, sit, walk, and talk and she will become concerned when her child is not doing “what the book says” by a particular age.

The thing about developmental milestones is that they are different for everyone. Your baby might smile at two weeks, and your friends' babies might not smile until five weeks. Later on, you might discover your friend's baby is sitting up unaided while your little one is still slipping sideways in a pile of pillows.

Sometimes children do not reach their developmental milestones at a reasonable time, and this can happen for a number of reasons. It may be your child just happens to be a bit behind in that area and will catch up unaided. It might be that they have a physical condition causing their delay or it may be a neurological condition.

If you are concerned talk to your healthcare professional and try to remember if your child does have a delay it is not the end of the world; you may just end up on a different path to the one you had imagined.

15Doesn't Quieten At The Sound Of Familiar Voices

Your baby will begin to recognize your voice while he is still in the womb. Although the sound will be muffled by the amniotic fluid he floats in, everything from the times you use to the unique rhythm of your speech will become familiar to him.

When your little fella has been introduced to the world, those tones and sounds will sound slightly different, but the rhythm of your speech will remain the same. As the first few weeks pass your baby adjusts to the differences. The sound of the voices of people familiar to him will become associated with comfort. When your child cries, he should begin, at times to calm down at the sound of a familiar voice.

If by two months, your baby does not show any signs of calming at the sound of a familiar voice there may be issues with his hearing, and you should have it checked as soon as possible.

14Still Feels Particularly Floppy

It is normal for your baby to start out life quite floppy and to need plenty of support. This floppy feeling will gradually decrease as your child grows older and is nothing about which you should worry.

However if, after your baby has passed the two-month mark, she remains floppy it may indicate a problem with muscle tone.

Hypotonia is the name given to low muscle tone which is not the same as weak muscles so it cannot be fixed by exercising the muscles. Low muscle tone can be a symptom of a large variety of diseases and disorders. Some may be benign, and no cause for the low muscle tone is found. These children usually catch up eventually. Some causes are serious, so it is important to take your child to see your healthcare provider as soon as you become concerned.

13Doesn’t Notice His Own Hands

In the first few weeks, your baby's hands will probably remain quite tightly clenched most of the time and will start to unfurl and relax over the first two months.

Somewhere around this period your little one will be waving his arms around and might hit one hand with the other. This is his first step in recognizing those things with the wiggly little sausages on them are connected to him. Shortly after this stage, when he has realized those hands are his, your child will start to reach out for items, grasp them, and bring them to his mouth.

If your baby has not started this process by the age of three months, it is worth taking him to see your healthcare provider. It might be that your little fella is just at the late end of this developmental stage or it could signify a problem in the way he is processing what he is seeing and feeling.

12Doesn't Startle To Loud Noises

Everybody with a newborn knows that the last thing you want is loud, startling sounds waking her up when you have just spent the best part of two hours getting her to sleep. Having said that, you should not tiptoe around your sleeping baby, instead, make an average household level of noise, play music at a comfortable volume, etc.

Your baby will have started hearing in the womb at some point between 23 and 27 weeks. If you have a noisy household, a barking dog or a screeching toddler, it is possible she doesn’t startle because she is used to those sounds.

If you are concerned, clap your hands to one side of your baby and then the other. She should react to this, even if it is a slight blink. If not, take her to the doctor. Sometimes a cold can cause a baby to have blocked ears, and because they are so small, this blockage can persist for some time and possibly affect her hearing.

11Doesn’t Pay Attention To Faces

By the second month, your baby should be trying out his smile. This is usually the first milestone that melts a parents heart and often happens just when you are exhausted and wondering “what did I get myself into?”

This is a major step towards learning the intricacies of social interaction. By exchanging smiles, making eye contact and talking with your baby you are teaching her that when she smiles and makes eye contact she is ‘rewarded’ by receiving the same in return.

Don’t worry if your baby smiles but doesn’t make eye contact at the same time, to begin with; this is normal development. When you should be concerned is, if, by three months, your child is not showing an interest in any faces, making eye contact with anyone or smiling.

10Isn’t Cooing Or Babbling

Once your baby has reached four months, you should be hearing some kinds of cooing or babbling from her. At this stage, your bundle of joy will be starting to try out different sounds, and you will often notice that she can make a sound that shows how she is feeling, i.e., a happy squeal. Four months is too soon to expect speech sounds like a ‘ba’ or a ‘ma’ sound, but you can expect the random baby babble noises.

If your baby has been making these noises and has stopped it may be something as simple as she if feeling off color, is tired or is focussing on other areas of development so don’t worry immediately.

However, if your child hasn’t started making this type of sound by four months, it is worth having her hearing checked as some people have hearing difficulties in particular frequencies, including the frequency of speech.

9Isn't Bringing Objects To His Mouth

When your baby is crawling around the floor, you will be worried by the fact that he is putting anything and everything he finds in his mouth. However, if he has not begun to bring objects up towards his mouth by the end of his fourth month, it might be worth having him checked out by a healthcare professional.

It may be nothing but it could be a sign that he is having difficulty controlling his arms which are a gross motor issue, trouble coordinating his fingers to pick things up, which is a fine motor skills issue or he may have a lack of awareness of his mouth which may be an indication that your baby will have difficulties with speech.

