Most parents don’t get the whole baby milestone thing. It’s not their fault. If you were to take most parenting books at their word — books like The Wonder Weeks and What to Expect the First Year — raising a kid would be a hard science. Look for the milestone, check a box, and move on. The problem? Milestones just don’t work this way.
Developmental milestones are not fixed points that all kids hit. They’re more like waypoints marking the course of typical development. Some babies may reach certain them early while reaching others late. Some babies may skip certain milestones altogether.
That said, there are baby milestones that act as important developmental markers. Knowing which milestones to pay attention to and which ones to wait for can help parents relieve some of the stress from a baby’s first years. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of milestones that matter — and why they matter, and when they might not actually matter.
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It’s a short list, at least compared to the 50 pages of milestones per month you’ll find in your average parenting book. There’s a reason for this. You should be there to care for your baby, not check a box. Hopefully this checklist will free you up do just that.
The 1-Month Developmental Milestones That Matter
Milestones in the first month of a baby’s life are all about getting control of their limbs, which at birth seem to have a mind of their own. They also begin to develop their senses, allowing them to become more aware of the sights, sounds, and smells of the world that surrounds them. Their nervous system is getting organized, so weird things may happen. That’s a sign that the brain is learning and everything is moving at a pretty good clip — just like it should. The only things that should cause any real concern is a lack of reaction to outside stimuli.
1-Month Developmental Milestone #1: Moves Their Hands to Their Face and Mouth and Makes Fists.
Your baby’s brain is figuring out how to coordinate arms and legs, but they can’t do the brain’s bidding just yet. Because of that, movements may seem jerky and random and will include bringing the hands up to the face and mouth.
The Baby Milestones That Matter
There are fewer developmental milestones in the first year of your baby’s life than you might think. Here’s your month-by-month guide.
Red Flags: If your baby appears to be moving slowly, or if their limbs seem to be too floppy or too rigid, you may want to bring it to the attention of your pediatrician. Likewise, while your baby may appear to have jerky and trembling movements, which is normal, if they have a constantly trembling chin or jaw while they aren’t crying or excited, it might be a sign of neurological issues.
What You Shouldn’t Stress About: Don’t stress if your baby has a floppy neck, twitchy movements or scratches themselves. It’s all normal as they develop control over their body.
1-Month Developmental Milestone #2: Reacts to Loud Noises and Turns Their Head to Sounds
Babies’ hearing in the first month should also be fully developed. They’ll be listening and might turn their head to you at the sound of your voice. Dads who talked to their babies in the womb might be surprised that their kid recognizes their dulcet tones.
Red Flags: If your baby does not seem to react or startle to loud or sudden noises, it may be a sign that there is a problem with their hearing. A baby that doesn’t react to loud noises could be affected by hearing loss or other neurological disorders.
What You Shouldn’t Stress About: There’s no need to worry about a baby not making eye contact when you talk to them. That’s a bit advanced. There’s also no need to worry about a baby who doesn’t turn their head towards the sound as long as they react to it.
1-Month Developmental Milestone #3: Rooting Reflex
Your baby will likely have what’s known as the rooting reflex which means they will turn their head toward a touch on the cheek or lip and make sucking movements. This helps them feed when presented with a nipple. The rooting reflex helps your baby feed either from the breast or the bottle.
Red Flags: More important than the reflex itself is how your baby is feeding. If their sucking is weak or their feeding is too slow, you should contact your pediatrician.
What You Shouldn’t Stress About: Don’t worry about a baby that sucks on their own fist or seems to be rooting towards dad’s chest. All good stuff there. And while feeding, don’t worry if sucking seems to happen in bursts with pauses in between, that’s normal. So is spit up, so take that in stride too.
Non-Milestone Moments In Baby’s First Month
This month is a slow one when it comes to milestones. You’re likely to run into the moro reflex, which you’ll recognize when the baby splays out their arms and legs as if they have a sensation of falling. It can disrupt their sleep and it’s completely normal (if strange). Swaddling can help. Other than that, enjoy the slow month. Things will be getting much more interesting pretty soon.