I’m a child development specialist and one of the most common questions parents ask me is about developmental milestones. Here is a brief overview of the normal developmental milestones for infants during the first year.
At birth, your infant has limited control over her body. This is because most movement is dominated by reflexes, which are involuntary muscle reactions to certain types of input. At rest, a full-term newborn stays in a flexed position for much of the time, which means the arms and shoulders are held tight against the body, with elbows bent, hands fisted, knees and hips flexed, and the spine slightly curved inward. If you think about it, this is the position that your baby typically maintained in the womb. You may also notice that when awake and positioned on the back, your baby sometimes moves her arms and legs randomly and vigorously, and that the arms and legs always return back to the flexed position. This is quite normal. At this point in your infant’s development there is little to no trunk or head control, and when you hold your baby in a sitting position or over your shoulder, she may try to lift her head, but she will not be able to maintain this effort for long.
One to Three Months
Over the first three months, your infant will begin to stretch out his arms and legs, and demonstrate slightly improved neck, head and trunk control. This is because the spine is becoming more flexible, and the trunk, shoulder and hip muscles are all beginning to get stronger. As this occurs, baby can move his arms and legs with more control, and towards the end of the third month he will begin to bring his hands together, swipe at toys, and touch different parts of his own body. He will also be able to prop up on his forearms with supervision and sit upright with assistance. He will need much support for this activity, because although trunk control has increased, it is nowhere near fully developed.
Four to Six Months
From four to six months of age, you will observe dramatic changes in your infant’s motor skill abilities. Head, neck and trunk control will continue to improve, and by the end of the sixth month, it is likely that your baby will be able to sit without support, although she will probably be somewhat unstable in this position. Movements that began as random and undirected will become more controlled and refined. Baby will begin to reach for and grasp toys and other objects using a very basic grasp. Around four to six months, your infant will begin to roll independently from the stomach to the back, and by six months, she will likely be rolling from the back to the stomach.
Seven to Twelve Months
By the time your baby reaches seven months of age, you will be so proud of his accomplishments. At this point in his development, his is on the threshold of gaining independence in exploring the world. Around seven months, your baby will begin to sit up independently. If you place him on his back, he won’t stay in that position for long, as he will likely flip over onto his stomach so that he has more control and can better visually and physically explore the surroundings. Once your baby is able to sit without support, it won’t be long before he starts crawling on his hands and knees. If baby uses another method of locomotion, such as scooting around on his bottom, rolling, or pulling himself with his stomach dragging the floor, you’ll want to encourage him to get on all fours in a crawling position as much as possible. With your guidance, he can learn how to rock back and forth in this position and push off to get moving. This is the beginning of the important stage of crawling!