The Milestones in Baby Development
Children experience rapid development, especially in the first five years. Your baby learns a tremendous amount every month: the first conscious smile, the first crawl, the first solid meal, the first word. In hardly any phase of life does your child go through as many important milestones as in the first 12 months. Getting to know their voice and the targeted use of their hands and feet are just some of the many remarkable steps in development. This guide is intended to give you tips on what you can do so that your child develops the best they can without stress. There is a lot to learn and to discover. Do not be unsettled if your child reaches the milestones listed here a little sooner or later. Just enjoy the time together and marvel at the progress your child is making.
ALL TOPICS AT A GLANCE
THE MILESTONES IN BABY DEVELOPMENT - AN INTRODUCTION
Hardly any other topic is discussed as much as a baby's sleep. In the first few months, they sleep a lot, as they collect a lot of impressions during the day and develop incredibly quickly. That costs energy. However, there is no such thing as “normal” baby sleep because infants sleep differently than adults.
It is like a little miracle when you wake up and notice that your child has slept through the night for the first time. Many parents long for it. However, it can take a while before this point in time occurs. So don't be unsettled if your friends ask you: "Your child hasn't slept through the night yet?"
Every child is different and has to get used to the day-night rhythm first. So, it stands to reason that a whole series of questions arise. For example, how much sleep is normal or from what point in time the baby will sleep through ... We would therefore like to answer the most important questions about baby sleep in our sleep-bag magazine. If you pay attention to a few things, you can make it easier for your darling to get used to their sleeping times.
WHAT REFLEXES DOES MY NEWBORN HAVE?
In the first few weeks, your child's movements are controlled purely by their reflexes. The sucking reflex is particularly pronounced. As soon as it feels a touch on the lips, they begin to suck. This reflex helps them to eat. They also move their head to one side when you touch their cheek. This is the search reflex where your newborn looks for the nipple to get food.
The grasping reflex is another one which your little one is already born with. As early as the Stone Age, babies were helped to hold onto their mother and not fall off. For the same reason, it also has what is known as the Moro reflex. If they are put down too quickly, or if they are startled, they will throw their arms and legs out from itself and in the next moment put them directly back to the body and clench their hands into fists.
HOW DOES THEIR WEIGHT DEVELOP IN THE FIRST MONTHS OF LIFE?
The first month of life is certainly one of the most exciting for you and your baby. Even if it doesn't seem like it a lot happens to newborns in the first few weeks. Your baby not only sleeps and eats a lot in the first three months, but also puts on a lot of weight. You will see that after an initial weight loss after giving birth, your darling will continuously gain around 200 grams per week. From the fourth month onwards, your baby will "only" gain around 100 to 140 grams per week. From the age of six months, babies put on an average of 90 to 120 grams per week.
WHICH SENSES ARE ALREADY DEVELOPED IN A NEWBORN?
Newborns can already smell, taste, touch and hear, but often cannot see very well. In the first few weeks, your baby can only see clearly in black and white and at a maximum distance of up to 25 centimetres. Only in the next few months of life will your baby's eyesight develop continuously. First of all, your little darling will therefore prefer to react to noises such as rattling. In turn, they have a strong sense of balance right from the start. It’s also easy for your baby to react to temperatures. If your child is too warm or too cold, it will draw your attention to it, wriggling or screaming.
WHEN CAN A BABY REGULATE ITS BODY TEMPERATURE BY ITSELF?
During the first few months of life, your child's normal body temperature is between 36.5° C and 37.5° C. This fluctuates during the day. In the morning, your baby's body temperature can be about one degree lower than in the afternoon. However, if your sweetheart should get too warm or too cold due to the outside temperature, they cannot fix this difference alone, but only draw attention to their discomfort by screaming. Otherwise, they are helplessly exposed to overheating or cooling.
WHEN CAN MY BABY SEE ME?
After birth, your baby can only see a mixture of black, grey and white at first because their sense of sight is not fully developed. Even distant things cannot be recognised very well. However, this works quite well up to a distance of about 25 cm. Therefore, they can already recognise your face and study your facial expressions.
Don't worry if your child starts squinting or crying after a few moments. The initial training of the eye muscles is strenuous, which is why you may lose eye contact with your child. Over time, however, their eyes become more trained and can fixate on you for longer.
