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Developmental Milestones

When it comes to your baby's developmental milestones, what's normal? Cook Children's pediatricians can help you with answers every step, and milestone, of the way.

Every day your baby is growing and changing at a rapid pace. Many factors can influence these changes, including your child's genetic makeup, the environment in which you raise them, nutrition, medical care and more.

Kids achieve developmental milestones by general age ranges, but a delay in achieving certain skills does not necessarily mean that your child is 'developmentally delayed.' A new paretn should remember that "normal" is expressed in many different ways.

A baby is an individual and his or her personality will start developing from birth. As you spend more time with your baby, you'll learn more about their personality. In addition, you'll notice changes in your child's body systems that can be categorized into motoric, sensory and cognitive components. Typical development occurs in stages. Knowing these can provide a general guideline to help you track your child's progress.

3 months:

  • Physical development: Your baby is beginning to explore his or her environment and will start to push up the arms and lift the head up for a short period of time.
  • Speech development: You will notice your baby's ability to suck and swallow will refine during feedings, they will coo to the sound of your voice and smile and turn their head in response to sound.
  • Play development: When playing, your baby will be able to follow toys with his or her eyes and may reach for them. They will also be able to position his or her head when interacting with people or the environment.

6 months:

  • Physical development: Your baby is getting stronger, and will begin sitting up with the use of his or her hands and be able to explore the environment by rolling from back to stomach. You'll notice that your baby begins to tolerate supported standing with full weight through the legs.
  • Speech development: What an exciting time for progress with your baby's communication! Your baby will now start to babble in order to get your attention. Make sure to keep cereals and pureed foods handy, as your baby is now ready to start eating these foods.
  • Play development: Tummy time is important during this stage of development and you will notice your baby reaching for objects when placed on his or her stomach. When on their back, your baby will be able to hold onto feet during play.

9 months:

  • Physical development: Your baby is getting stronger and should be able to sit up and reach for toys without a loss of balance, transition from the floor to sitting on their own and crawl using opposite hand/knee movement.
  • Speech development: During this time, your baby will be able to visually recognize familiar people and toys when named and will now begin eating mashed table foods.
  • Play development: You'll notice your baby will use both hands to play with toys and will start mimicking others.

12 months:

  • Physical development: During this time of rapid growth, your baby's leg strength will truly begin to progress with pull-to-stand movements and walking alongside furniture with two-handed support. Your baby may begin to stand independently and even take a few steps!
  • Speech development: Get ready to hear 'mama' and 'dada' frequently as your baby now will be able to call you by name and will be able to follow one-step instructions.
  • Play development: With play, your baby will be able to use a pincer grasp to hold onto tiny objects/toys and be able to grab and release toys/objects. At this time, your baby will also be able to start feeding independently using his or her fingers.

Though the above characteristics of movement, speech and play development are typically seen in normal developing babies, don't panic if milestones are not met right on time. Some kids develop at a more rapid rate, while others may take a little longer.

There are some red flags to watch for that may indicate an appointment with your baby's pediatrician is needed. If an issue is identified, your baby may potentially be referred to a developmental therapist (physical, speech or occupational). Examples, not inclusive to all signs, include:

  • Stiff movements, remaining consistent throughout the first 3-6 months of life.
  • Decreased arm movements or asymmetrical arm movements that last through 9 months of age.
  • A rounded back.
  • Inconsistent visual tracking or lack of turning toward noises.
  • Difficulty putting full weight through legs or needed hand support during sitting at 12 months of age.
  • Frequent toe-walking at 12 months and older.

Remember, each child is unique and develops at a different rate. Though it is important to monitor your child's development, it is also important to allow your child to develop at his or her own pace and realize that 'normal' can be defined differently for each child.

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