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Baby's First Year Developmental Milestones

Aurora, Colorado, Newborn Photographer

Skills such as taking a first step, smiling for the first time, and waving “bye-bye” are called developmental milestones. Developmental milestones are things most children can do by a certain age. Children reach milestones in how they play, learn, speak, behave, and move (like crawling, walking, or jumping).

In the first year, babies learn to focus their vision, reach out, explore, and learn about the things that are around them. Cognitive, or brain development means the learning process of memory, language, thinking, and reasoning. Learning language is more than making sounds (“babble”), or saying “ma-ma” and “da-da”. Listening, understanding, and knowing the names of people and things are all a part of language development. During this stage, babies also are developing bonds of love and trust with their parents and others as part of social and emotional development. The way parents cuddle, hold, and play with their baby will set the basis for how they will interact with them and others.

Positive Parenting Tips

Following are some things you, as a parent, can do to help your baby during this time:
  • Talk to your baby. She will find your voice calming.

  • Answer when your baby makes sounds by repeating the sounds and adding words. This will help him learn to use language.

  • Read to your baby. This will help her develop and understand language and sounds.

  • Sing to your baby and play music. This will help your baby develop a love for music and will help his brain development.

  • Praise your baby and give her lots of loving attention.

  • Spend time cuddling and holding your baby. This will help him feel cared for and secure.

  • Play with your baby when she’s alert and relaxed. Watch your baby closely for signs of being tired or fussy so that she can take a break from playing.

  • Distract your baby with toys and move him to safe areas when he starts moving and touching things that he shouldn’t touch.

  • Take care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally. Parenting can be hard work! It is easier to enjoy your new baby and be a positive, loving parent when you are feeling good yourself.

Child Safety First

When a baby becomes part of your family, it is time to make sure that your home is a safe place. Look around your home for things that could be dangerous to your baby. As a parent, it is your job to ensure that you create a safe home for your baby. It also is important that you take the necessary steps to make sure that you are mentally and emotionally ready for your new baby. Here are a few tips to keep your baby safe:

  • Do not shake your baby―ever! Babies have very weak neck muscles that are not yet able to support their heads. If you shake your baby, you can damage his brain or even cause his death.

  • Make sure you always put your baby to sleep on her back to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (commonly known as SIDS). Read more about new recommendations for safe sleep for infants here.

  • Protect your baby and family from secondhand smoke. Do not allow anyone to smoke in your home.

  • Place your baby in a rear-facing car seat in the back seat while he is riding in a car. This is recommended by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration pdf icon[1.15 MB / 1 page]external icon.

  • Prevent your baby from choking by cutting her food into small bites. Also, don’t let her play with small toys and other things that might be easy for her to swallow.

  • Don’t allow your baby to play with anything that might cover her face.

  • Never carry hot liquids or foods near your baby or while holding him.

  • Vaccines (shots) are important to protect your child’s health and safety. Because children can get serious diseases, it is important that your child get the right shots at the right time. Talk with your child’s doctor to make sure that your child is up-to-date on her vaccinations.

Healthy Bodies

  • Breast milk meets all your baby’s needs for about the first 6 months of life. Between 6 and 12 months of age, your baby will learn about new tastes and textures with healthy solid food, but breast milk should still be an important source of nutrition.

  • Feed your baby slowly and patiently, encourage your baby to try new tastes but without force, and watch closely to see if he’s still hungry.

  • Breastfeeding is the natural way to feed your baby, but it can be challenging. If you need help, you can call the National Breastfeeding Helpline at 800-994-9662 or get help on-line at icon. You can also call your local WIC Program to see if you qualify for breastfeeding support by health professionals as well as peer counselors or use an online directory to find an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultantexternal icon in your community.

  • Keep your baby active. She might not be able to run and play like the “big kids” just yet, but there’s lots she can do to keep her little arms and legs moving throughout the day. Getting down on the floor to move helps your baby become strong, learn, and explore.

  • Try not to keep your baby in swings, strollers, bouncer seats, and exercise saucers for too long.

  • Limit screen time. For children younger than 18 months of age, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that it’s best if babies do not use any screen media other than video chatting.

  • Make sure your child gets the recommended amount of sleep each night: For infants 4-12 months, 12–16 hours per 24 hours (including naps)

Here is a brief by months.

Age: 2 months old.

What most babies do by this age:

Social and Emotional
  • Begins to smile at people

  • Can briefly calm herself (may bring hands to mouth and suck on hand)

  • Tries to look at parent

  • Pays attention to faces

  • Begins to follow things with eyes and recognize people at a distance

  • Begins to act bored (cries, fussy) if activity doesn’t change video icon

  • Coos, makes gurgling sounds video icon

  • Turns head toward sounds video icon

Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)

Movement/Physical Development

  • Can hold head up and begins to push up when lying on tummy

  • Makes smoother movements with arms and legs video icon

Act early by talking to your child’s doctor if your child:

  • Doesn’t watch things as they move

  • Does not respond to loud sounds

  • Doesn’t smile at people

  • Doesn’t bring hands to mouth

  • Can’t hold head up when pushing up when on tummy

Age: 4 months old

What most babies do by this age:

Social and Emotional
  • Smiles spontaneously, especially at people

  • Likes to play with people and might cry when playing stops video icon

  • Copies some movements and facial expressions, like smiling or frowning video icon

  • Begins to babble video icon

  • Babbles with expression and copies sounds he hears video icon

  • Cries in different ways to show hunger, pain, or being tired

Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
  • Lets you know if he is happy or sad