FROM WHAT AGE DOES MY BABY'S SLEEP-WAKE RHYTHM CHANGE?
After a few weeks, your sweetheart will get used to your daily rhythm more and more. They will notice when it’s worth being awake and when it’s time to sleep.
The adjustment isn’t so easy for little ones at the beginning, because they don't get tired like an adult when it’s dark. In the beginning, babies need routines to get used to bedtime. If you can manage these routines you can help your child to better settle into a fixed sleep-wake rhythm.
WHEN DO BABIES SLEEP THROUGH THE NIGHT?
Babies don't sleep all night in the traditional sense. Rather, scientists speak of little "sleepers", provided that they slumber from midnight to around 5 o'clock in the morning. It happens, more often, that newborns and infants wake up regularly at night. Boys wake up more often at night than girls, just like breastfeeding children from a statistical point of view wake up more often than non-breastfed children.
Your baby can sleep through the night if they have several sleep phases in a row. With a third of children this is already the case between the sixth and ninth month. Then your child will be able to go back to sleep on their own, even if there is a break or two between sleep cycles and they wake up.
So you can be rest assured if your child does not sleep through the night even after a few months, only after 12 months do around half of all children sleep through the night. But even then it can still happen that your sweetheart wakes up more often during the night, e.g. due to teething or illness, and the sleep rhythm changes in phases. Since even older toddlers occasionally experience development spurts, even these cannot sleep through (any longer) at times.
WHEN DOES MY CHILD SHOW THEIR EMOTIONS?
You will probably be amazed at how quickly your little one is developing mentally and emotionally! After just a few weeks, babies can remember things and store them in "emotional memory". Your baby can already feel and show basic emotions such as curiosity, well-being, fright and disgust.
As early as the third month, your baby will show how it feels. It laughs, squeaks happily, kicks, but can also show negative emotions such as anger and sadness to the same extent by whining and crying.
In addition to the acoustic articulation, you can now also see your child's emotions in their little face when they smile or pull a pout. Over time, there will also be gestures that express how your sweetheart is feeling. That can be for example raised arms or grasping movements.
At about half a year it can tell whether you are happy or sad. Little by little, new emotions such as shyness and suspicion are added. Strangers who do not belong to the family will be avoided by your child and his or her discomfort can be loud.
WHEN CAN MY CHILD HOLD IT’S HEAD UP BY ITSELF?
Immediately after birth, the head and neck muscles of infants have not yet fully developed. As a result, they aren’t yet able to lift their head on their own.
When your darling can hold their head alone, a first major milestone has been reached. Then many new possibilities open up for them, as they can look around and discover their surroundings.
From the third month onwards, your child's neck and back muscles are getting stronger every day. From about the sixth month onwards, it will be able to hold its head all by itself. You can support your baby in this learning process by lying on their tummy, sitting in front of them, and talking to them. After all, it’s very exciting when you can lift your head in the prone position and look around independently. Your voice will encourage you to look up at you and strengthen the muscles you need in the process. You can also support your little darling in such a way that you lay them on their stomach and lift a rattle in front of them.
Be prepared, however, that your curious sparrow will tire quickly and will have to rest after a few minutes. It takes about six months before your child can hold their head up longer without effort.
WHEN CAN MY BABY SMILE?
Most likely, you will see your child smile in their sleep shortly after birth. This is due to knee-jerk muscle contractions that cause your little one to pull up both corners of their mouth in an "angelic smile”.
At the age of two to four weeks, your child can smile even when they are awake if they are comfortable. However, this smile is not yet related to a specific experience.
Your child will then smile consciously as soon as they can "assign" faces and recognise them. This is the case at around five to seven months. Smiling in this context means that babies smile in the context of social interaction.
WHEN CAN YOU BATH YOUR BABY FOR THE FIRST TIME?
A refreshing milestone in baby development is the first bath. However, you should wait some time in the puerperium to do this, at least until the navel has healed. This will prevent bacteria from entering the wound and causing infections. Until the time comes, you better off cleaning your baby gently with a washcloth.
WHAT TIME SHOULD MY CHILD BE ABLE TO TURN ALONE?
