Baby Developmental Milestones

Don’t blink—newborn milestones happen before your eyes and often go unnoticed. Did you catch the first time he turned his head or the moment she tried to grab that small object? What should you be looking for, and when should you be paying attention?

Infant developmental milestones are no small matter, and you’ll beam with pride with each achievement they make.

Keep reading to learn the timeline of baby developmental progression so you know what to expect as your little one grows—both cognitively and physically—in their new world.

Want to jump to a certain age? Use the links below to find out which milestones you can expect with your little one as they grow:

Baby Development Stages

Your due date has arrived and baby has made their grand entrance. From the time you leave the hospital and welcome them into their new home, you begin watching baby’s development with astonishment, witnessing them grow before your eyes each day.

Newborn babies are unique and no timeline for baby milestones are set in stone. That being said, there are behavioral mechanisms you can expect to see during their first year. Here’s what to watch out for during baby growth and development, categorized by months in age.

Baby Milestones: One to Three Months

Baby is home from the hospital and Mom and Dad are over the moon—while also frantically worrying if they’re doing things “right” and if baby seems “normal” given their age, weight, etc. There are so many factors which can influence developmental milestones, but in the beginning you might start to see…

One Month Baby Milestones:

  • Senses Develop

Newborn infants can’t see color—hence their fascination with black and white patterns and playthings—but their senses are developing from the moment they’re born. They hear your voice, smell your scent, feel your touch, and taste anything you put in their mouth.

To further along your infant’s developmental milestones, invest in crib accessories that feature high-contrast patterns, mobiles and the like. Remember: newborns can see clearly about 8-12 inches away, so when you interact and shake that adorable rattler, try to stay within that distance.

  • Muscles Strength

Tummy time! Placing baby on his or her stomach—only while awake and supervised—can help achieve newborn milestones by developing baby’s neck, shoulder, and upper body muscles while also promoting motor skills. They should be able to lift and turn their heads (although they might not enjoy the struggled effort!).

Two Month Baby Milestones:

  • Smiling

You’ve probably heard that up until one month, infant smiles are “just gas”—and they’re mostly right. They might smile for other reasons too, though, like when they’re cozy and content dozing off in their bassinet.

Around two months, your baby will develop their first real, social smile. Before launching this full-fledged infant milestone, they’ll probably do several trial runs, practicing different ways their mouth moves. But you can expect a “true” smile between six to eight weeks of baby development.

  • Facial Recognition

Now they can see—and recognize—Mommy’s face and respond with a smile! They’re as happy to stare into your eyes as you are those doe-eyed wonders. This baby developmental milestone is noticed immediately, since its heart-melting effect can’t be missed.

Not only is this mutual gaze mesmerizing, but it’s also valuable. It encourages your baby’s brain to develop by helping it perceive, process, and discriminate faces. Mirrors are sure to intrigue and stimulate their love of faces, but it’s not their own reflection their smiling at—this milestone occurs around 18 months.

  • First Sounds

Your baby may develop vocalization within the first few weeks, but by six weeks they’ll progress from random or experimental noises to sounds that are actually directed at Mom, Dad, pets, toys, and objects. By three months, they’ll have their own vocabulary of cooing and gurgling sounds.

Three Month Baby Milestones:

  • Improved Sight

By three months, you will notice baby’s development in visual acuity. This newborn milestone occurs when your child begins to visually track people and objects. Babies reach for small, nearby objects and their hand-eye coordination begins to improve.

  • Motor Skills

Those innate reflexes should be fading by this time, and you probably noticed their neck strength has dramatically improved with little to no head wobbling when held upright. They should have enough lower body strength to stretch out and kick their legs.

  • Sleep

Don’t hold your breath—your sleep routine won’t return to normal for quite some time. However, by three months, baby’s nervous system is developing and their stomach can accommodate more milk or formula.

These changes mean that baby might reach the infant developmental milestone of sleeping stretches of six or maybe seven hours of straight sleep—translating into some much needed rest for you. Their sleep routine should be more regular by now, including a few 1½-2 hour naps every day.

Baby Milestones: Four to Six Months

The first three months of life is mostly about eating, sleeping, and (let’s be real) crying, but you also witnessed them lift their head, make silly sounds, and give you their first real smile! During the next few months you’ll really begin to see your baby develop—and it’s time for their personality to shine through.

Four Month Baby Milestones:

  • Color Vision

Color vision is in place! Imagine your baby’s developmental wonder experiencing color for the first time. That’s probably why they’re drawn to bold and vibrant hues. Baby can’t detect all shades quite yet, but can discern between reds and greens best.

  • Rolling Over

Developmental milestones will always vary child by child, but you might see your baby roll over as soon as four months old. They should have sufficient body strength to prop themselves up and propel themselves over—usually first as an accident during tummy time.

  • Tugging

What is it about jewelry that’s just so irresistible? Sparkly, shiny, dangly things attract baby’s attention in this developmental milestone. As they learn to process reflected light, baby development in vision continues to improve.