  • Responds to affection video icon

  • Reaches for toy with one hand

  • Uses hands and eyes together, such as seeing a toy and reaching for it

  • Follows moving things with eyes from side to side

  • Watches faces closely

  • Recognizes familiar people and things at a distance video icon

Movement/Physical Development
  • Holds head steady, unsupported

  • Pushes down on legs when feet are on a hard surface

  • May be able to roll over from tummy to back

  • Can hold a toy and shake it and swing at dangling toys

  • Brings hands to mouth video icon

  • When lying on stomach, pushes up to elbows

Act early by talking to your child’s doctor if your child:

  • Doesn’t watch things as they move

  • Doesn’t smile at people

  • Can’t hold head steady

  • Doesn’t coo or make sounds

  • Doesn’t bring things to mouth

  • Doesn’t push down with legs when feet are placed on a hard surface

  • Has trouble moving one or both eyes in all directions

6 months old.

What most babies do by this age:

Social and Emotional
  • Knows familiar faces and begins to know if someone is a stranger

  • Likes to play with others, especially parents

  • Responds to other people’s emotions and often seems happy video icon

  • Likes to look at self in a mirror

  • Responds to sounds by making sounds video icon

  • Strings vowels together when babbling (“ah,” “eh,” “oh”) and likes taking turns with parent while making sounds video icon

  • Responds to own name video icon

  • Makes sounds to show joy and displeasure video icon

  • Begins to say consonant sounds (jabbering with “m,” “b”) video icon

Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
  • Looks around at things nearby video icon

  • Brings things to mouth

  • Shows curiosity about things and tries to get things that are out of reach

  • Begins to pass things from one hand to the other

Movement/Physical Development
  • Rolls over in both directions (front to back, back to front) video icon

  • Begins to sit without support

  • When standing, supports weight on legs and might bounce video icon

  • Rocks back and forth, sometimes crawling backward before moving forward.

Act early by talking to your child’s doctor if your child:

  • Doesn’t try to get things that are in reach

  • Shows no affection for caregivers

  • Doesn’t respond to sounds around him

  • Has difficulty getting things to mouth

  • Doesn’t make vowel sounds (“ah”, “eh”, “oh”)

  • Doesn’t roll over in either direction

  • Doesn’t laugh or make squealing sounds

  • Seems very stiff, with tight muscles

  • Seems very floppy, like a rag doll

Age: 9 months old.

What most babies do by this age:

Social and Emotional
  • May be afraid of strangers video icon

  • May be clingy with familiar adults video icon

  • Has favorite toys video icon

  • Understands “no” video icon

  • Makes a lot of different sounds like “mamamama” and “bababababa” video icon

  • Copies sounds and gestures of others

  • Uses fingers to point at things

Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
  • Watches the path of something as it falls video icon

  • Looks for things she sees you hide

  • Plays peek-a-boo video icon

  • Puts things in his mouth

  • Moves things smoothly from one hand to the other

  • Picks up things like cereal o’s between thumb and index finger

Movement/Physical Development
  • Stands, holding on

  • Can get into sitting position video icon

  • Sits without support

  • Pulls to stand

  • Crawls video icon

Act early by talking to your child’s doctor if your child:

  • Doesn’t bear weight on legs with support

  • Doesn’t sit with help

  • Doesn’t babble (“mama”, “baba”, “dada”)

  • Doesn’t play any games involving back-and-forth play

  • Doesn’t respond to own name

  • Doesn’t seem to recognize familiar people

  • Doesn’t look where you point

  • Doesn’t transfer toys from one hand to the other

Age: 12 months old.

What most children do by this age:

Social and Emotional
  • Is shy or nervous with strangers video icon

  • Cries when mom or dad leaves video icon

  • Has favorite things and people video icon

  • Shows fear in some situations video icon

  • Hands you a book when he wants to hear a story

  • Repeats sounds or actions to get attention video icon

  • Puts out arm or leg to help with dressing

  • Plays games such as “peek-a-boo” and “pat-a-cake”

  • Responds to simple spoken requests video icon

  • Uses simple gestures, like shaking head “no” or waving “bye-bye” video icon

  • Makes sounds with changes in tone (sounds more like speech) video icon

  • Says “mama” and “dada” and exclamations like “uh-oh!” video icon

  • Tries to say words you say video icon

Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
  • Explores things in different ways, like shaking, banging, throwing video icon

  • Finds hidden things easily

  • Looks at the right picture or thing when it’s named video icon

  • Copies gestures

  • Starts to use things correctly; for example, drinks from a cup, brushes hair video icon

  • Bangs two things together video icon

  • Puts things in a container, takes things out of a container video icon

  • Lets things go without help video icon

  • Pokes with index (pointer) finger

  • Follows simple directions like “pick up the toy” video icon

Movement/Physical Development
  • Gets to a sitting position without help

  • Pulls up to stand, walks holding on to furniture (“cruising”) video icon

  • May take a few steps without holding on video icon

  • May stand alone.

Act early by talking to your child’s doctor if your child:

  • Doesn’t crawl

  • Can’t stand when supported

  • Doesn’t search for things that she sees you hide

  • Doesn’t say single words like “mama” or “dada”

  • Doesn’t learn gestures like waving or shaking head

  • Doesn’t point to things

  • Loses skills he once had

Important information to have:

Tell your child’s doctor or nurse if you notice any of these signs of possible developmental delay for this age and ask for a developmental screening. Talk with someone in your community who is familiar with services for young children in your area, such as your state’s public early intervention program. For more information, visit our “If You’re Concerned” web page or call 1-800-CDC-INFO.

For more details, please refer to

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