The first year of a baby’s life is a time of incredible growth physically, mentally and socially. There’s no other time in their lives when so much is happening to them during a relatively short period of time. For instance, as they grow their physical features begin to change, they gain more and more information about the world and people around them as their capacity to retain information increases. Parents will notice their babies start to slowly exert their own independence. During this time of growth and discovery, they’re also introduced to new foods, incredibly they learn how to walk and talk (their vocabulary begins to grow exponentially as they continue to learn) and parents begin to get hints as to the type of personality their child will develop. Babies who were once laid back may become more active and inquisitive as they explore and demand to see and do more. They’re constantly learning, watching their parents for cues and storing away every bit of information they encounter. It’s truly amazing to watch and be a part of.
During the first year, babies are forming close bonds with their immediate family members. They’re memorizing the faces (and even the smells) of parents and siblings. These bonds become stronger over time and lay the foundation for their developing relationship. From the time they’re newborns to when they become toddlers who become increasingly more aware of the world around them, every month holds something new. Each month is marked by a distinct milestone. Keep in mind that every child is different and may hit milestones at different times, the following markers are a good indication of how well a baby is developing but aren’t concrete rules.
12 Month 1
From the time they’re born, babies recognize their mother’s voice. This is no surprise since they spent several months listening to it while in the womb. If a newborn hears their mother’s voice, they’ll turn their head in her direction to listen. How amazing is that?
The first month is also marked by a lot of sleeping. While in the womb babies spent many hours sleeping so it only makes sense that this continues. Also, the birthing process not only drains a mother’s energy but also that of a baby. They’re working hard as well. When babies aren’t sleeping they’re eating…a lot. For mothers who choose to breastfeed, you’ll notice an increase in your milk supply during this time. As a result, babies begin to gain more weight (which is important).
Since newborns can’t communicate with words yet, they cry…often. Over time parents will be able to decipher what each cry means; whether it’s time for a diaper change, they’re hungry, tired or have had enough of a toy. Various studies have shown that it’s OK to let a baby cry for a little while or to pick them up as soon as they start crying. It’s up to you. Babies are too young to understand how to use this as a way of getting more attention. Give them a few months for that. Crying may also be due to colic. Fortunately, this condition doesn’t last for very long and is usually not an issue by the time a baby reaches three or four months old.
11 Month 2
At this point babies begin to learn how to smile voluntarily. While it’s not yet a sign of their current temperament (they’re usually experimenting with what they can do and imitating a smiling parent), a toothless, drool filled smile is what every parent waits to see. Babies are also able to better recognize the faces of their parents now, especially the face of their mother since a lot of time is spent gazing at each other during feeding times.
Another milestone? At two months, babies begin to gain control of their neck muscles and can start to hold their heads up for a few short seconds during tummy time. This may also be accompanied by their first efforts to form words. Don’t be surprised when you start hearing vowel sounds such as “oh” and “ah” as your little one tries to strike up a conversation.
10 Month 3
The vowel sounds that babies starting making in their second month will pave the way for cooing. Babies start to become aware of sounds around them and will turn to see what made the noise. At this point they’ve also discovered their hands, which you’ll find are constantly in their mouths. Along with this discovery they’ll want to test their capabilities to see what they can do with them. They may have accidentally grasped the umbilical cord while in the womb but now that they’re three months old, they’ll try to intentionally grasp toys with their hands. It’s not always easy for them but you can help by handing toys to your baby and letting them explore them.
Since babies will now be awake for longer stretches of time, they love to interact and will watch you intently. Every move or sound you make is being memorized and stored away for future use. Babies enjoy eye contact at this point and being talked or read to. It further solidifies the bond between you and your child.
9 Month 4
Babies are now becoming considerably more sociable and will start to laugh voluntarily. They’ll also begin to test out more vocal sounds (such as “ah goo”). You may find that you’ve got a very expressive baby on your hands. Talk back to them because this encourages them to keep trying. They can even begin to recognize their own name.
At four months’ babies can roll from their stomach to their back. This is quite a feat considering they’ve spent the last three months immobile and dependant on parents for movement. Fortunately, at this age babies aren’t quite mobile yet so you don’t have to worry about chasing your little one. However, it’s still a good idea to start baby proofing the house since your baby will start crawling in upcoming months.
Because their neck muscles are stronger, babies can sit up with help (for example, if propped up with a nursing pillow) and hold their heads up. They can also stand up and put weight on their legs with help.
For some parents this month brings about some calm for them because their baby has begun to sleep through the night!
8 Month 5
Now that your baby has begun to master the art of using their hands, they now have a stronger grip on items and can turn them around in their hands. At this age they’ll also enjoy games such as peek-a-boo because they beginning to understand that an object still exists even when they can’t see it. This is known as object permanence. Another fun, developmental game is to partially hide an object under a blanket and let your child find it.
By now, babies have spent many months listening to the world around them so they will experiment more with vowel sounds as they become more confident with babbling.
Teething may begin this month which may result in babies being a little more cranky than usual. It’s a painful process but as more teeth push through their gums, they adjust to the feeling and their crankiness eventually subsides.