However, do not panic, it may just be you have got lucky and didn't have a baby that will put everything in their mouth.

8Still Has Her Moro Reflex

The Moro Reflex is perhaps one of the most readily recognized of the newborn reflexes. When your baby is startled, she is likely to throw her arms and legs outwards and become stiff. This is usually in response to her head flopping backward, a sudden touch or movement or a loud, startling noise.

If your baby still has the Moro reflex beyond four months, it is important to have her assessed by a pediatric developmental specialist. This retained reflex can be a sign that your child will be affected by sensory processing issues, ADHD, autism or other similar neurological disorders as they grow.

The greatest success rate for children who fall into this category comes from early intervention, support, and monitoring. If your baby does have a developmental delay of this kind the earlier you can have her diagnosed and helped, the better the outcome for you all.

7Doesn’t Smile Without Prompting

The back and forth smiling that your baby began to develop at around two months was his first foray into being social. By the time the end of the fifth-month mark has come around your little fella should have worked out that by smiling at someone he will receive a smile in return and that this feels good.

When a child does not begin to initiate these social interactions by the end of the fifth month, it might be that your baby is not a particularly smiley baby and that he doesn’t feel the need to interact this way.

On the other hand, it may indicate a problem in your child's social development that may require addressing. This reluctance to initiate an interaction may be a sign of a developmental delay that requires professional help.

6Isn’t Rolling Over In One Direction

Of all of the milestones in this list the ‘rolling over milestone’ is the most variable. If it has reached the end of the sixth month and your baby is pushing and pushing and almost but not quite rolling over in one direction then do not worry. The fact that he is trying his hardest and is so very nearly there means he is unlikely to have any issues. This is more about those babies who are not close or show no signs of trying.

The first thing you should look at is if they are getting plenty of time on the floor, on their tummy to practice rolling. If your child spends lots of time in a stroller, in your arms, or in a baby sling, he may not have had enough time on the floor to build up the strength needed in his muscles in order to roll over.

5Doesn't Try To Imitate Sounds

Once your child has reached the six-month stage, you should be used to her cooing and babbling and begin to notice her trying to say ‘ma’ or ‘da’ when you say ‘mama’ or ‘dada’ to her. This doesn’t mean she will be clearly repeating words back to you just that it will be clear she is trying.

These initial sounds may be only a ‘b, ’ or ‘d’ sound, and you might have to listen very carefully to hear them, but by this stage, she should be attempting to make them. These foundations for speech are essential for your baby to practice. By doing so, she is strengthening the muscles in her mouth and learning to control them in order to make the sound that she wants.

Failure to try by this age could be a neurological or physical delay and should be assessed by your healthcare professional.

4Reaches Out With Only One Hand

During the first few months your baby will often sit with tightly fisted hands and reach out with one hand while the other is still fisted is not unusual. However, by the time six months has rolled around this newborn tightness should have left and your baby should either reach out with both hands or, if she only reaches out with one, the unused hand should remain relaxed.

This one-sided tightness could be a sign of a type of cerebral palsy known as hemiplegia where one side of the body is affected by a brain injury. This injury may have occurred during birth or during development in the womb and is usually ‘just one of those things.'

People with hemiplegia can have a varying degree of difficulty controlling the movement in the muscles on one side of their body. It is an incurable condition, but early intervention can help considerably with movement later in life.

3Doesn't Laugh Or Squeal

This developmental milestone can be interpreted in different ways and often causes worry for parents. They read that their baby should be laughing or squealing and when their little one is not rolling around on the floor giggling for hours at their funny faces, those parents start to worry.

As long as your child has laughed or squealed at some point before the end of 6 months, there is no need to worry. Just like adults babies come in all shapes and sizes in the personality department. Your child may just be one of the stoic types who prefer to watch quietly and not crack up laughing at every game of peek-a-boo.

On the other hand, if your 6-month-old has shown no signs of enjoying social and interactive games, has never laughed or squealed and doesn’t show any signs of making a joyful noise then ensure you share this information with your healthcare professional.

2Cannot Sit Up Unsupported

Spending our time sitting, standing and moving between the two all day, it is easy to forget what a complex machine the human body is and how much there is to master in order for us to control it. This is why your baby needs lots of tummy time and to be placed in many different environments in many different positions - so she can become used to the feel of her body and learn how to control it.

From around four months your baby should be able to sit supported, and she will begin working on her balance. By six or seven months she should be able to manage the ‘tripod sit’ where she can sit unaided with her hands on the floor for support, and by nine months she should be skilled and confident enough to lose the hand support and sit up all by herself.

1Doesn't Babble Consonants And Vowels

The first ‘mama’ or ‘dada’ is an exceptional day for all parents. It an affirmation that your child knows you and does actually like you after all!

Like all milestones, if your little one is almost there on this point do not worry. A baby who is confidently making a number of different sounds in different situations is unlikely to have a developmental delay. It is more likely your little one is busy taking in the world around him, working at controlling those muscles and will reward you for all of your hard work any day now.

It is only if, by this stage, your child is showing no signs of making these sounds that you should consider an assessment with your healthcare professional.

If it is any comfort, our son did not say a recognizable word until he was almost 18 months old and we were desperate for him to talk. Now he is grown, and most of the time we are desperate for him to stop talking most of the time.

Sources: WebMD, CDC,,

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