Your darling is mobile from the age of five months and tries to move more and more. During this time they also learn to turn themselves from stomach to back and back again independently. With it, your child trains their core and back muscles, which they later need to learn to sit.
WHEN CAN MY BABY SIT?
Most children can sit up and hold this position on their own by the ninth or tenth month. Your baby has already trained the muscles required for this in the previous developmental steps of turning on its stomach and holding its head.
WHEN DO BABIES BEGIN TO MOVE BY THEMSELVES?
A baby does not make its first attempts at locomotion by crawling. In principle, mobility starts much earlier. First, an infant tries to move around by kicking. You will notice this, for example, when your little darling is miraculously suddenly lying on the opposite side of the bed in the morning.
A few weeks after kicking, many children slowly "get the hang of it" in the truest sense of the word. You should be extra vigilant during this phase. Even five-month-old babies can easily turn from back to stomach or vice versa. Therefore, always make sure that your baby does not turn dangerously close to the side on the changing table. So please take extra care and make sure that you never leave your little one unattended on the changing table.
WHEN DOES MY CHILD CRAWL?
Another milestone in baby development is certainly the first crawl. From the seventh month, your sweetheart becomes more and more mobile. Many children begin around the eighth or ninth month of life slowly "pulling themselves up" on objects and carefully standing on their own legs.
Exactly when your child starts crawling can be very different from how other children develop. Some crawl as early as seven months, while others don't do so until a year old.
As soon as the crawling is done and your baby is on their own two feet, they will certainly make their first attempts at walking.
WHEN SHOULD MY CHILD BE ABLE TO WALK?
The time at which your child takes their first steps differs from child to child. From the age of seven months, however, it often happens that the little ones pull themselves up on furniture and can stand on their own two feet for a few seconds. This is the signal that your child will probably start walking on their own very soon.
These attempts almost always do not work right away, which is why your baby sometimes lands on their bottom. But don't worry, it'll take care of itself. Carefully accompany your baby and help them walk. You will see that by about nine months old, they can hold onto objects and walk along them. From then on, it won't take that long for your sweetheart to walk independently on two legs. Very often this happens shortly or around their first birthday, although some children also take a little more time. So you don't have to worry if your child isn't walking at the age of one. With some children it even takes around 18 months before they can walk on two legs with any degree of confidence.
FROM WHEN DOES MY BABY REACH ON TARGET?
Your little one will also develop motor skills after the birth. In the beginning, for example, it quickly learns to suckle your breast or to look for a source of food. In addition, if your baby is frightened, they will quickly reach out to you. The newborns master this protective “cling reflex” after a short time. It also doesn't take long before they are able to use a motor reflex to reach for objects.
Your darling has had the grasping reflex since birth. Therefore, it automatically grabs your finger when you offer it to them. From the age of three months, your child slowly begins to discover their hands and fingers, putting them in their mouth in order to move them uncontrollably.
DOES THE GRIP REFLEX DEVELOP IN BABIES?
Yes, the grasping reflex continues to develop month after month. Shortly after the birth, for example, your little darling will already grasp your fingers. As this reflex decreases over time, your child gradually turns to other things: Your own hands or objects that are initially gripped in a rather uncoordinated manner. Your baby will initially only use their fist, as their "dexterity" is not yet developed at this point. The first touch of a toy is still done with the fist around the age of six months.
After about half a year, they can hold onto the first toys, put them from one hand to the other and turn them. Good motor skills only reach them after nine to ten months. Usually, this is when your baby learns how to grip the tweezers. It grabs small objects with thumb and forefinger and can hold them.
WHEN DOES THE FIRST TOOTH COME?
A milestone whose breakthrough often causes pain for parents and children is the first tooth. With some babies it already grows after three months, with others only after about six months. During this time, some infants experience sporadic restless nights. One reason for this is the swollen gums that hurt the child. You may also notice reddened cheeks on your little darling. The first tooth is often accompanied by a strong flow of saliva. Also, your baby is likely to chew on anything they can get their hands on.
Would you like to support your little one during these difficult phases? Then you should cuddle extensively and show a lot of care. In addition, your baby's discomfort can sometimes be relieved with the help of cooling teething rings or tooth gels.