7 Month 6
At six months’ babies are now able to sit up without help. This is a huge step for them because they can now see and interact with the world from a new angle. In addition to this, they’re able to roll from their back to their stomach and from their stomach to their back. Combined, these are your baby’s way of preparing themselves for crawling and eventually walking. They’re building up their coordination and endurance.
Another key milestone; your baby is now able to start ingesting solid foods. Introduce new foods slowly and one at a time so if your baby has an allergic reaction you’ll know exactly which food caused it. As their taste buds adjust to new flavours, consider experimenting with fruit and vegetable combinations. You’ll begin to get a sense of the purees your baby prefers.
At this age babies are still very fascinated by objects and every parent knows that their little one explores the world with their mouths. Everything they find, edible or not, will end up in their mouths so parents have to be extra vigilant from this point forward.
6 Month 7
At this age babies start to recognize familiar sounds around the home. Sounds from a pet or appliance will be fascinating for them. Another step to them learning how to talk will include them imitating simple sounds you make.
All the preparation in prior months has led to this, babies are now able to start crawling. If you haven’t already baby proofed your home, it’s a must now that your baby is mobile and ready to explore. They’ll want to experiment with their new found independence so a tear or two might be shed if they’re interrupted in the midst of a very important task (for example, crawling to get to a favourite toy).
You will notice that your baby’s appetite has begun to increase. For this reason, introducing snacking is acceptable because it balances out your baby’s diet. If you choose, you can continue to supplement meals with breastfeeding or formula. Pediatricians typically say its best to continue until your baby is at least a year old but it’s entirely up to you how long you choose to proceed from here.
5 Month 8
At eight months’ babies have gained more control of their hands and can clap and wave bye-bye (grandparents love this). Babies can now pick up smaller objects with their thumb and forefinger which is a good indication that they can start feeding themselves. Keep in mind that this will likely be a messy event since babies love to experiment with the texture of their foods and may find more enjoyment playing with it than eating it. More food will inevitably end up on them that in them.
Don’t be alarmed if your baby isn’t crawling yet, some babies skip this step altogether and go from sitting to walking (they may creep a little in between).
Babies are still experimenting with sounds so conversations with them are encouraged. Baby sign language is a great way to teach your child a few basic words so that they can begin communicating more with you.
4 Month 9
Now your baby will begin to babble more and use vowels and consonants (you may hear “uh oh”). They’re listening carefully to inflections in your speech and will try to imitate them. They can also begin to understand simple instructions such as “pick up the toy” or “give that toy to mommy”.
In addition to feeding themselves, they can now independently drink from a sippy cup with confidence. It’s always wise to keep an eye on a young child while they’re drinking to avoid choking.
At this point in their development, their sleeping habits may change suddenly which may leave them wide awake at night or sleepy during the day. This can be frustrating (not to mention exhausting) for you but is entirely normal. It won’t last, babies eventually get back to a routine that’s best for everyone.
You will also notice that your little one has become more social and ready to interact with other babies their age. Finding play groups is a great way to encourage this and give your child the opportunity to make new friends.
3 Month 10
After months of practicing, this is where everything comes together. You’ll notice that your little one will begin to pull themselves up to standing while holding onto something. This is the final step before walking unassisted. As they hold on to something they’ll experiment by taking a few tentative steps on their own. Babies will feel encouraged if you hold their hand for balance and walk with them. Some adventurous babies are able to start climbing at this age. For this reason, it’s very important that they’re never be left unattended to avoid injury.
Their previously growing appetite may start to wane as they noticeably eat a little less. Don’t panic, this is normal and is due to their slowed growth rate.
At this age babies still love to explore, so further baby proofing is needed to ensure dangerous items are out of their each. You’ll also notice that more teeth are starting to sprout in their mouths.
2 Month 11
Babies will continue to practice walking by taking more confident steps when holding onto something. Part of this practice is learning to stand on their own. To show their ever growing confidence they may point at objects they want or are fascinated by instead of using crying as a way to communicate.
Because babies have spent several months watching your actions, they’ll begin to imitate these actions. Your little one will try to comb their own hair, pretend to cleanup or even “talk” on the phone.
Because babies have now formed a close bond with their parents, they may suffer from separation anxiety when you leave. They’re also more aware of strangers and are less sociable around them than when they were younger. You can help with this process by building trust between your child and a new adult. Once they feel safe, your little one is more likely to be calm when you have to leave.
1 Month 12
At 12 months, babies begin to form their first words. Parents who have been waiting patiently will begin to hear the highly coveted “mama” and “dada”. You may also start hearing the dreaded “no”. Nevertheless, to encourage speaking, read to your child. They love being read to and may want to read the same book more than once. As boring as this may be for you as a parent, indulge them as this is how they learn at this stage. Their confidence also builds as they learn more but it’s important to keep in mind that every child learns at their own pace. They’re all different so unless they’ve completely missed key milestones, there’s little to worry about. They have a tendency to figure things out on their own.
By now, most babies can walk on their own unassisted but some may take another month or two to master this. Again, it’s not a concern if they’re not walking but the majority of babies will have started trying to take a few steps by now.