They won’t just pull on your necklace or earrings, but also drawstrings, zippers, and (as you probably know) your hair—pretty much anything within reach. During this four month development period, they’re learning to explore, reach, grab, and bring things to their mouth to explore further. Just make sure it’s not a choking hazard!

Sometimes, it feels like they’re tugging with what may seem like gorilla strength—and they are getting stronger. Appreciate the growing strength in your little one every day.

Five Month Baby Milestones:

  • Visual Acuity

Around five months, developmental milestones include the ability to perceive depth and distinguish colors. They’re able to recognize a wide range of objects—both big and small—even when they’re moving.

Baby won’t quite have the ability to understand how objects exist, but soon they’ll be able to understand that when an object is sat down and they can no longer see it, it will still be there when they return.

  • Banging

Does your baby relish slapping toy blocks or playing drums with a wooden spoon? That’s a good thing! That banging has a purpose: baby is developing fine-motor skills. Odds are they can do this on-end. Don’t be annoyed—repetition is needed to develop proficiency.

  • Sitting

Not all, but some 5-month-olds may have reached the baby milestone of sitting up all by themselves! The majority, however, will look more like the leaning Tower of Pisa and will need some propped help with a pillow or Boppy.

To help your baby develop during this five-month period, move a toy just out of reach during tummy time and watch them attempt to grab it. This will help build upper body strength, and they should be propping themselves up in no time.

Six Month Baby Milestones:

  • Growth

This baby developmental milestone is measurable—by now, he or she should have doubled their birth weight! Where did your little cherub go? Time won’t slow down, but their growth rate will. Prior to now, they grew at a rate of 1½-2 pounds per month, but now it’ll slow to about 1 pound a month.

  • Movement

By six months, baby has probably developed an adept skill in rolling back and forth. Now’s the time you might witness them attempt to creep or scoot across the floor in their ever-desperate quest for mobility. Haven’t witnessed this baby milestone yet? Don’t worry—there’s a wide range of time this skill is expected to develop, so let baby move at their own pace (pun intended).

  • Word Processing

They won’t be saying much more than babbles for a while longer, but that doesn’t mean they can’t understand what you’re saying. At this stage, baby developmental milestones include responding to their name and being able to process simple words.

To help your baby learn words and develop their vocabulary, talk and read to them regularly. Each time you hand them a toy, name and identify the object with every pass off.

  • Tickles

By this time, your little one is probably overjoyed when you wiggle your finger up and down their belly or chase them while playing—and you’re probably floored by the sound of that sweet giggle.

While tickling isn’t on the standard list of baby development, this infant milestone is a social one: laughing together is how you build your bond even closer.

Baby Milestones: Seven to Nine Months

A whole half year has gone by?! My, how time flies. After the six month mark, baby is ready to accomplish some serious developmental milestones.

Seven Month Baby Milestones:

  • Independence

The unique personality your little one has developed is starting to shine. His or her motor skills are much more advanced, meaning playtime probably looks a lot different. Watch them pick up and play with their blocks and toys all on their own!

Because baby can now sit, reach, grab, and hold unassisted, they might be more independent at mealtime as well. Encourage developmental milestones and let them try to hold and drink from their own cup or eat from their own spoon.

Note: Your 7-month-old is learning how to control their environment, which could be a lot of fun for them, but not so fun for Mom and Dad. As they become little scientists and learn how to manipulate and learn about objects around them, they might develop a love of dropping (or throwing!) things on the floor.

Understand that while baby’s developmental habit may be mildly inconvenient or even outright frustrating, they’re simply being curious. Do your best to keep cool while still encouraging their creativity.

  • Screaming

Would you consider this a baby milestone? When they’re enjoying a good shriek in the middle of a restaurant, probably not. It may drive you crazy, but baby is simply exploring and developing their vocal repertoire.

This baby milestone means they’re experimenting with different sounds and ways to communicate other than crying, which was their only way to get your attention at first. Baby is also learning about cause and effect, which is a good thing too. Stay calm during their screaming episodes—stressing out will only make it worse.

  • Teething

This stage in development is no fun for baby—or Mom and Dad. In fact, some of that screaming could be due to the pain of teeth attempting to poke through baby’s sensitive gums. But what a growth milestone when that first tooth finally pokes through!

You might see those tooth buds start to emerge as early as five months, and you’ll know when this developmental process begins right away since they’ll be much, much fussier and will drool more as well. Give them a teething toy to chew on to help soothe the discomfort.

  • Eating

Baby is ready to start eating some solid foods. You can probably begin introducing chunkier fare, offering them mashed fruits and vegetables instead of pureed. Adding thicker foods can help baby adjust to new textures and develop their ability to chew.

Eight Month Baby Milestones:

  • Crawling

They’re on the move! Around eight months, baby should be crawling around (or at least attempting to)—one of the biggest developmental milestones in the books. Time to purchase those baby gates and prepare for constant monitoring! Before you know it, they’ll be up and running all around the living room.