As soon as the first tooth is there, you should start taking care of your child's teeth. Typically, your child will have all their teeth by the age of 24 months.
HOW DO I KNOW THAT MY BABY CAN HEAR ME?
Your baby can feel and hear things right after birth. In addition to your body contact, your voice is particularly important for your little one at the beginning, as it gives them the feeling of security. Because your child can filter out human sounds from other noises shortly after birth and pays them a lot of attention.
It’s therefore particularly important that you talk to your child a lot, tell them stories and explain what is happening. The communication has an influence on the language development of the little one. From about the fifth month your child can hear almost as well as you.
WHEN WILL MY BABY BE ABLE TO KNOW SMELLS?
As early as the fourth month, your child's sense of smell is so pronounced that it can perceive different smells. It also makes it clear which smells they like and which they find unpleasant.
WHY DO BABIES AND TODDLERS PUT EVERYTHING IN THEIR MOUTHS?
From the third month onwards, your child will put their hands in their mouth more and more often because they see them as toys and explore their surroundings with all their senses. The so-called oral phase begins two months later. More and more objects are brought to the mouth and processed with chewing movements. Until they are 18 months old, they prefer to explore their surroundings, check the taste and consistency of objects and gradually bring these impressions together.
WHEN DOES MY BABY SAY THE FIRST WORD?
Newborns can initially only scream and cry to attract attention. From the fifth to sixth month at the latest, babies gradually begin to form new sounds on their own and consciously make noises. At first these are just sounds and syllables that are not recognisably related, but your baby has something to do with them. It helps if you tell your baby a lot and also talk about "mum" or "dad". Often they also form the first words, the first attempts at Babbel, which have no meaning yet. So you will have to be patient until the first year of life before your baby says "Mama" or "Papa" to you for the first time. Small children usually only know and understand their own name between the ages of 12 and 18 months, although some children are a little earlier or later.
The first time your child says “mum” or “dad” is a big event. Most parents long for this milestone. Even if the first words are not used specifically to convey something to you, they are still something very special and you can be proud of your little one. But you can support your child by talking to them a lot from the start and reading bedtime stories. You can further promote your child's linguistic development by commenting on your actions and teaching them new words for their vocabulary in a playful way.
FROM WHAT AGE DOES WHO RECOMMEND STARTING WITH LIQUID FOOD?
The WHO (World Health Organization) continues to recommend breastfeeding children up to approximately six months of age. Depending on how your child develops, you should offer suitable complementary foods from the age of five months at the earliest. The World Health Organization also recommends starting the introduction of complementary foods at the latest when your baby is seven months old. They can already be sitting at the table with you and can therefore also see what delicious things are on your plate. Since your child is very curious at this stage, they will want to try these things too. In this way, it will also become apparent what your baby likes and what they don’t. You should keep the complementary food until your child is around two years old.
However, these are only recommendations and not “binding guidelines”. Every child develops differently, which is why there can be no binding rules. If it feels right for you, there is nothing wrong with offering your loved one complementary food from the fifth month onwards, or too breastfeed beyond the first year of life. Ultimately, you have the best sense of you and your child's needs. Of course, it doesn't hurt if you follow the recommendations of the WHO and see whether they are right for you at said time.
WHEN DOES A BABY START TO PLAY?
Depending on your child's age, you can engage with them in different ways and play different games with them. Examples include peak-a-boo, hiding objects in front of them and them making sounds at you in the age of around 9 months. A month later at 10 months they also enjoy instruments such as rattles and drums, as well as playing the cuckoo. You can keep them busy for an almost indefinite period of time.
At one year of age, your toddler can do things alone for a short time. Musical sounds that they can dance to are particularly popular. Rattling keys or mobile phones are now also used to generate sounds.
POTTY TRAINING: WHEN DO TODDLERS LEARN TO STAY DRY?
There is another moving milestone beyond the first year of life: The potty training or the time when your child “stays dry”. On average, children between the ages of 18 and 33 months learn to use the potty or the toilet. Before the age of 18 months, children have no control over their bladder and bowel sphincters. That is why it only makes sense when your child is around 18 months old that you teach them potty training. You can tell from clear gestures or words such as "poop" or "pee" that your little darling is slowly ready for a nappy-free everyday life.