Pro tip: Consider picking up a travel crib that converts to a play pen so you can attend to those mounting household chores without fearing where baby might be going or what they’re getting into.

  • Object Permanence

Before eight months, when your infant can’t see you, they think you’re gone! But around this time, they know when you’re playing peek-a-boo behind a blanket, you’re still there just waiting to surprise them. This notion is called object permanence and is a very fascinating cognitive development to learn about.

Essentially, object permanence means that if you are out of sight—say at work or running errands—you are not out of baby’s mind. This development can lead to separation anxiety, with crying or clinging whenever you attempt to leave or place baby in the hands of a sitter.

Keep goodbyes short and sweet, avoid any feelings of guilt, and know they should outgrow this by the age of two.

  • Communication

Baby has learned enough simple words by now that they should be able to communicate in small—but meaningful—ways. If they understand enough language, they should be able to respond to “No,” but by no means will all babies respond to this command.

Learning and responding to their name is a huge baby developmental milestone, and by now you should expect at least a head turn whenever their name is said. Even though they can’t yet respond verbally, baby has developed a masterful skill in non-verbal communication.

Not only can they communicate with a wide variety of facial expressions—from wide grins to grumpy pouts—but they can also understand how you’re feeling by the tone of your voice and the expressions on your face.

Nine Month Baby Milestones:

  • Brain Power

Millions and trillions of cellular connections are forming in your little one, and this nine month period is crucial for baby’s brain development.  

He or she is getting smarter by the minute; help baby reach cognitive milestones by providing a stimulating environment.

Remember: No investment in a series of expensive DVDs or learning material is needed to nurture cognitive developmental milestones. The value of human interaction is far more valuable than technology, so read, sing, and talk to baby every day.

  • Standing

By now, your little one probably achieved the baby milestone of standing up all by themselves! That newfound strength enables them to cling onto a couch or coffee table and lift themselves onto their increasingly sturdy legs.

Next comes cruising, or shuffling around with the support of furniture—and you know what’s up after that!

Baby Milestones: Ten to Twelve Months

Your baby is nearly a year old and you’re probably amazed by the milestones and accomplishments they’ve achieved in such a short time. What else do you have to look forward to as they continue to grow? Keep reading.

10 Month Baby Milestones:

  • Peek-a-Boo

By 10 months old, your little one is probably peek-a-boo master and can fully understand object permanence. This baby milestone means that when playing peek-a-boo or hide-and-seek games, they’ll lift the object you’re hiding behind in order to find Mama, knowing you’re just waiting to surprise them. They’ll probably love trying to imitate the game itself!

Babies enjoy making you laugh as much as you love hearing their adorable giggle—relish it and enjoy watching their personality pour out.

  • Memory

At 10 months, watch for baby developmental milestones in which they can recall where their favorite toys are. They’re getting bigger and smarter. Not only can they can hear and follow simple commands, but they can also recognize a variety of sounds: the doorbell, their older sister’s voice, etc.

11 Month Baby Milestones:

  • First Steps

Let the good times… walk? From cruising couch to couch to following you in-hand, your baby might be ready to let go and achieve the milestone of taking their first few steps. Those tentative steps will be undoubtedly wobbly, but it’s a huge achievement!

  • Language

Those unintelligible gurgles might translate into the life-changing milestone moment in which baby utters “Mama” or “Dada” for the first time. Even if they’re not talking, they’re probably pretty good at communicating by waving or nodding their head yes and no.

12 Month Baby Milestones:

  • Feeding

It’s up to each mom to decide when to start weaning baby off breastmilk, but 12 months is average. Now you can begin transitioning them to cow’s milk, but start with whole milk first—baby needs the extra fat for proper brain development. But always follow your pediatrician’s advice!

Now that baby has achieved the developmental milestone of table foods, remember to be extra cautious when it comes to choking hazards.

  • Socialization

Look at baby interact! If they’re talking (no stress if they’re not!), they might begin to mimic Mom and Dad’s speech. At this point, they know what “Mama” and “Dada” actually mean—and just how much you mean to them.

Take this with a grain of salt. They’ll probably start showing preference to certain people over others. Don’t let Grandma or Grandpa be offended. Stranger anxiety will pass.

By baby’s first birthday, you’re probably astonished by how he or she can move around and communicate like a pro. At the same time, you’re likely wondering whether they’ve reached the expected developmental milestones. Remember, there is no “right time” for baby to starting walking, talking, or developing skills.

Whether your little one has already made his or her entrance, or you’re expecting a bundle of joy soon, keep these milestones in mind.

While your little one’s progression may follow a slightly different timeline, these monthly milestones are a great guide. Always keep up with regular doctor visits and health care to ease your mind of any anxiety over what baby should or shouldn’t be doing.

Final piece of advice? Enjoy every minute—this first year is a whirlwind and will pass before you know it.